Going Ape

Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as Krull

Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa discusses his swinging time playing a gorilla in the midst of Tim Burton's Planet of the Apes...

by Pat Jankiewicz

Selected from
Starburst Special #48

Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa as himselfOnscreen, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa has been the epitome of villainy. The actor and martial artist has tormented heroes and killed people by the carload in movies like Mortal Kombat, License to Kill and John Carpenter’s Vampires – though in his defence, his victims in the last one were the bloodsucking undead! In person, however, Tagawa is a charming, relaxed family man with an easy-going attitude. This summer, he gets a chance to transform into the hero, saving the girl, fighting the bad guys and getting to show his whole emotional range.

Of course, he will be doing all this as a quick-thinking, sword-carrying silverback gorilla in Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes. In the ultimate compliment to his character, that’s Tagawa in the helmet on the Apes poster (see cover of this issue). “I was really blown away by that,” he notes. “They added that helmet to the poster – I actually didn’t wear that!”

As a gorilla soldier-turned-servant in this summer’s big fantasy film about a planet full of sentient, walking, talking and fighting evolved simians who treat humans as slaves, his gorilla differs from his savage brethren – he actually likes humans! “I’m a good ape,” Tagawa chuckles. “I play Krull, a silverback gorilla who is a former soldier and now serves Helena Bonham Carter and her family, who are chimps.”

Since the original Planet of the Apes is a classic with the greatest shock ending in movie history, the actor is quick to point out “This is not a remake. Planet of the Apes came out the year I graduated high school, 1968, and it meant very much to me. I would say, this one and the first movie are sort of a hybrid; it’s not a remake, although both movies have an astronaut landing on a planet. Everything else is different. In the first Apes, the scientist chimps are the good guys, here they are the bad guys.

“The Main chimp, Helena Bonham Carter, is a human activist,” he states. “She goes around freeing humans because she’s anti-experimentation. The movie changes right from there; as soon as Mark lands, it’s a different movie. Mark and Charlton Heston’s characters are the same – astronauts – and it changes right there.”

How does one bring life to a talking gorilla? “One thing that we were given a lot of room in the film to do is to bring the emotional content of our ape characters to the forefront,” the actor declares. “A lot of the film is based on the ferociousness of these animals. Luckily, with my character, Tim Burton listened to a lot of what I had to say about sensitivity and that was allowed to come through in Krull.”

More from Cary in the full six-page feature in this issue!

StarburstImages © 20th-Century Fox
Feature © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction