Tom Felton, better known as Harry Potter’s Hogwarts nemesis Draco Malfoy, may have only just left one franchise, but he’s jumped straight into another with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The film, which opens at cinemas across the UAE this week, is a prequel to the 1968 original Planet of the Apes, starring late Hollywood heavyweight Charlton Heston.
The new movie, which also stars James Franco, Freida Pinto, Andy Serkis and John Lithgow, sees a young scientist (Franco) working on a cure for Alzheimer’s. He tests his drugs on chimpanzees, only for the strain to mutate and give the furry mammals a human level of intelligence. And it’s Felton’s bitter character, primate facility guard Dodge, who allows the first intelligent ape to escape.
Overseas, the film is shaping up to be the biggest blockbuster of summer, with worldwide takings already topping Dhs918 million following its August release. As one of the biggest films to be released after the Ramadan lull, expect mega-queues at the cinema this weekend.
Your character’s a piece of work, isn’t he?
That’s a very kind way to describe him. Dodge is the son of the owner of a primate facility; Caesar, our lead ape [played by Andy Serkis], is sent there after he outgrows his home with James Franco’s character. Dodge’s mission is to look after these creatures, but unfortunately he’s a bully and he’s torturing them.
For a nice guy, you seem to have a lot of fun playing very dark characters.
I really enjoy being able to be nasty. Villains can be so well written, and when they’re this slimy and horrible you can really sink your teeth in. It’s always nice to play a character who is the polar opposite of you. I revel in playing someone who literally spits out his words because he’s just such a nasty piece of work.
You’re going from one mega-franchise to another, and Planet of the Apes has a real history. Was it exciting becoming a part of it?
One hundred per cent. It’s funny: one of the first things I said when we finished with Harry Potter was, ‘I’m done with franchises – on to the indies.’ A week later, we were doing Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
I think my dad was the most excited. He’s an old fan – he saw all of the movies back in the day. He was very excited and curious about what sort of ape I’d be. I was like, ‘No, dad, I’m a human in this one!’
How do you adjust to acting opposite an ape?
I met Andy [Serkis] two or three days before seeing him as an ape, and he’s the most charming English gentleman. But, as an ape, he literally goes psycho. That makes it much easier for me – someone who has to pretend there’s an ape there – to have Andy mimicking these apes perfectly. There are loads of moments where my character is scared of this particular ape. There was no acting required, because Andy’s terrifying when he wants to be.
James Franco is another powerful co-star. What’s it like to work with him? Do you share many scenes with him?
Yeah, I do. I worked with him on a few occasions and I’m a massive fan. He’s an icon of the acting world at the moment. He’s so dedicated. I don’t think he got one line wrong the entire time I was with him. He’s very on the ball and very gracious. He’s an exceptionally intelligent man, and when he wasn’t reading his lines he was reading a book or going through his degree. He’s got a lot on his plate.
What acting roles do you have coming up next?
I shot a film last year in New Orleans, From the Rough, which is a golf-oriented film about five misfits who win scholarships to play golf at an American college. It’s based on a true story and it’s family-friendly, but
with a bit of an edge to it. I also did a horror-thriller called The Apparition. We shot that last year in Berlin, co-starring Ashley Greene and Sebastian Stan. It was a really young, enthusiastic first-time director called Todd Lincoln, who was very excited about the movie. It was nerve-wracking stepping on to a new set, but it was a great experience.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is in UAE cinemas now.