Article excerpt


ONE minute I'm walking along next to a regular, all-American guy. The next, he goes all ape on me. His torso barrels out, his legs go bandy, his arms hang loose and his jaw juts. Then he laughs and snaps back to being human again.

If it was anyone else you'd call for the men in white coats. But this is Terry Notary, the man who turned English rose Helena Bonham Carter into a chimpanzee and the man responsible for making monkeys out of actors in this year's blockbuster movie - Planet Of The Apes.

Former gymnast Terry, 32, who is in London to promote the new movie, says it was a big challenge for Helena. "It was hard for her, coming from those prim, corset-type films," he says. "But when she decided to let go, she loved being an ape. In fact she's still acting like one because it's such a comfortable, relaxed way to be."

Tim Roth, who plays terrifying warrior ape General Thade, also took a while to master his ape walk. "But one day he came in and he just had it," says Terry. "His head was floating on this menacing body, and he looked like a cobra about to strike. He was pure evil."

The cast spent three hours a day for six weeks at Terry's ape academy, learning the basics like walking, jumping, eating and handling weapons, and the finer details such as how apes rest on their knuckles and scratch and sniff one another.

They warmed up with an hour-long yoga session followed by deep breathing. "We needed to loosen up the actors to assume real ape body language," says Terry. "Humans are so distracted. Apes just focus.

"If they eat a grape, they are totally into it, then they go 100 per cent on to something else. They live moment to moment. We had to teach the actors how to tap into their own inner ape."

Before starting his school Terry watched endless ape movies, from the original Planet Of The Apes, starring Charlton Heston, to National Geographic films of apes. He also spent time at Los Angeles zoo, observing gorillas and cuddling chimps.

"I pretended they were humans in costume. In fact, you soon realise how similar apes are to humans.

"It was essential that I could move and react like an ape myself, to gain the confidence of my actors and the film's director, Tim Burton."

But can anyone learn to be an ape? "It's a bit like being able to dance," says Terry. "People tend to have a talent for it or they don't, and some people are born naturals."

So would I make the grade at ape academy? Terry agreed to give me a try-out...

LESSON ONE: Contact your inner ape

WE sit cross-legged on a clump of grass and Terry tells me to breathe deeply, from the bottom of my diaphragm.

Terry explains how every ape movement is smooth and considered, never sudden and jerky. "As you breathe in, open your eyes slowly and smoothly.

"As you breathe out, close them in the same way. An ape would never jerk its head violently. They move in curves. They're like Samurai warriors."

Terry then teaches me to "think chimp". "Apes are emotional. They can be happy, hyper, then angry, one emotion after the other. They get depressed when they lose a loved one. To be an ape, you have to let yourself be an emotional vehicle."

LESSON TWO: Standing

TERRY shows me position one, the basic ape posture. "Your feet should be parallel and flat on the floor, with the weight on the outer edges, knees relaxed and slightly bowed, shoulders dropped. …