Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes' Budget Gets Surprising Confirmation from Director (Exclusive)

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes

The director of Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes confirmed the budget difference between the last three movies in the franchise and the most recent one.

The Planet of the Apes franchise is known for is its incredibly realistic VFX work and revolutionary mo-cap performances. The special effects crafted in the previous Caesar trilogy are eerily impressive and hold up perfectly even today.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Ape looks to keep that trend alive, this time creating an overgrown ruined world 300 years after Caesar’s death.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes Had a Smaller Budget

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
20th Century

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes director Wes Ball spoke with The Direct’s Russ Milheim about this new film’s budget compared to the previous three movies in the series - 2011's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, 2014's Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and 2017's War for the Planet of the Apes), confirming it was “less.”

He said there was a "pretty sizable" difference in the budget compared to previous installments:

"I think, [it was a] pretty sizable [difference]. I think the studio is very happy that we did the movie responsibly. And that's just the nature of the box office going down. We’re not going to spend as much on these movies. Can you do this? 'Maze Runner' was a great training ground for that. I had to do those movies for a very little money, you know, considerably. It was good practice. And we employed it here to the best of our ability and tried not to compromise in any way."

For reference, while Rise of the Planet of the Apes' budget was $93 million, Dawn's was $170 million, and War's was $150 million (via Box Office Mojo). On the John Campea Show in April 2024, it was reported that Kingdom had a budget of $120 million, though that number was never confirmed.

Ball then talked about the film’s VFX work, sharing that when it comes to what wasn’t possible before, "water is a huge one," something they did for this new installment thanks to the work of Avatar: The Way of Water:

"Water is a huge one. We couldn't have done this five years ago without all the work they did on 'Way of Water' for 'Avatar.' Where they took that technology and ran with it on this one. CG water, CG apes, there's almost no real water in the movie. It's nearly all CG, which is crazy. Any VFX person will tell you that's their nightmare. We've kind of gotten fire. People don't even realize that most of the torches in the movies are all CG fire, which is pretty cool. You won't even recognize it. But that's pretty fantastic."

Regarding the Planet of the Apes movies, it’s impossible not to think about Andy Serkis’ Caesar. While the character doesn’t appear in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, he is felt in spirit throughout the movie.

When asked about finding the right balance of Caesar’s inclusion, Ball noted how he "hope[s] they’ve done that" and they felt that using the character’s legacy was a great way to introduce this new story:

"I hope we've done that... I wasn't interested in making a Part 4. That last trilogy was kind of perfect the way it was. And to somehow tack onto it, it felt cheap. It felt like it wouldn't work. And so having that fast forward thing just gave us so many new opportunities to see where apes had gone to see what happens to Caesar's legacy, to introduce new characters, a new tone, a kind of new world, a new beginning, essentially."

"So we got to bring him into this movie in a way that [they] weren’t relying on [him]," the director said, "but it actually helped our story:"

"And so, obviously, we didn't want to abandon the whole Caesar thing. In fact, he's a crucial aspect of why those last three movies worked. So we got to bring him into this movie in a way that we weren't relying on, but it actually helped our story; who he was and what he meant, and how a new character could go and discover the ideas for the first time of what Caesar stood for, and how it would shape him ultimately, till the end of the movie. And hopefully, in the future film."

While Caesar isn’t the lead this time, that honor goes to Owen Teague’s Noa.

Movement Coordinator Alain Gauthier talked about figuring out how Noa would move compared to Caesar, noting how the new character’s movement and stature would "[become] a little more like Caesar" as he gains confidence throughout the story:

"One, it was good to start him as a generic, just natural ape that's kind of pre-Caesar, you know, still a little half-wild, and then move into having to deal with it. And he becomes a little more like Caesar as he gains confidence through the story. And it was a very difficult task for Owen [Teague] because the film is not necessarily shot chronologically. So he started being the end of the movie, and then, a month later, he's like, 'Oh, we're shooting the beginning now.' And so we had to play with the levels. And he stood up to the challenge."

On exploring what apes might look like in this world 300 years after War for the Planet of the Apes, Ball said he enjoyed making "a bit of a historical epic this time," comparing this point in the Apes’ history to that of the "Bronze Age:"

"I thought it was interesting that we got to make a bit of a historical epic this time, and that fast-forward thing allowed us to see the kind of apes having--how far they have advanced, similar to how the human species has advanced throughout the ages. And I started thinking about, you know, okay, they're entering their Bronze Age, they're developing cultures and rituals, and clothing items, you know, that kind of stuff, right?"

In Kingdom, Noa’s tribe is called the Eagle Clan due to their people’s bonds with their bird allies. But why eagles?

The director admitted he originally thought about using "domesticated dogs," but that didn't feel right because they were "man’s best friend:"

"I started thinking about mankind when they domesticated dogs, that became man's best friend, it became these loyal companions, these crucial elements of their kind of their advancement into civilization. And it's like, 'Oh, how would an ape do that?' I can't do dogs. It didn't feel right, you know, man's best friend. And then I had other ideas and eventually arrived at, 'Oh, yes. eagles!' And as soon as that picture popped into my mind, 'Woah, that's cool!'"

Ball gave credit to the film's writers for fleshing those ideas out and creating a compelling "underlying story for it all:"

"You know, and then I immediately came up with this whole, like, there's this kid on a ritual, he's climbing for an egg and this whole little blah, blah. And then, Josh Friedman, Rick [Jaffa], and Amanda [Silver] are the ones who really cracked how to take all these crazy ideas and actually come up with a great sort of underlying story for it all."

Gauthier noted that in figuring out how the apes might hold themselves after such a large time jump, it was important to keep in mind that this is "a clan of apes that never met Caesar:"

"The story starts with a clan of apes that never met Caesar. Caesar was an ape that was raised by humans. He became very vertical. And so we worked the clan of apes to be apes that are almost still normal chimpanzees except that they can speak. Their ability to speak is to have signage or hand talk and have syllables. They are syllabic but can only do a couple or three words at a time. They're still a little staccato in the way they deliver their speech."

Actors Kevin Duran and Peter Macon were also on hand to discuss bringing their characters to life in the film.

On how he added his unique elements to his character, Macon, who plays the orangutan Raka, explained how he "wanted to three-dimensionalize it from the start:"

"Well, when I first auditioned, they just gave me the scene, and then it was up to my interpretation. And so, I wanted to three-dimensionalize it from the start. So I developed my own sign language, a hybrid from, you know, sign language to like a truncated version that an ape would use and use that, and then I worked on physicality as I imagined it."

Macon said that one aspect of Raka that he created was "that Raka had broken his jaw when he was younger:"

"Once we went through ape school, we furthered that idea. I imagined that Raka had broken his jaw when he was younger, and it healed on its own. So I would split my mouth just to think about that. And so then that would always be there, in a way that I feel like if you had injured yourself severely as a child and, like he said, do these things to help me. You know, three-dimensionalized, grounded it in particular physical realities."

"That’s not on the page," Macon confirmed:

"And that's not on the page; you just have to build a lot of that yourself. And that's just one example of the many things and luxury of having that much time with a character where you can make choices and try different things based on these parameters of physicality."

Kevin Durand, the man behind Proximus Caesar aka the big bad of Kingdom, discussed how he "was passionately obsessed about humans and human history:"

"I really leaned into the idea that Proximus was passionately obsessed about humans and human history and that he studied every single book that his apes could find on Earth so that he could really understand the nature of man and learn from the victories, learn from the losses. He was obsessed with Rome. He was obsessed with the idea of being able to process all of this knowledge that he's attained and do better. He thinks he can do better. A bit of a narcissist."

Durand recalled his improv sessions with co-star Owen Teague, where the two riffed off of each other as they explored the dynamic between the two characters:

"But it was interesting because it came out in all these improvs. Owen [Teague] and I would take off for like 45 minutes at a time; the first time that we went off together, that we met, we met as Proximus and Noah, and I spoke to him about the idea that I've read in books that humans used to keep us in laboratories. They would experiment on us, this idea of humans and apes living this peaceful coexistence."

This improvisational process led to both sharing their on-character "philosophies," workshopping that even made it into the movie:

"I'm explaining to him that it never happened, that they would kill us and eat us for meat, that they would put us in cages and charge other humans to come in and just look at us while they were eating food. So, he fears humans and what human nature is capable of. Because he knows what human nature is capable of, and so it ended up leading the way into his philosophies. And some of it actually let its way into the actual movie. And yeah, it's pretty cool because it's like a love but also a hate. It's a very thin line."

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes hits theaters on Friday, May 10.

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- In This Article: Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes
Release Date
May 10, 2024
Freya Allan
- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.