I recently got the opportunity to talk to Sean Tyson about his role in ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’. Here, Sean talks about how he got involved in the project and how he got into acting in the first place…
Hey Sean. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me. ‘Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes’ is currently in UK cinemas.
How would you sum up the general plotline of the film?
When I first became involved, an acquaintance that was already working on the film described it as: “A love story between a man and his chimpanzee, with a lot of action at the end”. I think that sums it up nicely yet along the way it asks some open questions about ethics and greed in our society. I believe these questions are just as important today as they were when the original movies broached the subject.
Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…
I play the second Animal Control Officer you will see in this film. I’m not nearly as nice as the first guy but that gives the apes a target to focus some of their anger on. Thank goodness they haven’t perfected their aim yet…
How did you get involved in the project in the first place?
You could say I’ve been preparing for this opportunity since I was a young child watching the first ‘Planet of the Apes’ movie back in the seventies. After the main stars were confirmed and pre-production got moving here in Vancouver, Heike Brandstatter and Coreen Mayrs asked me in to audition for a couple of parts. This particular role was written in such a way that I couldn’t help but just be ‘the guy’.
Obviously, taking into account the previous franchise – which is your favourite ‘Planet Of The Apes’ movie?
The original, no question. It has a rawness and impact that the sequels were never able to achieve on their own. Each of the subsequent movies had their moments and strove to ask questions that were very pertinent to our growth as a society at the time but as a whole I think ‘Planet of the Apes’ remains at the pinnacle of the franchise. Though, I am interested to see where the next movie takes us.
How would you say this film tries to stand out and be unique to it’s previous instalments?
I don’t know that ‘Rise’ tries to stand out from its predecessors intentionally. It certainly does through the technical advances made in film over the last 10 years, (or 40 years depending on your reference point). I’ve heard it referred to as a reboot and I think that’s an apt description. There is plenty of homage for the fans and I think the writers were correct to base the apes ‘origins’ within the realm of possibility. In this way it honours the original yet we see how with modern technologies and the same basic human flaws even our altruistic attempts for a better life can bring about the destruction of the world, as we know it. Sure, it’s a different origin than we see in ‘Escape from Planet of the Apes’ but I think this loads the point a bit more.
The film stars the likes of Andy Serkis, James Franco, John Lithgow and Brian Cox – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
In a word: amazing. I was on second unit the whole time so I was working mostly with Mark Vargo and Terry Notary. Mark is a very generous director who kept things calm and smooth despite all the action. Terry is a guy I definitely want on my side, he plays both Bright Eyes and Rocket in the film as well as being the movement coach for the stunt ape performers. My first day on set happened to be his birthday, so when all production paused, about 100 plus people began singing ‘Happy Birthday’ on a battle ravaged street, complete with cake and his family in from California – it was something special.
Let’s talk a bit about you Sean. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?
If you ask my family, I started performing the day my mother dropped me off with her sisters: they like to be entertained. I think my first conscious decision to pursue the craft came towards the end of high school. I’d been fortunate enough to have a drama teacher who recognized my love of acting and put me in front of audiences in a few plays but it wasn’t until a friends grandfather paid me a huge compliment that I began to grasp the effect a performer could have. I had to dive into theatre and understand how this relationship with audience and actors, could create something beautiful and real in the short time that we shared but how it could also last beyond the end of the play. That led me down the twisting road of technical theatre and design until a dozen years later my friend Peter Deluise re-ignited my love of performing and introduced me to television and film here in Vancouver.
If you could have a dinner with three historical guests, living or dead – who would they be and why?
I’ve got a list of about 50 dead people I’d love to ask questions of but since we’re talking dinner, I’d say Joseph Campbell, Neil Young and George Carlin. Mr Campbell had a unique way of communicating his view of the world and how important ‘story’ is to our development as a whole. Neil Young is just such an interesting person who is responsible for some of my favourite music over the last fifty years and a great storyteller in his own right. I think Mr Carlin would tie the whole evening together with a wit and wisdom that would keep everyone on their proverbial toes. I’d probably be too sore from laughing to eat much but that’ll be just fine with me.
What has been the most interesting piece of local / national news you’ve heard in the last month?
I have been covering my eyes and following all the protests and riots happening around the world as of late. Disparate people and reasons have been at the centre of each and yet the results and reactions vary so little across the world. A part of me is discouraged by all the hurt and hate out there so I find it hard to watch the news. I rely on my friends and acquaintances for a lot of updates and continually reaffirming my belief that humanity is not going to destroy the world in the next 50 years.
You’ve had numerous roles in different films and TV projects – who has been your favourite actor to work with and which has been your favourite TV series to guest star on?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with a few of my heroes like John Cusak, Halle Berry and Chris Cooper but one of my favourite memories is the time I got to work with late Patrick Swayze. Both on and off the set, he was on a whole other level. To witness celebrity from that side of the camera flash is an experience and the man had a grace and a style which was all his own. As for television shows, I’d have to say the ‘Stargate’ franchise. From day one they made me feel welcome on set and part of the family. It’s inspiring to think some of those people have worked together creating great TV for over twenty years. They showed up everyday ready to have fun. It was such an amazing entity that has affected the industry here in Vancouver in so many ways.
What’s coming up for you in 2011?
I’ve gotten back to my theatre roots with a local company (Boca de Lupo) helping in the creation of a show based on the lives of several conflict photographers (the late Tim Hetherington among them) that has just traveled across Canada and will hopefully continue to tour. I recently finished starring in, as well as co-producing, a short film with some colleagues. It’s a comedy with a bit of a message for guys approaching their 40’s called ‘Ben Dover’: three guesses what that’s about. We’ll be in post-production soon and then off to the festivals we go. The most exciting project I’m currently developing is an original web-series an award winning stunt performer friend of mine came up with. We’ve begun initial filming and hope to have some slick stuff ready later this fall. I can’t go into too many details as of yet but it’s current, international, political and very action oriented with some well-known names. How’s that for a teaser…?
Thanks for the interview!