Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, David Yates and David Barron talk THE LEGEND OF TARZAN | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

Alexander Skarsgard, Margot Robbie, David Yates and David Barron talk THE LEGEND OF TARZAN


The Legend of Tarzan

It has been years since the man once known as Tarzan (Alexander Skarsgård) left the jungles of Africa behind for a gentrified life as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane (Margot Robbie) at his side.  Now, he has been invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a deadly convergence of greed and revenge, masterminded by the Belgian, Captain Leon Rom (Christoph Waltz).  But those behind the murderous plot have no idea what they are about to unleash.

The Fan Carpet’s Jessen Aroonachellum in association with Acting Hour was in attendance at a special footage presentation which was attended by Margot Robbie, Alexander Skarsgard, David Barron and prolific Director David Yates…

 

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Did you have any History with the character of Tarzan?

David Yates (Director): I use to watch the Johnny Weismuller Tarzan films in my childhood. They were always charming. They were always small budgets and filmed in a studio somewhere. Just after Potter, I was looking at scripts and seeing so many things that felt familiar in a way. Things blowing up, I’ve seen before, sci-fi etc. I saw the Tarzan script and wasn’t interested then I read it. It was written by Adam Cozad and Greg Brewer had also contributed to that script and was sent to me by a lovely Producer named Jerry Weintraub, who’s a legendary Hollywood Producer, a wonderful, larger than life human being, who has worked on it for 10 years and was eventually able to pull the script together, and I just fell in love with it.

The script was very romantic and epic and had some old fashion sensibilities but had themes that still felt connected to now and and very present to now, in terms of how we value our environment and what we are doing to the animal species around us. It had politics in it and made me smile with the humour to it. The script has a lot of colour to it and the other scripts I was reading had only had one colour to them. It felt like a full meal and so I couldn’t resist it really. Evan though on the surface it felt like an anachronistic subject, it is far from that once you start to immerse yourself in the pages of the film. I was very surprised by it, I love being surprised.

 

Margot, Jane is a wonderful character due to her fierceness and love and admiration for her husband and she still very independent. What did you draw on to bring her to life?

Margot Robbie (Jane): She is fiery independent but incredibly in love with her husband, so they are kind of codependent in that way. I see her as being emotional strong. I felt they needed to be strong independent of each other, otherwise why would they be together. In terms of what I drew on, it was more the circumstances and understanding the stakes in the film, from 10 minutes in the stakes are high. It was a life or death thing and when it was a person you loved it’s always high. Funnily enough I always thought it was his life was at stake rather than the other way around but I saw the film and realised it wasn’t… When I was reading the script I was taken by the grand scale of it, and even on the page it just felt so epic and romantic. Yeah, everything about it was rich.

I spent a lot time in the film with Christoph Waltz (Leon Rom, the villain of the film) and it was great working with him as he would always do something different; very unpredictable. David really allowed us to take those moments and spend as much time as possible working on our dynamic as well as Alexander (Skarsgard) and mine. You also see the bromance between Samuel L. Jackson and Alexander. All the relationships are equally as important.

 

What was the mental preparation for the film?

Alexander Skarsgard: I thought it was an interesting journey and I agree with what David said when I was sent the script, it’s such an iconic character; and it’s a story that has been told hundreds of times. There are 12-15 novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and various iterations in the movies.

I first read the script and the first page is not Tarzan but Lord John Clayton, Lord of Greystoke drinking tea with the Prime Minster in a 3-peice suit as perfect Victorian gentleman. We don’t open the film in the jungle but with him and Jane being married and living in London for a decade. So his character arc is opposite to the early films where you are taming the beast. He is already civilised and living in London. He has a home as he feels objurgated to be there as his parents are gone, and it’s his responsibility to take over Greystoke Manor and be there with his lovely wife, who he is very much in love with, but it not his real home, and something is missing and in terms of their relationship, Jane can feel that, and he needs her, they need each other, she is not a damsel in distress and it is not about him saving her, he’s not complete without her. It’s not about taming the beast, it’s about keeping the beast within and we talked about letting the beast come out and something we can all relate to being human and having those primal urges. Primal instincts.

We had the choreographer Wayne McGregor, who is probably the greatest choreographer in the world, it was such a treat to have him, helping me get the physicality for Tarzan. I loved playing those moments where he’s very button up play the English Lord where deep down he isn’t. Where he is in the jungle he learns to adapt and when he came to London, he learned to play the part of being a Lord. However, still has those moment where he’s still is animalistic.

 

The locations are amazing, where was it filmed?

Alexander: It was filmed in Watford…

David Barron (Producer): Yeah, we film the principal photography in Leavesden Studios, then we got our D.O.P to film all the aerial shots in Gabon in Africa and with today’s technology we can put both together.

Josh Pontin: I’ve got a slightly unusual CV, I went to I’ve with sixteen Gorillas in 2001 and then we created a network of thirteen national parks across Gabon, and then I happen to be a specialist on nineteenth century central African history, my CV is usually pretty useless, until it lands on the lap of David Yates, who is making this version of Tarzan. It was a joy to be involved, as David Barron said it was mainly shot in Watford; there are too many mosquitoes and not enough Cappuccino in Gabon to take a crew of a thousand and all this technology, so indeed it was shot in Watford.

In creating the national parks in Gabon, I had had the pleasure of roaming around this place for the last fifteen years, to find these amazing, natural landscapes.

What Alexander jumps off is an inselberg, a granite out crop, which you’d probably recognise as the sugar loaf in Rio and indeed when Brazil and Central Africa were together that was the same landmass.

When I took David flying around, he spent four days like a kid in a candy shop with his nose pressed to the helicopter window, seeing landscapes that Hollywood had never seen, natural history crews have been in there, so it was a total pleasure.

So coming back and David going the extra mile to give a big Hollywood blockbuster this authenticity to show African culture, so he forced the extras to spend weeks with me and various other people to go through this history, giving it proper context. There are limitations of course to a big Hollywood epic of this size, but he did everything he could to put a new lens on it, and that should be celebrated.

 

Alex, I was just wondering where did you get your yell from as JohnnyWeismuller’s is so famous. Were you conscious of not copying him?

Alexander: We tried lots of things like yodelling but David Yates wasn’t a fan of that. So, it was a lot of trial and error. We play around it. I think you (David) helped me out a bit to make it more primal and animalistic.

David: It was partly Alex, partly a voice expert, it’s a combination of things.

 

Where you disappointed to not be filming in the Jungle?

Alexander: Well, Watford was pretty nice.

Margot: I was pretty disappointed but I got to stay in London, which I was pretty stoked about.

Alexander: I was trying to go to Gabon but there was no time; I just wrapped True Blood in L.A. and six hours later I was on plane to London. What really helped, was when I heard we were shooting mostly in a studio in the UK, I was concerned with it being just green screen but it was incredible when I got there they had two huge hangers looking like a jungle. The backlot had sets like the boat and a town.

Margot: It did look, smell and felt like a jungle when you got on set.

 

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Where you influenced by the Tarzan films such as Graystoke and Christopher Lambert’s Tarzan?

David: That is a very handsome film. One of the links to that movie, is that, Stewart Grey designed that film and ours. Our version is eclectic experience, rich and a lot more fun. Thematically it deals with the politics of the Congo and it’s gear more to a global audience. It much more rounder film. Adam Cozad, the writer of this film, is very much the sprit of the film. He’ll write a meaty, action pack scene and then writes scene where Tarzan gently moves Jane’s hair away from her face, he’s just a very connected human being with so much warmth, and a big feminist for a big bloke.

And the humour partly comes from him and partly our sensibility to have a good time, especially when some of the content is quite serious but we wanted to have a good time, and we just wanted to take the audience on a big ride.

 

Was that a great experience for you in terms of developing the relationship with Samuel L. Jackson and what we see on screen?

Alex: When you work with someone like Sam it’s pretty easy, he’s so funny and the dynamic between our characters when we are running through the Jungle is quite interesting.

It was because of the context of the movie and the weight of it, and what was going on in the Congo at the time and seeing that through Jane and Tarzan’s eyes when they come and realise what is going on with their home in a way and also the separation, the love story, them trying to get back together is very dark and heavy and intense, you need to balance that and it is important to find those moments of levity and fun so it doesn’t get too dark.

 

Were you ever daunted but playing theses roles especially with the long history of actors playing them?

Margot: No, not really , I knew we were in good hands, because of the people who were working with it. They worked on the Harry Potter films so well when that material in the wrong hands could’ve been something cheesy but it wasn’t. And so my only fear wasn’t that we were reinventing the wheel, I wasn’t worried about all of the previous performances, I was more concerned with will we make the film with the right tone and not cheesy.

I didn’t see a lot of the early versions of Tarzan so it wasn’t suck in my head thank goodness, just the Disney one!

Alexander: My dad is a massive Tarzan fan, so I grew up with the character. Tonally and our take on the film is so different from previous ones, it didn’t feel like I was taking it over from someone who had done in two years ago, I’ll never compete with Johnny Weismuller. I just wanted to impress my father, who is more excited than I was.

 

The Apes were so realistic. Was motion capture used to create them?

David: No, it wasn’t. It was all animation. We had a wonderful animation team, and we leaned on Josh quite a bit but no motion capture.

 

Did you get any inspiration outside the source material as in basing your characters on people you knew?

Alexander: I got to do some prep in California and went to wild life parks and I got spend some time with some cheetahs and lions, which was unbelievable. Then doing the same in Kent. The combination of those real experiences and then combined with just hours of doing research and watching documentaries. Talking to choreographer and planning around the physical and primal aspects of the character was really helpful.

Margot: Normally when I play a character, it’s not me but I played Jane more like me. I don’t know if you remember (talking to Alexander) but we did this role play and pretended to have a tree house in the Jungle. We wouldn’t be allowed to talk but we would mime to each other.

Alexander: Yeah, we would create a back story of how we met.

Margot: Made it easy for us to be close and for me to touch him and not have a barrier between us.

Alexander: As you saw in the footage, we get split up in the 2nd and into the 3rd act we are separated. And the drive of those parts is us getting back together. So, first 20 mins of the film we need to convince the audience we are in love so they can root for us at the end of the film. It’s quite easy with Margot and she very charming. They are flash back of us as teenagers and it quite interesting how they did it and they used real teenagers shoot the scenes and then we would do our bit. It really trippy to see us as 17 years old.

 

What was the process of casting Alexander and Margot?

David: Well, I wanted someone very tall, handsome and fit, which Alex is but someone who could also act.

Margot, I had just seen in Wolf of Wall Street and I was just blown away, I had met Margot for the first time I think at a press junket for Wolf of Wall Street and had been back packing through Europe and I just loved that combination of earthy tomboy and so real and glamorous and bright and insightful and so to have all those qualities seemed perfectly natural.

 

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The Legend of Tarzan Film Page

THE LEGEND OF TARZAN IS IN CINEMAS TODAY

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