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wouldn't recognize him up on the big screen, but Terry Notary was
the man behind The Apes in the summer's must-see flick
By Marina Dundjerski '94
Photography by Joe Toreno
ALL ABOUT FINDING YOUR INNER APE. Terry Notary grins broadly
as he says this and then, in a blink, his features morph from man
to beast -- a transition so sudden and fluid, it's eerie. His lips
purse and his hazel eyes lock up in an intense gaze. He juts forward
his jaw, hunches his shoulders. His legs bow, bending slightly at
the knees, and his arms seem to lengthen and curl as the movements
of his chiseled body slow down. He tosses his head, his long bangs
falling in his face. A grunt ushers from his throat. In an instant
he has transformed himself into something not quite human, not quite
a startling performance, one that conveys a sense both of barely
contained power and of remarkable calm.
"this amazing groundedness and stillness that we're missing
as humans," says the 33-year-old Notary, the grin returning
to his human face.
this talk of apes? Because, as anyone who this summer skimmed the
entertainment pages, watched TV, drove past a billboard or walked
into a multiplex knows, apes were everywhere. And the man behind
the apes was Terry Notary -- a former UCLA gymnast (he was a four-time
All-American and a nominee for the prestigious Nissan Award), circus
performer (after UCLA, he spent five years as a Cirque du Soleil
acrobat) and all-around expert in translating movement.
headmaster of "Ape School," it was Notary who brought
to life the apes on the big screen in the summer blockbuster Planet
of the Apes, director Tim Burton's take on the classic 1963 sci-fi
novel by Pierre Boulle about an upside-down world in which simians
rule and humans are enslaved. For six intensive weeks, he trained
the actors, teaching them to walk, run, eat, grunt and fight like
the film garnered mixed reviews, Notary (who also was movement coach
for Ron Howard's How the Grinch Stole Christmas) has received international
attention and been lauded by critics. The Los Angeles Daily News'
Bob Strauss called Notary "the real hero" of the movie.
was Notary on the set each day of filming to continue coaching the
actors -- principals as well as some 400 extras -- to move like
chimpanzees, orangutans and gorillas, he stunt-doubled for the malevolent
chimpanzee warlord Thade, played by Tim Roth, plus four other ape
School gave me a behavioral dictionary for Thade, who often goes
berserk," says Roth. "Terry watched my performance to
make sure no movement was too human, and I watched his stunts and
coached his work to make sure it's truly in character. We had a
good back-and-forth thing."
and other characteristics of the apes in Burton's film are a far
cry from those of the 1968 cult classic of the same name. In that
earlier version, and its several sequels, the ape characters were
more prone to scream like humans than to grunt like simians. When
they ran, they tended to stand upright rather than lope on all fours,
and they were less likely to smell things before eating them, as
apes naturally do.