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To get it right, "I just poured myself into ape behavior," Notary says, spending day after day observing animals at the Los Angeles Zoo. He would tape them and then go home to study the videos, along with ape films ranging from National Geographic documentaries to Gorillas in the Mist. He read books including Jane Goodall's In the Shadow of Man, and on the set he played with the twin chimps cast in the flick.
"I tried to picture them as humans in ape suits," says Notary. "It was like: OK, let's see what he's doing... Hmm, well, I would never have expected that an ape would do that. We can use that.
"I'm not an ape expert," Notary says. "I'm just good at watching things and finding a technique to show the actors. A primate is a very liquid animal. They're easily distracted, but when they're focused on one thing, the focus is total. We had to teach actors how to find their own sense of being primal."
Burton wanted all of the apes to appear as though they were from the same gene pool -- 20 percent ape and 80 percent human -- but there are differences in the movements of each type of animal. Notary accented those unique characteristics when training the actors. Actor Paul Giamatti, for example, plays Limbo, an orangutan, which is a slow-moving, graceful creature with a natural slump. Gorillas, like Michael Clarke Duncan's character Col. Attar, are more massive creatures, with upright backs. Roth's Thade, a chimp, is more bowlegged and moves quickly.
Not all the actors took right away to being simian.
Helena Bonham Carter, who plays chimpanzee Ari, admits she "flunked" Ape School. "I had to go back and learn how to be still," Bonham Carter says. "I had to learn an economy of movement, but to be immensely focused. To stop intellectualizing and instead make everything physical and be present and alive in the moment, which is completely ape-like.
"Apes are more sensual and tactile than we are," she says. "They've got a much better sense of smell, and their intuition is much greater. But their focus is absolutely 100 percent, which is very useful for me as a human being.
"Actually, it wouldn't be a bad idea if everyone went to Ape School."
IN 1975, WHEN HE WAS 7 YEARS OLD, Notary was diagnosed as being severely hyperactive. "He was one of those all-over-the-place kids," concedes his mother, Judith Notary, laughing at the recollection of her son "climbing up the wires, up the poles." It was hard to get him to sit down, she says. During dinner, if he was excited about anything, he'd automatically stand up. He's still like that to a degree, his mother says.
Indeed, even when he's sitting, Notary never seems to be still. His arms fly about, his hands gesture his own personal sign language, his face is in a constant state of flux. It's easy to get swept away in whatever it is he's describing.
"Terry is an energy force field, a whirlwind of human potential," says his childhood friend and UCLA gymnastics teammate Jason Garman '92. "When he wakes up in the morning, he hits the 'on' switch and it doesn't go off until there's nothing else to be excited about."