If you ask Wes Ball, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is both the fourth film he's directed, and the fifth as well. It's not that the director has lost track of the movies he's made — he helmed all three installments in The Maze Runner series — but in order to make the film, he had to "shoot the movie twice."

In an Academy-hosted Q&A, Ball peeled back the curtain on the lengths that he and his team needed to go to in order to make Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, which features a single main human character (played by Freya Allan). According to the director, this meant he had to shoot the movie once with Allan and the actors who play the various VFX apes, and then a second time with just Allan or no one at all for certain shots to allow the visual effects team to digitally add in the effects. "It was a really, really difficult process that was the bane of my existence," Ball declared. "I hated it! But it was a necessary part of the process."

Wanting audiences to truly understand all that went into bringing the film to life, Ball already has his eyes on a special feature that he's campaigning to be included on the home release of the film: "I'm planning on showing the raw version of the movie as a feature, where you can watch the movie without all the effects in it, so you can see what we have to work with."

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is the 10th entry in the Planet of the Apes franchise, which began more than half a century ago with Franklin J. Schaffner's Oscar-nominated original. "I grew up watching the 1968 original. I was obviously too young to get any of the key ideas — I'm sure they went over my head — but I remember those visuals," Ball recalls. "They're so etched in my brain, and you see some of them in this movie... A big part of what we're trying to do with this movie is to have a foot in both camps — in the Caesar trilogy that came before us, and way off on the horizon is the '68 original that began this whole crazy thing. It felt right to have this DNA from all these movies into this movie."

Director Wes Ball behind the scenes of 'Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes.'

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes comes on the heels of the hit trilogy from the 2010s, in which Andy Serkis starred as the ape Caesar; after collaborating with Serkis and War for the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves on an ill-fated Mouse Guard movie, Ball was offered the chance to pick up the baton for a new installment in the ongoing saga. "How do you turn something like this down?" Ball says. "But I was very hesitant, because the last trilogy is a hard set of movies to follow; they were very well-made and very well-loved. My biggest hesitation is that I didn't want to be a part four. I felt like it would be some sort of cash grab, and I wasn't interested in doing that."

Ball's interest was ultimately piqued by the idea of setting the story hundreds of years after the events of 2017's War for the Planet of the Apes, during an era in which apes are the dominant species and most humans have regressed to a more primitive state. "Once we got that distance from it, it opened up all these amazing opportunities where we could rediscover this world with this character of Noa," Ball says of actor Owen Teague's lead chimpanzee. "We talked a lot about those previous three movies being about the end of things: the end of the human world, the end of Caesar's story. Could we get away in this one with turning the page and feel like a beginning, like a new world is starting to form?"

Watch the full Academy Conversation below to hear more from Ball, whose career was kickstarted when he won a Student Academy Award in 2003 for his short animated film A Work in Progress.

"Having done that short certainly queued me up for what was to come, to have a foot in both worlds of animation and live action," Ball reflected. "It's always been a good asset of mine to have knowledge of that world. Winning a Student Academy Award at 22 years old certainly opened doors — it changed my life." When asked what advice he'd give to his former self, the 43-year-old said, "Be patient, you've still got work to do."


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