Kevin Durand Talks ‘Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes’ & Going to ‘Ape School’

Canadian actor Kevin Durand has become Hollywood’s go-to villain. He’s played a range of roles in his career that spans two decades. Fans will recognize him as Joshua in Dark Angel, Martin Keamy in Lost, Fred J. Dukes / The Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Barry Burton in Resident Evil: Retribution — the list goes on. 

Most recently, he plays Proximus Caesar in Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes, the 10th film in the long-ranging Hollywood saga, which opened in theatres May 10th, 2024. 

KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - (Pictured) Kevin Durand. Photo by John Russo. copyright 2024 John Russo. All Rights Reserved 5-2024
Photo by John Russo © 2024.

For the Thunder Bay native, the idea of being in someone else’s skin, experiencing the world through their eyes, is “the turn on.” He doesn’t have a set formula as to how he picks projects: “I just look for things that bring me joy, and what brings me joy is challenge.”

We spoke with Durand about forming a very distinguishable ape identity, the expectations of working on a legacy franchise, and what he’s looking for at this stage of his career. 

First of all, I love that your Instagram bio says, “Thunder Bay boy living the California dream.” Not Toronto or Canada boy.

Yeah, all my formative years were spent there. I came to Toronto once in grade eight on an excursion, we got to see the big city. I remember thinking, ‘Wow, how do people live there?’ It just seems so massive to me. Making the move, you know, was not without its own hitches, and then I fell in love with it. But yeah, I’ll always be a Thunder Bay boy.

I read that you used to watch Planet of the Ape movies when you were young so how surreal is it being a part of this legacy?

It’s beyond surreal. You know that quote, ‘If you think it, you become it’? [Or] something along those lines. I’ve been thinking it for a really long time. And I put a lot of energy into just kind of manifesting, believing in, and doing things that seem absolutely crazy. Everyone back home thought I was pretty nuts, except for my parents and a couple of my teachers. Yeah, so it really just came into fruition; when I called my mom to tell her that I was cast as the King of the Apes, she just started laughing. She had tears coming down her beautiful face and she said, “Well now, for the first time, you are perfectly cast.” Laughs. I’ve been doing my ape run since I was about six or seven years old.

KINGDOM OF THE PLANET OF THE APES - (Pictured) Kevin Durand. 20th century studios 5-2024 1 ©
Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios.

What helped you find your ape identity and ape voice as Proximus Caesar?

The most incredible process that I have been through was ape school with a wonderful man, wonderful artist, and scientist, Alain Gauthier. He came to work with us, to turn us into apes. Because he had a background in science, he was able to really break down — from a physiological, biological, anatomical, skeletal point of view — the difference between our particular apes. I was a bonobo.

It really helped to inform me. I wasn’t just moving a certain way because I thought ‘Oh, this is how apes move.’ I was moving that way because we studied why they moved that way. It became part of my psyche, this physical work and all of these kinds of rules that we learned. Once they became part of my body, the character started to seep in.

[Gauthier] would ask me a question, and for the first while, I would answer it as me. Then one day, out of nowhere, Proximus came out and it made so much sense. The physical side of me was trying to figure out how I could actually create human sounds with [my] trachea, how I could get that sound to come up from my belly and resonate so that I could make a human sound. It was a really cool, organic process.

Owen Teague and kevin durand 20th century studios
Owen Teague (left) and Kevin Durand (right). Photo courtesy of 20th Century Studios.

What were your expectations going into the Planet of the Apes franchise. How did it surprise you?

I thought that I would be somewhat restricted by the technology, and it turned out to be the absolute opposite. It was like 100% shared freedom. So, by the time we went to camera, I knew exactly how the character and mood were: what he liked to eat, what his philosophies were, where he came from as a baby bonobo, where he saw himself going, and [how he would] hopefully take apes into a future that kept apes at the apex of power.

You’ve been in industry for years, being an actor in various genres and roles. As an artist, what are you looking for in this stage of your career?

I’ve loved my job so much. I just love that I get to disappear into these characters and often find similarities or differences. I love being able to play those things out. I look for things that bring me joy, and what brings me joy is challenge. The idea of playing something — saying something I’ve never said before, being in someone else’s skin, and experiencing the world through their experience — that’s always the turn on for me. It’s not anything specific that I’m looking for, I just hope for a visceral reaction on the page.

Is there something you haven’t done that you’d like to tackle?

Yeah, I’m going to direct my first film that I’ve been writing for 14 years. I think this character will be really cathartic and visceral for me to explore — as the storyteller, the director and the writer, but also as someone [who is] able to play his reality. That’s the challenge that I’m probably most excited about. And quite honestly, if our film succeeds, going back into ape-dom would be such a delight. We had so much fun.

Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes is in theatres Friday.

Featured photo by John Russo © 2024.