Recently I spoke to actor Jason Liles about his new project “Rampage” and how he brought the character of George to life and his experiences on the film. You can also read our review of the film at 1:00 PST on 4/11/18
– what can you tell us about how you became involved with Rampage? – It really started on Death Note the summer of 2016. I became close friends with VFX supervisor Colin Strause on that one and he was talking about the next film he was doing: Rampage. We hung out a lot when we got back to LA and at a BBQ he told how they wanted an actor to play George through motion capture with Weta similar to Andy Serkis and Terry Notary and others in the Planet of the Apes films. Immediately I began studying and researching for the role every day like a madman, eventually got brought in after months and months of prep, and I booked it. I don’t think I would have even known about the role without Colin Strause so I owe a ton of gratitude to him for recommending me.
– How would you compare and contrast working on this film compared to past creature performances? – It was the first time for me working in performance capture. That’s a big one. I had primarily played roles in SFX makeups up to 8 hours to apply or creature suits weighing up to 160 pounds. Although no matter whether it’s practical effects or performance capture or anything else, it’s always acting at the core. Nothing changes for me, just the wardrobe I wear and the medium they use to capture my performance.
– From Congo to the recent Planet of the Apes films we have seen many interpretations of motion capture of primates. Did you view any prior films as part of your research or speak with any actors? – I did, yes. I did all the research I could. I wanted to do too much research rather than too little. I rewatched Rise and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Peter Jackson’s King Kong, and all the behind the scenes to learn as much as I could from Andy Serkis, Terry Notary, Toby Kebbell, and Karin Konoval in their work with Weta. Most of my research came from studying gorillas themselves though.
– How did you prepare for filming and how did your character evolve over filming? – months and months of watching every gorilla video I could find, going to the zoo, watching behind the scenes of other actors who have played apes, every interview with Andy Serkis and Terry Notary that I could find, and really just trying to do too much preparation. The big thing that put it all together was a month before filming where I was trained every day by Terry Notary. We spent several hours a day in the Santa Monica Mountains jogging miles on the arm extensions, sitting and meditating (the natural psychological state for a gorilla), and creating/finding the character through exploring and playing out different scenes and scenarios. It was life-changing in many ways. I continued the research throughout filming by rewatching documentaries, going to Zoo Atlanta a couple times every week, meeting with primatologists at Zoo Atlanta, spending time with the silverback gorillas there, and continually working every day to go deeper into George, whether on set or a day off. I’m not sure how the character evolved throughout filming. I had already put in so many hundreds of hours being George before ever hearing “Action!” so I had found him long before getting on set.
– How did you handle the stunts in the film? – They were a blast. Getting to imagine you’re in these huge action scenes fighting a giant wolf and crocodile, destroying a city, you’re on a crashing airplane? That’s the stuff an actor dreams of. It’s what we did when we were kids and when our parents would go out for the night. Move the furniture out of the living room or go out in the backyard and just play monsters. I had two fantastic stunt doubles, Vincent Roxburgh and Daniel Stevens. They are such pros and the nicest guys. I wanted to do as much as I could, too. I would do every stunt with them. We’d do takes where it was one of them and then do takes where it was me. I had a blast. And it helps me become the character that much more when I actually go through everything my character is supposed to experience.
– What was working with The cast like and did any moments from filming stand out? – Oh my gosh. this is a dream cast in so many ways. Working with any one of them would be amazing, but I was fortunate enough to be able to share a film with all of them. Getting to be Dwayne Johnson’s on screen best friend was a dream come true. Literally. He was so great every single day and just so supportive and loving from the start. I was inspired to push myself past my limits every single take. I remember the first day on set when I met Dwayne and getting that picture of us together in front of the cage that he posted to his 100 million fans on Instagram where I’m on all fours. That’s where we discovered that we were going to be Han and Chewie together and we geeked out pretty hard. My phone proceeded to explode for days after that post.
– Were you familiar with the game the movie is based on prior to filming? I was! I’m a huge gaming nerd. I’ve had every Nintendo system and handheld ever, most Playstation and Xbox systems, I played PC games a long time like World of Warcraft, and I actually remember playing Rampage: World Tour on the Nintendo 64 with one of my best friends when I was a kid. So nuts to get to play George years later.
– what do you like to do in your spare time? Like I said, I’m a big video game nerd so I’ve always spent a lot of time escaping into those worlds. Nintendo is where my heart is. I absolutely love cooking. I probably spend more time in front of the stove than doing anything else. I love perfecting recipes, trying to recreate favorite meals from restaurants, and learning more and more. Probably half of my Instagram posts are pictures of food I’ve made. Cheat day is where it’s at.
– what else do you have upcoming? – Nothing I’m able to talk about yet wink wink haha, but I recently finished working on another huge film that’ll be out next year. It’s going to be so awesome. Can’t wait for that one. My team and I are looking at several possibilities on what we’ll be tackling next, but I’m picky. I fully dedicate myself to whatever role and project that I take on just like I did with George so it’s got to be something I really want to spend possibly a year of my life on. We’ll see what I want to take on next soon enough.