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This Pivotal Scene In Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes Was Completely Improvised

Ask any cinephile what the greatest movie trilogy of all time is, and they might just say the "Planet of The Apes" reboot films. Based on the initial premise of the 1968 "Planet of the Apes," the reboot trilogy successfully depicts how the apes overthrow humans as the masters of the food chain. The franchise kicked off in 2011 with "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" and continued with "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" before wrapping up with "War for the Planet of the Apes" in 2017. Together, the trilogy has grossed over $1.5 billion (via The Numbers) at the box office and holds some of the highest critical rankings in the franchise on Rotten Tomatoes.

At the heart of the franchise is actor Andy Serkis, who provided the motion capture for Caesar, the ape responsible for launching the rebellion against humans. Caesar is an inherently tragic character, a chimpanzee raised in captivity who is later turned into a glorified pet. To play the ape, Serkis spent a considerable amount of time studying the species. "I studied gorillas in the wild, as well as in captivity. Obviously I studied chimpanzees in captivity," the actor told Moviefone. While speaking with the outlet, Serkis went on to note how chimpanzees are 96% similar to humans in terms of genetics and that "they are so individual, and that they deserve human rights."

Serkis perfectly exemplified this sentiment when he improvised a pivotal scene in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."

Andy Serkis improvised Caesar's first major decision

The reboot trilogy starts with Caesar (Andy Serkis), a highly intelligent ape, being raised by Dr. William Rodman (James Franco). Rodman understands Caesar's biological needs and provides the chimpanzee a thin layer of agency, often allowing him to roam free in the woods. Despite Rodman's best efforts to make Caesar feel in control, the chimpanzee is still walked on a leash and made to sit in the trunk of a vehicle. In a 2017 interview with Den of Geek, Andy Serkis discussed a pivotal moment from "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" that essentially sets the stage for the chimpanzee's rebellion.

"At the beginning of 'Rise' he's very chimpanzee-like but there's a sort of an epiphanic moment when Caesar is taken, half way through the movie, for a walk in the woods," the actor discussed. After they return to the car, Rodman instructs Caesar to sit in the trunk, as he typically does, but the chimpanzee refuses, sitting instead in a passenger seat. "He doesn't want to be treated like a pet," Serkis said. "That was a key moment for me. That was improvised." This is Caesar's first major decision that defies the humans. 

The "Lord of the Rings" actor continued by discussing how he explained his decision to director Rupert Wyatt, saying, "I really think he would, he should want to sit up front. He doesn't want to be treated that way any more." This pivotal moment makes Caesar question his place amongst humans and debate if he is a pet, which plants the seeds for the eventual rebellion.