Tarzan swings into modern movie technology… watch this



The 39-year-old actor is certainly not the first to tackle the iconic ape-man; he probably will not be the last; but he is one of the best. This portrayal of Tarzan is serious — and yet Skarsgard still touches on all the old tropes, including vine-swinging and bestial yodelling.

We sat down with Skarsgard for a one-on-on interview — a Canadian exclusive — and then attended the Warner Bros. press conference for the summer blockbuster, which opens Friday. Skarsgard swung from thoughtful to playful. Here are some highlights of our conversation, along with a couple of excerpts from the press conference:

SWINGING A VINE: “Thank you!” he says when I compliment his agility. But, of course, it would be impossible in a real jungle, Skarsgard admits about using vines, “because they’re actually attached to the floor of the jungle. So, yes, it would be quite tricky to do.”

Plus, for the most death-defying stunts, it was actually Cirque du Soleil aerialist Augusts Davidenas doing the work with Skarsgard’s head and body digitally layered in later, replacing Davidenas. “So I’m watching the movie and I recognize myself doing these Olympic stunts going: ‘Should I take credit for this?’ But I think Augusts deserves that, for sure!”

ROCKING A LOINCLOTH: The closest he gets to Tarzan’s usual jungle garb, Skarsgard grouses, is wearing a mini-sarong at the end of the movie. “I was trying to get a little sexy loincloth,” he says of debates he had with director David Yates. One challenge is that the movie opens with Tarzan/John Clayton/Lord Greystoke back in London dressed in the traditional Victorian suits of an English aristocrat. He slowly loosens up his clothes on a return visit to the Congo. “That how we updated a classic story,” Skarsgard teases, “by going from a loincloth to a sarong. It’s very like a backpacker in Thailand.”

ON BUILDING HIS BODY: Skarsgard’s body is lithe, muscular and powerful as Tarzan. But he is never muscle-bound. “It was very important,” says Skarsgard. “I didn’t want the guy to look like a modern day bodybuilder. If you look in the animal kingdom, every single muscle is there for a reason. If it’s too bulky, you need a lot of energy to maintain that muscle mass, which means you would have to hunt more and it would slow you down.”

Skarsgard focused initially on bulking up with steak and potatoes, with weight lifting sessions. Then he went to a strict diet for the final month, concentrating on yoga, stretching exercises and Pilates to become flexible and agile. “For somebody who is incredible stiff, the challenge was: How can I become flexible and agile and nimble?”

ON GETTING RID OF THE RACIST ‘BWANA’ PROBLEM: “I think it’s crucial!” Skarsgard says of giving white and black characters equality, something missing from earlier movies and indeed from Edgar Rice Burroughs’ books. “In the movie, it was very, very important to show how colonialism impacted the indigenous peoples, as well as the animals and nature. It’s a big action movie so we don’t want to be too heavy-handed. It’s not a movie about the genocide in the Congo (a real-life tragedy). But I think it was really beautiful that that was in the movie as a backdrop … and I thought it was really important that this wasn’t the story of a strong white man coming down to save the poor innocent black man from the bad guy. They’re warriors themselves and they’re part of it.”

ON HOW THE SCREENWRITERS FRESHENED UP TARZAN: “I was just really inspired by the arc of the character,” Skarsgard says of the screenplay from Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer. “I thought it was a very different take on this famous story. I thought it was very smart to open it in London, because it’s a surprising introduction to Tarzan.”

ON HOW MUCH HE LOVES OLD TARZAN MOVIES: Skarsgard’s actor dad, Stellan Skarsgard, introduced his son to them with an obsessive passion. “And I fell in love with them as well. They are incredibly entertaining, but obviously quite date if you watch them now.”

ON ACTING WITH STUNT MEN & TENNIS BALLS: The movie is packed with animals, all computer-generated. Skarsgard had stand-ins ranging from stunt men “on a good day” to a tennis ball mounted on a stand “on a bad day.” Then he saw the final film: “It’s incredible,” he says of the realistic animal life. “I was just blown away!”

Bruce Kirkland, Postmedia Network via Toronto Sun | photo via wegotthiscovered.com

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Christina Vixx

I was born and raised in Toronto Canada. I love writing, poetry and music. I'm a contributor for SocialMediaMorning. Make sure you follow me on Twitter and Facebook!

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