Woody Harrelson Says He's Not Doing Brando in 'War for the Planet of the Apes'

The actor insists his turn as a shaven-headed Colonel in the latest 'Apes' sequel isn't lifted from 'Apocalypse Now' — just inspired by it.
Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

It’s pretty obvious that War for the Planet of the Apes borrows thematic elements from Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now — that “Ape-ocalypse Now” graffiti in the middle of the movie is a none-too-subtle hint — but that doesn’t mean Woody Harrelson is channeling Marlon Brando’s Kurtz for his own role as a shaven-headed Colonel.

"No, no!" Harrelson told The Hollywood Reporter's Stephen Galloway during their conversation for what turned into a cover story profile in the actor's own words. "It was obviously a part inspired by Kurtz, so I didn’t want to add to that by trying to act like Brando. The part already has that in the writing. But the Kurtz thing — whether you want to say it’s from Apocalypse Now or the real source, [Joseph Conrad’s] Heart of Darkness — was an interesting guide. My initial talks with [director] Matt Reeves were about, ‘Let’s not let this guy be too black and white, just pure evil. Let’s really show his conflicts and what he went through.’ Because you see in a lot of movies characters are just pure evil and there’s no explanation for it. I mean, nobody’s going to watch me in this movie and think, ‘What a good guy!’ But there was a lot of work that developed the Colonel and got him to a place that I think helps the final product."

So that’s not Brando Harrelson is doing on the screen. "I could’ve done an impersonation," he notes. "Because I do a Brando impersonation. But I would never want to do that."