Director Matt Reeves on how Coppola’s ‘Godfather’ advice shaped his new ‘Apes’

I sat down with Matt Reeves in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge to see which one of us could have our hair more disheveled by the amazing wind on Crissy Field. Enjoy the video.

The last time I saw Reeves, it was at Michael Giacchino's house, where I got to watch the two of them working on a scoring session for “Let Me In.”

I don't bring that up simply to not-so-humblebrag, but to illustrate just how unusually open Reeves can be about the filmmaking process. Even after almost 16 years of writing about films online, I can count the number of scoring sessions I've been invited to attend on my fingers. It's one of the more private parts of the overall filmmaking experience, and it's also a pressure cooker, so many filmmakers simply can't open that up to reporters.

When “Let Me In” came to Comic-Con, I moderated the panel, and it was there that Reeves asked me to come by and watch some of the session. He and Giacchino have preposterous amount of fun when they're working together. For proof of this, just check out this Vimeo link. I think the reason they have that much fun together is because they speak in terms of very common geek reference points, and they are able to clearly figure out what they are trying to do emotionally with each beat.

During our conversation about “Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes,” Reeves talked about just how special he feels Giacchino's work is on the film, and I'd agree. It's a really strong score by him, with a distinct John Barry/Maurice Jarre vibe to it. It's fitting that it doesn't feel like Giacchino's typical big blockbuster work, because I don't think Reeves has made a typical big blockbuster film.

Towards the end of our chat, Reeves told a particularly great story about how a conversation with one of Hollywood's great legends about one of his most legendary films turned out to play a huge role in the way Reeves approached the direction of the ape ensemble in this film.

“We did this day-in-the-life rehearsal where everybody would just be… because I had heard this story. When I was in film school, I snuck into this class that Francis Ford Coppola came and spoke at, and I was like, 'I'm about to make my student film. Can you talk about rehearsal?' He talked to about ten of us after the class, and he talked about Super 8 cameras. It was like talking to Socrates.”

Reeves is one of those guys who can't really disguise his enthusiasm, and I love him for it. He continued, “He said to me, 'You know, in 'The Godfather,' the way we rehearsed…' and I was like 'Oh, my god.' And he said, 'The way we rehearsed was I had everybody sit around the table in character, and we all ate. We all ate a meal, and everybody… Marlon was at the head, and he was Marlon Brando, so you'd better believe that all those actors looked to him like he was the Don, and that all began the relationships that lived through the film,' and I was like, 'Oh, my god, that's the greatest thing ever.' I kind of thought of Caesar as the apes Don Corleone. So we just did this day-in-the-life rehearsal where we just had behavioral stuff. All of the apes figuring out how to eat, how to live.”

It's such a strong film, and it seems like people are responding well to it. I think this will help push Reeves even higher in terms of how much studios want to work with him, and in that scenario, it's the audience that wins.

“Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes” opens everywhere on Friday.