Last weekend, I flew out to Los Angeles to attend a press junket for The Legend of Tarzan. During this event, I had the pleasure of taking part in a few fun activities. First, we attended an advanced screening of The Legend of Tarzan. The movie completely blew me away with the beautiful Tarzan and Jane love story. Then, the next morning I got to sit down with the Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie, better known as Tarzan and Jane. There’s no question as to why these two were chosen to accompany one another as Tarzan and Jane – their connection was undeniable.
These two walked into the room with huge smiles on their faces. Alexander, being the only man in a room of 12 ladies, expressed that he felt a bit intimidated. Margot, however, was incredibly giddy. She enthusiastically exclaimed, “This is going to be fun,” as her flawless face lit up with joy. They were both ready to chat about how their approach to a classic movie that everyone already loves so deeply.
Alexander Skarsgård: It’s because he’s such an iconic character and–or both Tarzan and Jane are iconic characters, and it’s such a well-known story that I think it’s been told over 100 times on film and, obviously, all the novels. And so, I was really excited when I heard that Warner Brothers was planning on making the Tarzan movie because I was a fan growing up. But, it also, obviously, made me think, well, what’s the approach? How is it going to be different, you know, because you can’t just, remake a movie that’s been made 100 times?
I just think Adam Cozad, who wrote it, came up with such a brilliant take on it. I love the idea that it opens…..it’s a surprising introduction to these characters because you kind of expect the loincloth, the, “Me Tarzan, you Jane.” And instead, it’s this very sophisticated couple in Victorian London. I thought it was really interesting and very smart.
And the trajectory of the story is the opposite of the old novels or the old movies. It’s not, you know, the wild man, finding his way into civilization. It’s someone who’s already acclimated to that and then is forced to go back and kind of reconnect with his roots and with his inner animal in a way, which I thought was quite interesting to play.
It was bound to happen. In fact, I am shocked that the question wasn’t asked sooner. We were a room full of “curious” ladies, so the next ever-so-innocent question for Mr. Skarsgård was going to slip out sooner or later.
Q. How did you prepare for such a physical role?
Mr. Alexander Skarsgard: For phase one, I wanted to put on some weight. I was out here in L.A. wrapping up True Blood. And so, for the first three months, I ate a lot and I lifted weights. The idea wasn’t just to get big. I wanted to put on some weight, but also, it was important that, in the movie, he doesn’t look like a bodybuilder.
It was important that when he returns to the jungle and he’s back in his natural habitat, you have to feel that he is born and raised there, that it’s natural. And I had to work on agility and be nimble and flexible.
Once we got to London about six or seven weeks before starting the movie, they cut down the portions a lot to very small meals. And it was more cardio-based workout. And we got to work with–Wayne McGregor… an incredible choreographer…on movement stuff.
And that was really fun. So, it was much more than just eating chicken breast and lifting weights because, again, I didn’t want to get too big because….animals don’t have muscles that don’t serve a purpose because it’s stupid in the wild because that means they need energy. And that means you have to hunt more. And so, it’s all about efficiency in Mother Nature, obviously. So, the idea behind it was everything has to be there for a reason.
The Legend of Tarzan portrays Jane as a whip-smart, feisty, and witty woman. She’s not just the wife of a powerful man. She’s a woman that is tough enough to handle herself in every situation. As women, we can definitely relate to relying on our men, but being able to handle ourselves. Margot Robbie describes how she developed the character and what she loved about being, Jane.
Ms. Margot Robbie: ….David Yates, the Director, and I…… our initial conversations were very much on, like, okay, how do we make this Jane relatable to a contemporary audience? How do we make her feel a bit more real and someone I can connect to because I’m not going to sit there and just be like, “He’ll come for me. It’ll be great.” It just seems stupid!
If she’s really that intelligent, she’d be problem solving the whole time. So, even in scenes where the focus isn’t meant to be on her and there’s other things happening, in the background of the shot, can I always be actively trying to escape? Even if it’s just like niggling at the guards or trying to kick someone –and Dave was like, “Oh, this would be hilarious if you’re always kicking–like, if it’s towards the end of the movie and kind of like scared to get near because you’re just always lashing out at them, that would be amazing.”
And yes, we spoke a lot about making her very independent and very capable. I think both of them are very capable when they’re apart, which we’re apart for a lot of the movie. But, we also spent a lot of time talking about how to make them also very dependent on each other because, at the heart of it, to me, it’s very much a love story. And if you don’t invest in that, then you don’t really invest in the outcome of the movie. And then you kind of lose your audience a bit.
So, it’s important to focus on that. And to focus on that, it makes sense that they both need something from each other, where Tarzan’s physically strong, she’s emotionally strong. Where she needs that from him where he–you know, they both need each other, and I don’t think being really in love with your husband makes you a weaker female character. If anything, I think it makes her seem stronger.
So, I didn’t want to downplay the love aspect, but also did want to make sure that she was very capable and defiant and intelligent.
Both Margo and Alex explain how the entire filming process was very collaborative. “They were no egos,” Skarsgård explains as he talks about how welcoming Director, David Yates was to input. Overall, everything was already written for them. Margot explains, “it was all pretty much there on the page. It’s a really good script. They’re fully-formed characters. And the relationships, everything was really evident on the page.”
Q. Can you talk a little bit about what the most challenging parts of your roles are, especially because I know a lot of times, you acting against the green screen and not with real animals?
Ms. Margot Robbie: Yes. That was a strange one. Alex had to interact more with invisible animals than I did. And I got to kind of like stand back and giggle to myself as he nuzzled with a stunt guy pretending to be a lion. This was like the most ridiculous thing I’d ever seen.
Alexander gave Margot the funniest look as shs was explaining this. When she mentioned how she’d giggle to herself, he looked at her like “Wait, I didn’t know any of this.” Then, he explains himself.
Mr. Alexander Skarsgard: So, that was a very interesting day. There’s a lion scene where I snuggle a lion because it was the cub I grew up…. well, that lion is a guy. His name’s Ace, is like 25-year-old gangster from South London, super cool guy, he shows up in a gray pajamas on set. And we shake hands.
I’m like, “Oh, nice to meet you.” He’s like, “What’s up, mate? How you doing?”
And then they’d call action. We’d go down on all fours, and we’d just start rubbing with Sam [Samuel L. Jackson] and Margot in the background like, “He’s known her since she was a cub.”
Ms. Margot Robbie: Tried to live with the lions without, like, absolutely dying with laughter. So, funny.
Unfortunately, that was a wrap! We shook hands, took a group photo, and these lovelies actually took the time to takes selfies with each one of us! How much fun is that?
See it in Theaters July 1, 2016
From Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures comes the action adventure “The Legend of Tarzan,” starring Alexander Skarsgård (HBO’s “True Blood”) as the legendary character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs.
The film also stars Oscar nominee Samuel L. Jackson (“Pulp Fiction,” the “Captain America” films), Margot Robbie (“The Wolf of Wall Street”), Oscar nominee Djimon Hounsou (“Blood Diamond,” “Gladiator”), Oscar nominee John Hurt (“The Elephant Man,” the “Harry Potter” films), with Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (“Iris”), and two-time Academy Award winner Christoph Waltz (“Inglourious Basterds,” “Django Unchained”).
It has been years since the man once known as Tarzan (Skarsgård) left the jungles of Africa behind for a gentrified life as John Clayton III, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane (Robbie) at his side. Now, he has been invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a deadly convergence of greed and revenge, masterminded by the Belgian, Captain Leon Rom (Waltz). But those behind the murderous plot have no idea what they are about to unleash.
Directed By: David Yates / Rated: PG-13