July Total Film has an excellent article by Jane Crowther and Jordan Farley on Legend of Tarzan. They had great at access behind the scenes, and as a result there are a number of points here that are worth noting before turning you loose on the embed below:
Real Jungle? Nah …. Better Than…..
Yates realized a reality that some may find hard to accept — but is true. The real jungle just wasn’t good enough. Yeah, it was expensive to shoot there, and yeah, ants and bugs and other crawly things not to mention mosquitoes and dysentery and all that would have made it quite difficult and expensive. But more importantly — he just wouldn’t have the control over the look that he wanted.
“I watched every movie you can think of that had been shot in a jungle with my production designer, Swart Craig. The really interesting thing was, when you watch one of my favorite movies, The Emerald Forest, where they went on location for months… It doesn’t look great. There’s no depth. There’s nothing iconic or pleasing to the eye. It’s a mess. It’s dense.”
The answer — build the damned thing and make it look just like you want it to look. And that’s what they did. Yates and Production Designer Stuart Craig (who also did Greystoke thirty years earlier) took over two huge (and I mean huge) sound stages at Leavesden Studios and created an iconic jungle, and iconic African village — including African grass that they grew for a year, a ridiculous waterfall, and African tribal extras who bonded by workshopping for two weeks so that when time came to film, they came complete with relationships and a community. The result is — as you can tell from the trailers — gorgeous, enhanced reality. Skarsgard: “They had two airport hangars – over 200 hundred yards long with jungle sets – real trees, real bushes, real soil, a river, like a mountain. It was trippy when you were in there shooting all day, and then you step outside and you’re in an industrial neighborhood in north London. And then on the back lot, they planted a whole field of African grass, a year before we shot the movie, to let it grow in with African flowers. It was incredible, I’ve never seen anything like it before.” And Margot Robbie, had this to say: “They built a jungle, a 90ft boat, a river for the boat to go in, a colonial town, a waterfall that has tons and tons of water coming out every second… It was the most insane thing I’ve ever seen.”
Yates’ and Cozad’s Script Work
Yates spent a year working on the script–which reflected the combined efforts of Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer–with Cozad. The focus, according to Yates, was, “. . . upping the romantic elements, deepening the characters. I made sure it had enough gear shifts throughout.”
Skarsgard Screen Test
Yates’ vision of Tarzan called for a really good actor “who also had a great body, who wasn’t wide, square, big-necked. I didn’t want to do a Tarzan that was all about width and muscle and couldn’t get through a door. I wanted a Tarzan that had grace, poise, elegance, and verticality.” Skarsgard was his choice; the studio wasn’t convinced, so Yates did a screen test with him — shot three scenes, edited them, and sent them to the bosses. They bought in.
Okay — here’s the embed. Do some clicking and it comes up so you can read it. Good stuff.