Towan, an organutan who could paint, forged an unlikely bond with Karin Konoval and added to the inspiration.
In 2010, Karin Konoval had just finished filming the first few scenes of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, for which she had been cast as Maurice, a male Bornean orangutan.She had read every book she could about the shaggy red apes, known for their long powerful arms and flappy cheeks.
But she still felt at a loss with her performance.
While researching online one day, she came across a video of Towan, an orangutan at the Woodland Parkland Zoo in Seattle who was known as a formidable painter.
Konoval, also a painter and artist, knew she had to meet him.The brief encounter with Towan when she went to meet him guided Konoval’s performance in the first film. She later received an invitation from the zoo to meet Towan and the other orangutans.
She said, “It was the key ingredient to finding the character of the Maurice.”
She points to Towan, the orangutan she discovered online, as being the “heart and soul” of Maurice.Shortly after watching the videos, she travelled to Seattle to visit Towan in his outdoor habitat at the zoo. The orangutan, who was lying under a blanket, observed her from afar for more than hour.
The brief encounter with Towan when she went to meet him guided Konoval’s performance in the first film. She later received an invitation from the zoo to meet Towan and the other orangutans.
The week after she wrapped shooting War for the Planet of the Apes in March 2016, Konoval suddenly felt she needed to visit Towan.She spent an afternoon painting for him at the window where they first met.
Towan passed away two days later, at the age of 48. He was the oldest zoo-born orangutan in North America.
Konoval said, “I would call him one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had.”