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Alexander Skarsgård and Margot Robbie Talk The Legend of Tarzan

Jun 29, 2016

By: Lynn Barker

In The Legend of Tarzan we get a new take on the old king of the jungle story. Tarzan was raised by apes when he was orphaned in the jungle but the film starts out when he has been living in London for many years before returning to his jungle home. He and Jane are married and wild about each other but an evil adventurer is tearing them apart for his own purposes.

Jane and Tarzan in loveJane and Tarzan in loveCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Alexander Skarsgård, that hottie Viking vampire from TV’s “True Blood” plays Tarzan and has always been a fan of the jungle adventure. Margot Robbie who was in the movie “Focus” with Will Smith, loves that her Jane is strong, resourceful, empowered and ready to beat the odds to reunite with her man.

Q: Can you two tell us how you knew about Tarzan when you were growing up?

  • Alexander: I was actually a big Tarzan fan as a kid and the old Johnny Weissmuller movies because of my father (actor Stellan Skarsgård) who is one of the biggest Tarzan fans out there. Every Saturday he would go to the matinee in the small town in Sweden where he grew up so he introduced me to Tarzan and that’s how I fell in love with him and the jungle and that whole world. I was very excited when I heard about the project.
  • Margot: My version of Tarzan was the Disney animated movie which I loved. At no point was I like “Oh, one day I’ll grow up and play Jane” but that was my exposure to it. When I read the script it just seemed very epic and amazing and exciting but it is still a well-known story and one that involves a lot of elements that, in the wrong hands, could end up kind of cheesy. When I heard that David Yates, a director who took the Harry Potter movies and gave them this cool, real but still such a magical feel was doing it, I thought this is exactly what this story needed.

Jane (Margot Robbie) is a prisonerJane (Margot Robbie) is a prisonerCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Even though this movie takes place in the 1800’s, Margot, your character Jane isn’t a victim. She’s an empowered female. Was that important to you?

  • Margot: Sure. I think it was important to make sure that a contemporary audience could relate to Jane. The book (by Edgar Rice Burroughs) was written a very long time ago and I think ideologies have changed since then. I agree that there is a love story at the core and I don’t think that being in love with your husband should be a weakness. I think that actually makes her stronger so I wanted that definitely to be the focus.
  • Though they are so dependent on each other and can’t live without each other, when they are apart, which they are for a lot of the movie, Tarzan and Jane are incredibly capable alone. It just would be kind of boring just watching Jane sitting there waiting to be rescued. It’s far more entertaining to watch her getting herself out of the predicament as well.
  • So, it works on a character level and also on an entertainment level. I think it was important to make sure that she could be relatable to girls watching. I don’t want them to sit there and think “Oh, I wouldn’t do that. I would do this.”  But, I hope women watching would be like “Yeah, good on ya girl”.

Jane (Margot) plans her escapeJane (Margot) plans her escapeCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Alexander was there ever a time when you thought “I won’t take the role if I have to do this”?  Like wear a loincloth?

  • Alexander: (laughing) I was trying to get a little sexy loincloth. I was trying to convince (director) David (Yates) for weeks when we were doing prep and unfortunately, the way the script is written, it opens in London, it’s Victorian and he’s acclimated to life in London then he goes back (to the jungle) and David was like “It doesn’t make sense. That little loincloth’s gotta go”. It shows up after that when he swings through the trees but it’s more like a little mini-sarong. (laughter). I just thought the story was so brilliant in the fact that it’s more about returning to your roots than taming the beast. I thought that was so smart.

Tarzan (Alex Skarsgård) in his jungle homeTarzan (Alex Skarsgård) in his jungle homeCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Alexander, you are way buff in this movie. Can to talk about your workout routine and there was something about eating pasta with your dad?

  • Alexander: The first phase was three months of bulking up while I was wrapping up “True Blood” in L.A. so it was Tupperware with seven hundred calories a day, steak and potatoes in it and weightlifting. Then, when I got to London I had a great opportunity to work with Wayne McGregor, one of the best choreographers in the world, on the physicality of the character. It was very important that Tarzan is flexible and agile when he moves through the jungles and that he doesn’t look like a body builder so even though I wanted to put on some weight, the goal wasn’t just to get buff, it was to look athletic.
  • Of course the diet was horrible. It was like no sugar, no dairy, a very strict died so, when we wrapped the movie, my father (actor Stellan Skarsgård) was shooting this Netflix mini-series “River” in London and I went straight to his house. He loves to cook so I spent four days on his couch just being fed. It was the most incredible week of my life. It was bone marrow, fried mozzarella, pasta, red wine. I was just “uuuugh” (over-full sound).

Tarzan is determined to free JaneTarzan is determined to free JaneCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Margot, what was the most difficult thing for you to do in this movie as Jane?

  • Margot: It was new to me to be reacting to things that weren’t physically there in front of me. The jungle set was there but the animals sometimes weren’t and to get a grasp of the scale of these animals is mind-boggling.
  • We’d have someone run out with a cardboard cutout of how big a wildebeest would be or a lion. I was like “Oh, I need to adjust my eye-line from here to way taller than me. They’re huge” and the same thing with the hippopotamuses and stuff. So it was really bizarre kind of acting and trying to keep my reactions big enough.
  • Alexander: We were slightly worried there for a second, weren’t we, when we were on the savannah and there’s a scene with the big male lion running across and there were two guys holding a cardboard cutout of a lion and they were running like this (indicates a silly run) and Sam (Jackson), Margot and I were like “This is going to be a great movie. They really went all out on this one”. (laughter)
  • Margot: I was like, “With all the money spent on this film, we have a cardboard cutout?”
  • Alexander: Rrrrrrrooooar (he makes a lion growl).

Tarzan all civilized in LondonTarzan all civilized in LondonCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Margot, you have Tarzan coming out and also Suicide Squad. can you compare the women that you play in both? Did it effect you?

  • Margot: Yes. They are on total different ends of the spectrum so it was kind of fun to go from one character to the other. I really can’t find any similarities between Harley and Jane at all but it was kind of interesting to play Jane who is so composed in the face of danger and very strong-willed and strong-spirited and emotionally strong and then play Harley who is a bit more of a basket case in most ways. They are totally different. It was cool to explore one kind of person then the complete opposite.

Reunited in the jungleReunited in the jungleCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Alexander, do you practice martial arts, jujitsu or anything like that? Was that you swinging through the trees?

  • Alexander: (On the martial arts) Not really. There’s some things in this movie I can’t really take credit for. They had a 3-D scanned version of my body then they had one of the greatest trapeze artists in the world come in for those vine swings. It was (like) a circus. We sat there with our coffees and watched him do these amazing stunts on the vine then they would just remove his body, use his movements and replace it with my body. I’m watching the movie and I’m like “Should I take credit for this? I’m awesome” but I think August (the trapeze guy) needs that and deserves that credit for sure.

Bad guy Leon Rom (Christof Waltz)Bad guy Leon Rom (Christof Waltz)Courtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: This wouldn’t be a Tarzan movie without the call and, thankfully, we get to hear it twice. Is that you, is there any voice enhancement and can you do it right now (laughter)?

  • Alexander: Nope. It was a tricky one because you obviously have to have it in the movie but it comes in these moments when he’s hunted and you definitely don’t want it to be a comedic moment. That kind of (he warbles like Tarzan) it would just take you out of the movie watching it so instead of having a cheesy shot of Tarzan doing the call, you see the impact on the (bad guy’s) face, on Christof’s (Waltz) face because it makes it more eerie and haunting. I thought that was really smart, having it in the movie but you kind of avoid it being cheesy or comedic would be even worse. I did the call for sure but it’s kind of a hybrid isn’t it David?
  • David (the director): It’s a combination of elements. We got a big singer in to give us a sort of raw sound then we dialed in some animal sounds and we experimented with it over a period of time and mixed it in certain ways and it was tricky to do because (it’s corny) but people really look forward to it, fans of this character and these stories. So it’s a bit of Alex, a bit of strange animally sounds, a lion, a gorilla, a mix of things.

Q: What singer did you use?  

  • Alexander: Elton John, yeah, Elton John doing the Tarzan yell (he’s so kidding).

Jane is kidnappedJane is kidnappedCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: Alex, how would you describe Tarzan in this film?

  • Alexander: Psychologically, he’s lost between two worlds. He’d grown up in the jungle surrounded by his ape family, he’s a member of the family but he knows he’s different. Then, when we first meet him in the movie, he’s in London and kind of looks like people around him but he doesn’t fit in there either.  Deep down he’s an animal and that creates a very interesting friction between man and beast. It’s on an extreme level but I think that is something that human beings can relate to. We’re civilized human beings but deep down we have these animal instincts and urges.

More gentle times on the African savannahMore gentle times on the African savannahCourtesy of Warner Bros.

Q: What would you say about his relationship with Jane?

  • Alexander: Well, he’s an orphan boy who wants to find his family so it makes this relationship (with Jane) so much more interesting when they are separated. You feel that she’s not the damsel in distress. He is the lost orphan boy and she is his anchor and he needs her. They need each other. That’s what, hopefully, makes the audience root for them to find each other and fight to get back together. 

The Legend of Tarzan PosterThe Legend of Tarzan PosterCourtesy of Warner Bros.

The Legend of Tarzan is in theaters now! 


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