With the release of the action/adventure film RAMPAGE, starring Dwayne Johnson, Shannon had the chance to speak with the real star of the film, the giant albino gorilla George, played by the incredibly personable and charming Jason Liles. During their chat, they discussed everything from what it’s like to be an actor doing motion capture performances, to the in-depth research he did in order to transform into George the Gorilla.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Hi Jason, thank you so much for speaking with me today and congratulations on all the success with RAMPAGE! To start things off, for those who may not be familiar with you and what you do, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Jason Liles: Yeah, sure! I’m a 6’9” actor in Hollywood, my name is Jason Liles, and you probably know some of the characters that I play but you would never recognize me from my photo or my name. I played Ryuk in Death Note and most recently I played the very handsome and charismatic albino gorilla George, alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in RAMPAGE. Next year you’ll see me doing some things in Godzilla: King of the Monsters, but I can’t go into too much detail about that quite yet.
Nightmarish Conjurings: What interested you in wanting to do performance capture work?
JL: I wanted to be an actor and be in movies since I was a kid and I just never thought I could. Then through a whole set of circumstance, I ended up moving to NY to study theatre, acting, and on-camera. It was then that I heard I was too tall, which for most things I am. While doing Men In Black III I played several aliens throughout the entire production and found out that I may be too tall for certain things but for non-human characters, practical makeup, and performance capture I’m perfect. I then started playing aliens and monsters and werewolves while getting experience in makeup effects and studying mime and mask-work. I became good friends with Doug Jones, who among so many characters he is most recently the creature in The Shape of Water, after we did a short film together years ago. He told me I needed to come out to LA cause this was where all the shops were that would make me into monsters but they needed me to be local. I ended up moving out here and a few months later I got the part of Ryuk in Death Note.
I never thought I would work in performance capture, ever! I thought my height would help me with practical stuff because they want really tall, slender guys for these monsters but in regards to doing performance capture my height doesn’t really help me. You could be Andy Serkis at 5’7” and be a little gollum or a massive King Kong. With RAMPAGE, they needed someone taller, ideally, than Dwayne Johnson to play George, mainly so that in that first scene when George starts beating his chest and acting like he’s all angry, Dwayne would have to look up. Of course, George continues to grow after he gets infected but for that first scene they really needed someone tall for that and then they could make me bigger on platforms for the rest of the film.
There’s a misconception that performance capture/motion capture is this separate kind of acting, or that you need to have certain skills to do it rather than normal acting. While researching, I found that in every single interview with Andy Serkis he talked about how there’s no difference [in terms of acting]. The only thing that’s different is that there is a different type of camera, an infrared camera, that picks up the dots and captures your performance; hence, performance capture! I get called a motion capture actor but I see myself as an actor who happened to have a couple of roles in performance capture. With all that said, I’m definitely living my childhood dream of getting to play characters like this in Hollywood; I never thought I would get to do it. Here’s a moment of inspiration for everybody – you can do anything, I promise you, you can do anything, you just have to want it and work consistently everyday, maybe for a decade, and you’ll be ready for that opportunity that comes along.