One of the most surprising characters in the highly anticipated Hollywood flick “War For The Planet of the Apes” is neither an ape or a man but a little girl with breathtaking courage. Amiah Miller, in her first major role plays a mute, virus-ravaged human child who comes to be known as Nova – and becomes an essential part of the apes’ journey to their new home.
Opening today from 20th Century Fox and distributor Warner Bros, “War for the Planet of the Apes” is set 15 years after a scientific experiment had gone wrong and gave rise to intelligent apes, almost wiping out the human race. The colonists and apes struggle to coexist but their fragile peace had already been shattered even as Caesar (Andy Serkis), the leader of the apes, attempts to restore order. All the same, there is no turning back as the brutal fighting had already begun.
At heart, this is the story of both a military and emotional last stand. As peace between species has collapsed – and a renegade band of human soldiers led by an imperious Colonel (Woody Harrelson) makes a final, all-out attack – Caesar is hit with an unimaginable personal loss and a dark line inside his psyche is crossed. Now, he is wrestling with merciless impulses and roiling doubts about his own ability to inspire the apes towards freedom. But if the apes are to survive the coming conflict, Caesar must lead. In a time when empathy and compassion have nearly vanished both in the world and his heart, Caesar searches for the grit, sense of fellowship and striving vision to lead the apes towards a future of hope.
The enchanted quality of new character, Nova, did not escape director Matt Reeves and scribe Mark Bomback. Bomback says, “Here is a little, seemingly orphaned girl living with apes – Matt and I immediately thought she seemed like a character out of a fairytale. From Goldilocks to Little Red Riding Hood, there’s a whole tradition of stories about little girls in the woods with dangerous animals who nevertheless become their protectors. That’s part of the inspiration for Nova. And the name Nova of course is a bit of an Easter egg from the original film.”
“One of the beautiful things about Nova is that even in this divided world, you see there are apes and humans who are able to form deep emotional relationships,” says Peter Chernin. “In that moment when Caesar is in the darkest place, when he wants to hate all humans, Nova touches him in a way no one else can. In Nova, we’re also seeing the growth of the Simian Virus and what survival means to humans.”
Taking the part, an especially demanding and complex one for a child actor, is 12 year-old Amiah Miller in her first major feature. Reeves describe how Miller won the role: “Amiah is such an intuitive young actor. When she came in to audition we threw away the script and I just asked her to relate to the apes. It was clear right then that she was special and had a talent way beyond her years. She and the actors became like a family. She has a bright future ahead of her. I can’t wait to see what she does.”
Because Nova develops a strong bond with the orangutan Maurice, who insists on bringing her on the apes’ long journey, Miller spent a month working with Karin Konoval, who plays Maurice.
“Amiah and I needed to have a very strong, very real connection,” says Konoval. “So Amiah and I actually got to know each other wordlessly as Maurice and Nova before we even had any conversations. Luckily, our connection was immediate and organic and it only grew from there. It was absolutely magic that the filmmakers gave us that opportunity to develop this true bond.”
Concludes producer Dylan Clark: “Matt, our casting director Deb Zane and I were all in agreement that there was only one young actor to bring in for the role of Nova and it was Amiah.”