Jason Liles Talks Becoming George For ‘Rampage’ And More In An Interview

April 25, 2018

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely is the owner of HorrorFuel.com. She is an Executive Producer of "13 Slays Till Christmas" which is out on Digital and DVD and now streaming on Tubi. She has several other films in the works. Kelli is an animal lover and a true horror addict since the age of 9 when she saw Friday the 13th. Email: horrorfuelinfo@gmail.com

Jason Liles, the breakout star of Brad Peyton’s film adaptation of Rampage, was kind enough to answer a few of my questions. Liles and I talked about a few his previous roles in films like Netflix’s Death Note and The Conjuring 2. But it quickly became crystal clear that his role as George, the giant gorilla in Rampage, holds a special place in his heart.
Liles stars in Rampage alongside Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Oscar nominee Naomie Harris (Moonlight), Jeffrey Dean Morgan ( The Walking Dead), Malin Akerman (Billions), Jake Lacy (Girls), Joe Manganiello (True Blood), P.J. Byrne (Final Destination 5), Marley Shelton (Solace), Breanne Hill (San Andreas), Jack Quaid (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire), and Matt Gerald (Daredevil) co-star

Horror Fuel: “You’ve played a lot of larger than life roles if you don’t mind me asking, just how tall are you? ”
Jason Liles: “I’m six foot nine.”
Horror Fuel: “Wow, that is tall. I’m only five feet.”
Jason Liles: “It’s a little tall. I see the top of everything. I get great views at concerts [laughter].”
Horror Fuel: “I bet [laughter].”
Horror Fuel: “Can you tell us about your scene as the Crooked Man’s shadow in The Conjuring 2?”
Jason Liles: “I want to specify that Javier Botet played the Crooked Man. I keep getting messages like, ‘I loved you as the Crooked Man.’ No, that’s Javier Botet, who is brilliant, and amazing, and such a kind person. I was the stand-in. That was before I had any principle roles in a film yet. I was his stand in. I have a similar body type. I would be on set on his mark so they could set up the camera and lights and so he didn’t have to stand there the whole time. I always try to do my best, so I pretended to be the Crooked Man. When they wanted me to walk from point A to point B, I wouldn’t just walk, I would walk like the Crooked Man and I watched what Javier was doing. So then one day they were like, ‘Hey, we’re going to let you do something on screen.’ They let me play his shadow in one of the scenes where the girl was coming down the hallway but it looked like the Crooked Man’s shadow coming down the hallway, but it was the little girl who is possessed. It was fun to get to do that and to take direction from James Wan. It was really cool. That was the last time I did background or stand in work.”
Horror Fuel: “How did they film that sequence? It looked really creepy.”
Jason Liles: “We had a light behind me and I was coming down the hallway and I was making that shadow. Right before you turned into the living room, on this side of the wall she was standing with her back up against the wall and right at the last moment I get up against the wall and she steps out like it was her the whole time. It was a cool practical effect. On the other side of the wall, it was a silly looking situation. We would look at each and go, ‘One, two, three go!’
Horror Fuel: “I love practical effects and that scene looked really good.”

Horror Fuel: “What was it like to play Ryuk in Death Note?”
Jason Liles: “That was so much fun. It saved me because at the time I was waiting tables at Outback Steak House before that. I got to quit my job and go out to Vancouver to film that. I watched all the anime, so I was on this high of being in love with Death Note and playing my favorite character, Ryuk. And I learned so much. That was like going into the first snap as a freshman quarterback and coming out as a senior. I learned so much on that set and made so many friends. That was a very special shoot for me.”

Horror Fuel: “Any chance we’ll see a sequel?”
Jason Liles: “That’s what I read online. I think it was very successful from what I’ve seen, but I don’t know anything. It looks like they want to make more. I would happily do it again.”
Horror Fuel: “Hopefully we’ll see you reprise the role. I’ve noticed that in the movie your eyes glow. Is that a practical effect or CGI?”
Jason Liles: “It was a combination. I had these little things I wore like glasses and they had two little red lights. They were his pupils. That gave a lens flare, something that could look at and play with. They enhanced them after the fact. The only thing that is not practical on Ryuk is the center of his face. His hair, ears, and body, all that is me. The face and voice are Willem Dafoe. He did performance capture and they layered that on the practical suit. They put his face on me. He was wearing a helmet very similar to what I wore as George in Rampage. There’s a pole coming out from the helmet with a camera that captures those dots on his face.”

Horror Fuel: “Speaking of George and Rampage, how did you prepare for the role?”
Jason Liles: “I did a lot. I did six months by myself before I was brought on. I watched documentaries,  researched Coco the gorilla, went to the zoo, I watched behind the scenes and interviews with Terry Notary. Really just doing as much as I could to get into the physicality and psyche of a gorilla. Then, when I was brought on I trained with Terry Notary. Who is King Kong in Kong Island, he played Rocket in The Planet of the Apes trilogy, as well as many other apes, and trained all of those people. He trained me every day for three weeks in the Santa Monica mountains. I spent hundreds of hours on those arm extensions, hours upon hours meditating, hundreds of miles on the arm extensions, rehearsing scenes, getting rid of the things that make me Jason and finding George and letting that organically come out. It took every day of training to get me there. ”

Horror Fuel: “What was the most difficult part of being George, the mental or physical aspect?”
Jason Liles: “Mentally 100%.  The physicality is like riding a bike. You spend enough time and the body gets used to it. The hardest part is not pretending to be an ape, not acting like an ape. Terry guided me into myself. Chimpanzees and human DNA is 96%  identical. We are closer to chimps than gorillas are. The differences between our DNA are ten times less than the differences in between the DNA of that of a rat and a mouse. That’s how close we are. So, Terry’s philosophy is that if we can strip away the social conditioning and the culture and the manners, and what makes up human, what makes me Jason, all our memories then at the core we are already pretty close to apes. Then we don’t have to play any, we would just be an animal in touch with our instincts and build the character from that foundation. Their psyche is basically in constant meditation.  They are naturally so grounded, they live in the present moment. They don’t think about what happened before or what might happen in the future. They’re right here, right now. They’re listening, they’re seeing with their eyes. Getting to that place is beyond difficult. Not playing an ape, letting it come organically, it took every bit of every single day for Terry to get me there. Literally, on the last day he was like, ‘Okay, I think we 100% got it.”
Horror Fuel: “That sounds like an incredibly intense process. It’s fantastic that you had someone to help you with that training.”
Jason Liles: “It was. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I could not have played George without Terry Notary. I would not have had the opportunity without my friend, the visual effects supervisor, Colin Strause. Without him telling me about it and recommending for me to play George.”

Horror Fuel: “What was your favorite part of being George?”
Jason Liles: “Working with Terry was awesome, becoming friends with him and learning from him. I learned so much from him. Filming was so much fun. I knew I was going to be part of something big. I was surrounded by the best people in the world at what they do, Oscar winners, people whose work I’ve looked up to for years, it was just a thriller to get to work with them, and I got to play such a great role. Going in I felt so prepared every day, I didn’t have nerves once I got on set. I knew I was prepared. It’s really hard to pinpoint. I really enjoyed the whole process. It was probably learning so much about myself. Every role I play, I learn how similar and how different I am to the character. Really the whole process, specifically the training with Terry on acting, on life, on everything. I could try to explain in words, but you’d just have to go through the training. Everything would click in hindsight. I feel in love with gorillas. I had no clue how much I’d fall in love with them. I can just go to the zoo and watch them all day long.”
Horror Fuel: “They are fascinating creatures.”
Horror Fuel: “What was it like on set?”
Jason Liles: “There was a lot of hard work, a lot of long days. We were in Atlanta during the summer, so it was hot. But it was so much fun. Everyone was so supportive and so loving. I felt like we were making something big, something special. That really makes it such a great environment. I was working with such a great cast and crew. It was pure imagination, like lucid dreaming while being awake. 90% of the days, any time I was on set I was George. Sometimes if people talked to me and it wasn’t the director, I’d ignore them, like, ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about, I’m George.’ It was a fun place to be at, and for people to respect that. ‘Oh, don’t bother him. He’s in it.’ That’s the best way that I can explain it. Like I stepped into this other world. I really believed I was there like I had tricked my body into this. I had all these genuine emotions. With Terry’s training, I found a way to stop pretending and acting as a character into truly believing I was that character in that moment. It was just so much fun, like a childhood dream come true in twelve different ways for me. To be part of something like that, I never thought it would happen. It was so surreal.”
Horror Fuel: “That’s so fantastic. It sounds like an amazing journey.”
Jason Liles: “It was.”

Horror Fuel: “What is it like now, to be seeing the response from fans?”
Jason Liles: “It’s really weird. I don’t know what you would expect, but it’s not. It’s really cool to get messages from fans around the world. Like, ‘We’re so excited to see it.’ and ‘People in India are loving it!’ It’s really weird. People all over the world who I don’t know are becoming aware of me. I haven’t gotten a message from anyone saying ‘You’re dumb.’  or anything. Everyone is sending messages of love. It’s really strange but awesome. It is the number one movie for two weeks in a row around the world. It doesn’t even register. It’s so surreal. It probably won’t all hit me until some point in the future. It’s really weird experiencing it now. I still wake up and go to work towards the next project with my team, just like it’s any other day. Going to the premiere was insanely surreal. It was the biggest premiere for Warner Bros. and The Rock ever. Here I am, and there’s a big statue of George. Fans wanted pictures and everything afterward, and that was awesome, but then I came back to my same old apartment.  It’s this surreal stuff that you would think would never happen. You instantly go back to normal life. It’s really weird. It’s awesome and a dream come true, but so hard to grasp.”
Horror Fuel: “Can you tell us anything about your next project?”
Jason Liles: “No, I can’t. But it’s going to be awesome. If I give you one hint, I’ll want to give another and another.”
Horror Fuel: “I understand, but you can’t blame me for trying.”
Jason Liles: “Sooner or later we’ll be able to talk about it. It’s like with Rampage, I wanted to talk about it months ago but couldn’t. Now we can talk about it up, down, left and right. We’ll talk about the other movie when the time comes.”
Horror Fule: “I understand.”
Not only did Jason provide the movements of the character, he was the face and soul of George. The lengths that Jason went through to truly become gorilla proves how extremely dedicated he is to his craft. I don’t say this very often, but Jason Lile impressed the hell out of me. Not only is he a friendly, down to earth guy, he’s amazing at what he does. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of him in the near future.
Make sure you stay updated on Jason Liles’ projects by following him on Facebook, Twitter, and on Instagram.
Rampage is now playing in theaters nationwide!

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