Gather around, children, and let us speak of ancient times, back when James Franco was a veritable movie star with hits like Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy, “Pineapple Express,” and “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” to his name. The actor’s name is now mud thanks to the numerous allegations of sexual misconduct levied against him, but that wasn’t the case when production began on the 2014 sequel to “Rise,” titled “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” Even back then, however, the idea was that Will and his girlfriend, Freida Pinto’s kindly veterinarian Caroline Aranha from “Rise,” had died between films.

Speaking with Collider in 2014, series producer Dylan Clark explained that the pair were “ground zero” for ALZ-113, the more powerful and gaseous version of ALZ-112 that was developed by Will yet proved to be deadly to humans and ended up causing an apocalyptic pandemic. Clark also confirmed previous reports that an alternate ending to “Rise” where Will is killed saving Caesar was shot and then discarded. In his own words:

“Yeah, it did, and it’s not really a story. The truth is, we didn’t go with it not because it was a bummer ending. It was actually the right thing. When we developed the script it was Dr. Frankenstein — he must be punished for his involvement. He’s culpable in this whole thing. So it seemed narratively correct.”

The way Clark told it, everyone involved agreed the “staging” of Will’s death was poorly handled and that the theatrical ending provided a better payoff to Caesar’s arc in the movie. So far as the creatives behind the “Apes” trilogy are concerned, though, it seems that Will was among the countless human victims of the manmade virus that he himself created with his bare hands.

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