Empire Spotlight: Owen Teague Has The Keys To The Kingdom

Owen Teague - Spotlight

by Hayley Campbell |
Published on

The rising star on transitioning from man to beast for Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes.

When Owen Teague was four years old, he saw Disney’s Beauty And The Beast and wanted to be in it. Not do a voice in it — actually be in it. “My mum was like, ‘Um, okay, sure, but that’s an animation. There are community theatres you can audition for?’” So he started doing community theatre, mostly musicals. Then, in 2005, Peter Jackson’s King Kong arrived. Seven-year-old Owen was bewitched. When his mum explained that King Kong was played by an actual guy in a performance- capture suit, Teague saw his future.

Empire Spotlight – Owen Teague

Almost 20 years later, he is that guy. In Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes, Teague plays the lead, Noa, a young chimpanzee born nearly 300 years after the events of the last film in the franchise. After a successful audition aping around in a self-tape on the floor of his apartment, Teague says the hardest part of the role was figuring out the voice. Set centuries after the previous films, when the apes were just starting to figure out speech, Teague didn’t want to copy what came before — but it also had to be something that could believably come out of a chimpanzee. “There were a couple of weeks where I was like, ‘I have no idea how I’m going to say these words when we start filming.’”

"I have one of those faces. I make a good villain."

Not entirely knowing what he’s doing is part of Teague’s MO. “Every job I have I’m like, ‘Man, I have no idea how to be an actor,’” he laughs. “I’m starting from scratch! [I think], ‘I suck, and this is going to be my last job ever.’” Despite Teague’s self-doubt, he has been consistently employed since he was 14. Now 25, with a sizeable CV, Apes is his biggest role yet.

Empire Spotlight – Owen Teague

Prior to this, he has been in three Stephen King adaptations: he was a survivor in 2016’s apocalyptic Cell; he played the bully Patrick Hockstetter in both instalments of It; and he embodied the iconic Harold Lauder in the 2020 TV adaptation of The Stand. Apart from being a lifelong fan, why is he so right for King’s stories? “I have one of those faces,” he grins. “I make a good villain. But I think I grew up on a lot of horror-esque material.” Sweeney Todd is still his favourite musical. He loves Tim Burton and The Lord Of The Rings. When other kids were running around dressed as knights or princesses, Teague was pretending to be Gollum. “I was never the attractive hero in my little childhood fantasies. I was always some screwed-up thing. I was a weird kid!”

Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes

Next up, he’s in the untitled new Brad Ingelsby (creator of Mare Of Easttown) show for HBO alongside Mark Ruffalo. He can’t tell us anything about it, except that it’s a kind of character he’s never played before (“I’m wearing my pants somewhere around my mid-thighs. Like the waistband. I’ll tell you that”). After that, he would love to do more performance-capture. “I’ve never had so much fun in my entire life!” he says. “Once you forget about the fact that you’re covered in dots and wearing tights and there’s a camera strapped to your head, there’s so much freedom in it. You have this entire other dimension to work in.” His childhood dream of starring in an animation wasn’t so crazy, after all.


The Show: Suits

"I was in Florida recently for a couple of months, which is where I grew up, and my mum had gotten into Suits. One night I watched an episode with her, and it became this little ritual where we'd watch an episode before bed. It was really sweet. I don't know if it's a good show!"


The Album: 'Norma' by Mon Laferte

"It's based on all the things she heard when she was dancing in retro ballrooms. It's really really cool."

Norma Mon Laferte

The Book: Faith, Hope And Carnage by Nick Cave and Sean O'Hagan

"I love Nick Cave's way of looking at the world and how he relates to his fans and grief. I'm not religious, but his relationship with that is beautiful and fascinating to me."

Faith, Hope And Carnage

Kingdom Of The Planet Of The Apes is in cinemas from 9 May.

This article originally appeared in the June 2024 issue of Empire. Photography by Matthew Salacuse, shot exclusively for Empire in New York.

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