Image: 20th Century Fox

It’s not all that uncommon for creators to say that a fictional persona felt like a member of their family. But leaving Christmas presents under the tree for someone who doesn’t exist—like Planet of the Apes writers Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa did for trilogy lead character Caesar—is going the extra mile.

The married writers’ gift-giving came up in a Hollywood Reporter article about War for the Planet of the Apes, where the pair also say that their human child also thought of Caesar as almost-real:

“Our daughter sees Caesar as a brother. When we first conceived of him, he felt like our child at the time.”Adds Jaffa: “There would be birthday presents for Caesar. Christmas presents under the tree from Caesar. He was part of our family, really, for three years before the first movie got made.”

Weird as that sounds, Silver and Jaffa say that conceiving of the character in this way probably helped Rise of the Planet of the Apes get made. It was about creating a compelling central figure and not just re-making a franchise:

“That was the big risk. We tried very hard to sell it to the studio, because we knew if we focused on Caesar at home, the audience would fall in love with Caesar,” Silver says.

Silver and Jaffa wrote the first two films in the latter-day Apes trilogy, and produced the just-released War of the Planet of the Apes. Andy Serkis’ impressive performance capture brings Caesar to life, but it seems like the character got a lot of love before a single frame of the film was shot.

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