War for the Planet of the Apes, the third film in the rebooted Planet of the Apes series, opens in theaters tonight. This new string of films got started with Rise of the Planet of the Apes in 2011, a movie which starred James Franco as the main human character. So what happened to James Franco’s character from that movie? Why wasn’t he in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and why won’t he be in War for the Planet of the Apes?
In Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, it is implied that James Franco’s character Will Rodman died off screen. Dawn picks up ten years after a virus has wiped out much of the human population on Earth, and only those who were genetically immune to the Simian Flu have survived.
Also in that movie, there’s a scene where the characters go to Will Rodman’s house from Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The house has been completely abandoned, but Caesar looks at a photo of himself with Rodman, in addition to some video footage of Rodman from over a decade prior. When Malcolm (Jason Clarke) asks Caesar who this person is, Caesar simply says that he was a good man.
One other piece of evidence that Will Rodman might be dead is that he originally died on screen in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. According to CinemaBlend, in an earlier version of the movie, Will Rodman died in the end battle between the apes and the military. This was ultimately not used, but it still indicates that the producers had the idea of killing off Will Rodman on their mind.
The fate of Will Rodman, then, has never been revealed explicitly, but considering Dawn of the Planet of the Apes takes place in a world in which the majority of the human population has died, and Rodman never appears but his abandoned house is seen, it’s reasonable to conclude that he was probably killed by the virus off screen.