‘Most incredible tool of the 21st century for an actor’
by James Law
14th Nov 2017 4:30 PM
YOU'VE seen his acting prowess in countless hit movies and probably had no idea it was him.
While you may not instantly recognise the face of English actor Andy Serkis, it's hard to forget his performances as the conflicted Gollum in The Lord of the Ringstrilogy, as a monstrous gorilla nursing heartbreak in the 2005 King Kong remake, and as the shadowy villain Supreme Leader Snoke in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Some of Serkis's most powerful work has come from his role as warrior chimp Caesar in a trio of Planet of the Apes films, reaching an emotional conclusion with War for the Planet of the Apes, out on Wednesday on 4k Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD.
All of these performances were made possible through the increasingly pervasive technology of motion-capture, where an actor wears a special suit that picks up on his movements and expressions, which are then used to create a character through computer-generated imagery.
"It's the most incredible tool of the 21st century for an actor because it enables you to play absolutely anything, regardless of what you might look like, your face, your colour, your sex, your height - anything," Serkis told news.com.au.
"It doesn't make any difference, as long as you've got the chops for playing a role and a director's got imagination, it means you can literally transform into any creature or being of any kind."
While he has become Hollywood's go-to guy for motion-capture acting, he does not see a distinction between pulling on a costume and slapping on the make-up for a live action role and letting cinema's digital magicians augment his performance.
Serkis told news.com.au that motion-capture acting was sometimes dismissed as pantomime, but he said it went much deeper than that.
"The thing to remember is that if you're really going to get into the character as an ape, you're not just copying ape movements, you are really working out what the character is - and that's the thing that people don't understand," he said.
"I think that they just think it's pantomiming or copying certain movements.
"First of all, you've got to really think about what sort of ape you are - are you a gorilla, an orang-utan, a chimpanzee, a bonobo, there are lots to choose from - and then it's like: 'Well, who is this chimpanzee? Who is this gorilla? Are they angry? Are they sad at the moment?'
"So it's all about finding the character of what you're aiming to do.
"Acting is acting. Whether you're playing a character in a costume and make-up and you're going on set to shoot or you're putting on a motion-capture suit and having the costuming or the manifesting of the character take place afterwards, the process of acting with other actors - being directed by a great director on a great script - is what it's all about."
War for the Planet of the Apes, the third instalment in the reboot, sees Caesar die a heroic death at the film's conclusion - but that may not be the last we see of Serkis in the blockbuster series.
"That is over and it's very sad for me but, of course, the stories can continue and probably will," he said.
"In order to get back to the original Planet of the Apes of 1968, that's in the future in terms of the chronology of this story, and so that opens up lots of avenues for future movies with other characters.
"Who knows? The great thing about performance capture is that you can come back as someone else."
War for the Planet of the Apes is available on 4k Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD from Wednesday.