All rise for the performance capture role King, the one, the only, Andy Serkis. One of the well-respected actors, Serkis has propelled the world of motion capture into dizzying new heights, turning it into an art form among men. Garnering copious amounts of critical acclaim for his performances, in roles that are not typically appreciated enough by critics; Serkis is a true visionary and deserves to be remembered for his great performances. Of course, to say Andy Serkis has only flexed his talents in roles technically ‘off-screen’ would be foolish, the actor has also appeared ‘on-screen’ in several roles, and has proved that he isn’t just an one-trick pony. With the release of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, where Serkis plays Caeser, the leader of the apes, we look back at some of Serkis’ greatest films to date.
Quite frankly, this should come as no surprise to anyone. Yes, we’re kicking off with one of Serkis’ most known roles, as the particularly zany Gollum, from the epic The Lord of the Rings film series, who possesses a split-personality (Sméagol/Gollum). Gollum is one of those characters that resonate in your mind, and Serkis’ performance as the character is pretty astounding. Using a mixture of motion capture and voice acting, Serkis literally transformed into Gollum on screen, and he easily steals a scene with his unique mannerisms and ‘quirky’ personality. Serkis’ acting was so on point that the cast actually performed better when he was on set (instead of the CG version). That’s when you know you’re doing a great job, when you can garner that type of reaction from your co-stars (for one of Serkis’ best moments of Gollum, check out LOTR: The Two Towers).
If you want a change from some of Serkis’ motion capture roles, then look no further than 24 Hour Party People. The adaptable Serkis portrays producer Martin Harnett, in the British film about Manchester popular music scene during 1976-1992. Harnett is an intriguing character and Serkis manages to portray him with that aura of darkness around him, but still show that he does have aspirations and a sense of life to him. The character is based on a real-life person, so these can often be tricking to get right, but Serkis is able to capture the brashness and artistic vision of the character without comprising on the little details that make him who he is. 24 Hour Party People is a reminder for everyone that Serkis can switch up his roles and still perform perfectly.
With the release of the sequel (where Serkis is already getting rave reviews for his performance as Caeser the Ape) hitting screens, it seems only fitting that we turn back the time to 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Rebooting the Apes franchise, ROTPOTA was a breath of fresh air for a series that had fallen on hard times, and taking on the character of Caeser, Serkis once again put on his motion capture suit and ventured out into the world to put in an impressive performance as the chimpanzee who leads an ape revolution against humanity. Praised by many for his shining performance, Serkis also received several nominations under the ‘Best Supporting Actor’ category, and rightly so, as he brought a human touch to a character, which for all intensive purposes, is computer generated. Making the character believable and empathetic takes skills, and Serkis proves that he is more than capable of doing that.
2010 brought Serkis another live action role as Ian Dury, in a biopic about the new wave English musician’s life. Following Dury’s rise to the spotlight, the film also documents his struggle with the disability caused by contracting Polio as child, and the effects that this disability and his lifestyle has on his relationships. Serkis was very ‘physical’ for the performance, as the role required it and once again portraying a person who existed outside of the fictional universe brought a number of challenges for Serkis, but the overall effect of his performance is undeniable on screen. Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll is triumph for Serkis and a notable performance of his in a lesser known film.
Back to the land of motion capture and to the 2005 remake of King Kong. Although the film itself is rather questionable to me, I find it hard to deny that Serkis is once again triumphant in his role as the King himself, and considering the amount of research he did for the film, his efforts certainly show on-screen. Whilst the film itself has divided audiences, it is a master-class example of how to perform and capture an audience’s attention through motion capture bodysuits. Every movement is calculated, and the slightest detail and expression is notable on the humungous Gorilla, and Serkis performs well opposite his co-star, Naomi Watts, who portrays Ann Darrow, a struggling vaudeville actress.
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