The Serkis comes to town

by | May 23, 2024 | Uncategorised | 0 comments

Celebrating his 60th year last week Andy Serkis came to wide public notice for his performance as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, for which he provided motion capture movement and voice for the CGI character.

He then went on to spend his career inhabiting characters far removed from his personal experience, including King Kong and Caesar in the Planet of the Apes trilogy.

Some may argue the legitimacy of CGI assisted acting and whether it is considered real acting.

But you can’t help but admit that from his performances there’s a real depth and diversity to Andy’s output.

The work in motion capture records the body’s movement, voice and facial expressions of an actor which then creates a digital character.

It may seem like some kind of technological wizardry as a way of liberating an actor – even though wearing a hi-tech special-effects suit – to play absolutely anything or anyone.

But for Andy, in order to find the character and physicality for Golem, he had to assemble a whole way of creating him, and therefore, he trawled through images based on paintings by Leonardo de Vinci, researched dancers moves and dug deep into how best to bring forth the believability of Golem onto the big screen.

Everyone had their own interpretation of what Golem was, what he should look, and sound like. So it was up to Andy to just trust his own instincts.

He took it upon himself to create this character fully like he would treat any other role either on stage or film.

At one point he was even inspired by his cat when he heard her spewing up a furball which conjured up the voice for Golem.

The voice came by through some form of an involuntary action he was searching for.

A constriction of some kind that affected his body at the same time and made him hunched.

Andy felt incredibly liberated when he was inside another’s skin and so that method did afford him that, in a huge way.

Putting a spirit of life into a CGI character was and still is a conceptual breakthrough in a way in which a human being can transfer themselves into another entity.

He admits to being really in touch with his primal instincts. In the acting profession he believes one has to be. He says that one has to be open to going where one’s emotions takes them.

Acting is a sort of pressure cooker that allows the fizz to come out on top. God knows what he would’ve been like if he didn’t have that. Even more animal, perhaps.

Since Disney brought us the Jungle Book, stories and to a further extent cinema has always looked at ways to anthropomorphise animals. But, what’s the fascination with it?

One reason is the ability to talk about the human condition in the safety of a fantasy or a sci fi environment and be able to dig deep into the feelings, ideologies and belief systems that we can’t necessarily, as humans, discuss in public.

If one looks at the whole planet of the apes movement, its no coincidence that it happened in the 1960’s when there was a huge civil unrest.

It’s as if we’re holding up a mirror to ourselves and doing it in a way that both pokes fun at us and at the same time shows our worst side of nature.

When Andy played Caesar, in the remaking of Planet of the Apes, he did not just play the movements of an ape but also projected human feelings within the skin of an ape.

We can notice that the most powerful moments in these films are when we’re really drawn into the emotions of the characters of these apes.

His co-star James Franco stated: “Andy Serkis is the undisputed master of the newest kind of acting called ‘motion capture,’ and it is time that Serkis gets credit for the innovative artist that he is.”

Andy adored playing the role of caesar because it was rare to get the opportunity as an actor to play a character all the way from birth to death over the course of three movies.

To show the growth and transition of Caesar from a pure chimpanzee to an elevated and slightly more intelligent being.

The nature of performance capture which, he thinks, is an egalitarian form of acting since any actor can play anything and they can access whatever they want within themselves.

Now that Andy’s going down the director’s route his desire to tell stories and continue using what he has to communicate ideas isn’t going away anytime soon.

One of his upcoming projects is the retelling of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. And he hopes to make his version of Orwell’s ever relevant masterpiece, emotionally powerful, humorous, and relatable for all ages.

“We’re each bestowed with a vital energy, a mission that must endure and spark into life,” he explains, emphasising the need for a purpose that can galvanise our efforts and resonate with a broader audience.

Last year he went back to perform on stage with Woody Harrelson. It was a step away from what he was used too but he said he wouldn’t take on a character unless there’s a kernel of something in it – one has to find a way into the character – the thing one has to do as an actor is to construct the backstory.

Andy spent most of his life traveling towards characters that are a long way away from him.

He found it easier to reach out to characters. But now, playing characters who aren’t necessarily animals is giving him the chance to experiment further whether it’s for plays on stage or for other roles such as Alfred in the new Batman.

He aims not to compare himself to the previous actors who played Alfred and sees himself as the custodian of the role for that moment in time and what he wants to bring out in the character is the emotional relationship between Bruce Wayne and Alfred – that’s his main focus.

He believes that every actor out there should always have a project in mind regardless of whether they’re up for a job or not. To always work on a script, a short film. To make something that they are in control of, because being an actor when starting off leads down to long periods of unemployment.

It’s about staying focused in the right way and actually enjoying life when one is not acting – to be inquisitive, to go travel, to experiment – because acting is really basically a life experience.

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