Andy Serkis – Director of Breathe – by David Minogue
Andy Serkis recently released his debut directorial film Breathe. We take a look back on aspects from his film career to date and his future projects.
Andy Serkis began his career as a stage actor before working in television at the end of the 1980s. His first role as an actor in film was in 1994 in Gabriel Axel’s Prince of Jutland. He followed it with a wide variety of roles including Mike Leigh’s Career Girls (1997) and Topsy-Turvy (1999) and Julien Temple’s Pandaemonium (2000). It was in his work with Peter Jackson that he came to international acclaim as one of the first major stars of motion capture filmmaking. He featured as Gollum in all three Lord of the Rings films (2001, 2002, 2003) and in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012). Serkis was asked about motion capture and his performance of Gollum in an interview with HitFix.com at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con. He noted Peter Jackson’s idea in creating a motion capture character in a film is ‘that you don’t have two actors in a scene imagining what a third character is doing’. Motion capture filmmaking created the ‘transformation from visual effect to character’. In 2005 Serkis’s motion capture performance brought King Kong to a new generation. In 2011 he featured as Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg’s The Adventures of TinTin: The Secret of the Unicorn.
Since then Serkis has featured in some of cinema’s most famous franchises. These include his role as Supreme Leader Snoke in Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015 and the forthcoming Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He is also a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe in his role as Ulysses Klaue in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Black Panther which will be released in February 2018.
In 2011 Serkis formed The Imaginarium, his own film production company with producer Jonathan Cavendish. It was formed to specialise in applying performance capture technology to feature films though it also later branched out into video gaming as well. The first film production that the company worked on was Rise of the Planet of the Apes in which Serkis played the role of Caesar. For this role Serkis won the award for Best Supporting Actor at the 2011 Saturn Awards. He was nominated again when he reprised the role of Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes in 2014. This year a third film in the franchise War of The Planet of the Apes was released to critical acclaim.
Serkis worked as a second unit director on all three of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films. Breathe is his first feature film as director. It is the story of Serkis’s Imaginarium co-producer Jonathan Cavendish’s parents Robin and Diana. It depicts Robin’s life with his family after he contracts polio in the late 1950s. As well as featuring in Black Panther in 2018, Serkis has also directed his own live action adaptation of Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book. It was originally due to be released in October of this year but is still in post-production and will now be released in October 2018. This is unrelated to the Disney live action version of The Jungle Book released last year. The cast includes Serkis as Baloo, Christian Bale as Bagherra, Benedict Cumberbatch as Shere Khan and Cate Blanchett as Kaa. The cinematography is by Michael Seresin who also worked on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and War for the Planet of the Apes. It was at different stages going to be directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu and Ron Howard so it will be interesting to see what Serkis will do to make it different to both of Disney’s versions. Due to financial difficulties and company restructuring a planned adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm was cancelled earlier this year.
In any of the interviews with Andy Serkis on line it is obvious how passionate he is about any project he works on. He recently made a video on the history of the performance capture roles that he has played to date for WIRED which can be seen below.