Andy Serkis Talks Rise of the Planet of the Apes

After over 3 decades of  absence (besides Tim Burton‘s 2001 remake) the Planet of the Apes series is making a comeback . Starring in the dystopian blockbuster is the talented live-action and motion-capture actor Andy Serkis.

Set to play the main character “Caesar”, a scientifically enhanced chimpanzee, Serkis says it is nothing like he has ever experienced before – “It’s never been done before to this degree. I mean, literally 80 percent of the performance-capture in this film — and there is a lot in this film, there’s hundreds of shots — is done on a live-action stage.”. If the actor who played Gollum and King Kong is excited by the technology then it’s probably safe to assume this stuff is legitimately  impressive.

Serkis, probably most famous for his role as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, compared the way his character was created in those films to the way he will be represented in Rise of the Planet of the Apes“for that (Gollum) we rotoscoped over my performance for the most part, and I’d then go back and do the motion-capture later on. But with this you’re acting with the other people, it’s all in the moment, there’s no going back. It’s all there and then, for real, performance capture and live action at the same time.”.

This means that instead of the actors having to pretend the apes are there and have them added to the scene with computers later on, Serkis will be on set allowing other actors to react and play off what he is doing more realistically.

“This is a really perfect example of performance capture being used at its best,” says Serkis. “And seeing it work on a live-action set means you don’t have to recreate environments in a vacuum — all your stimuli are there. It has to feel real. It’s got to be totally believable. Otherwise, as they worried about in the 1968 version, it could look comical.” . With motion capture as promising as this Serkis need not worry about the film looking comical.

For Serkis this role is, of course, a physical challenge. “I thought I’d never do anything as taxing as Gollum, and then anything as taxing as Kong, but I think this beats the pants off it, really,”.  He is going to have to inhabit the role of a scientifically enhanced chimpanzee i.e. he’s going to have to move like a chimp, perform stunts like a chimp and react to situations the same way a chimp would. Helping Serkis with these physical trials is the production’s ape choreographer and a former Cirque Du Soleil acrobat Terry NotarySerkis is very grateful for the help,“Terry’s fantastic”.

He continues, “Terry and I have been working very closely on creating this sort of tapestry of subsidiary characters with strong personality traits that you can recognize, so it’s not just a block of a hundred apes.” However Serkis says playing Caesar is more than just a physical challenge.  Comparing the role to King Kong who he describes as a “pure gorilla”, he equates  playing Caesar with playing a child, he sees him “in terms of this gifted child who’s  an innocent, who then witnesses brutality, who then gets thrown into an institution and then has to cope with its brutality, and then rebels against that.”.

It seems that Caesar is a bit more of an intellectual than Kong. Planet of the Apes has always dealt with highly evolved apes with the ability to talk, Serkis is in the unique position of introducing a lesser evolved version of Franklin J. Schaffner’s original damn dirty apes.“…it feels more like a human drama story rather than doing ape movements. When Caesar is three years old, he has the intelligence of a 12, 13-year-old because of the drug that he’s on, so how do you anthropomorphize that without making him too saccharine, but keep it real, still believing he’s an ape, but he can draw and sign language? It’s a real acting challenge.” It seems that Andy Serkis is thoroughly invested in his new character which is always the case.

With an estimated budget of $90,000,000 and a stunning cast including James Franco (127 hours, Spiderman) and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) this Planet of the Apes prequel is looking to be quite the blockbuster and certainly if the recent trailer is anything to go by, one of the biggest films of 2011.

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