Lord of the Rings star British-Armenian actor Andy Serkis for Oscar nomination?
Lord of the Rings star British-Armenian actor Andy Serkis for Oscar nomination? –
Mirror.Uk – When you’re rolling around on the carpet with your kids and suddenly pull yourself to your feet with your knuckles, it gives a whole new meaning to aping around.
That’s exactly what British actor Andy Serkis found himself doing during filming for blockbuster Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes earlier this year.
He admits it was a tad unnerving – but it was also the lightbulb moment when he realised he had truly captured his character, Caesar, the super-intelligent ape leader and star of the Hollywood franchise.
It may also have been the moment his wife Lorraine locked up the household’s bananas.
“Sometimes I wasn’t even aware I was still in ‘ape zone’ and I’d be playing with my kids and rolling around and find myself using my knuckles to climb to my feet and I’d think, ‘Why am I still doing that?’,” he laughs.
“That’s when I’d realise I was still very much in the character of an ape.”
The star is recalling his highly-acclaimed part in the film as a campaign for 50-year-old Andy to win an Oscar nomination for the role gathers momentum.
20th Century Fox is pushing for his inclusion on the Best Supporting Actor list. It’s easy to see why.
Best-known for portrayals of Caesar and, before that, Gollum in Lord of the Rings and the The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, there’s no denying his success.
His work has generated billions of pounds in just over a decade.
In that sense he’s up there with fellow Brits Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Caine and Sean Connery.
Yet the great irony is many would struggle to recognise his face – because he so often works his acting magic behind a CGI mask.
Andy is Hollywood’s go to man when it comes to using ‘motion-capture’ technology – which sees him don a lycra suit with reflective marks that allow up to 40 cameras to track his movements and feed the data to visual effects specialists who then slide them onto animated characters.
However it’s because of that technology not everyone’s convinced of his Oscar worthiness.
There’s a debate in Tinseltown. Is his work and that of other motion-capture actors deserving?
But Andy is adamant it’s just as hard for him to capture and portray his characters as any actor.
“What we’re doing is creating a performance in the same way as if you were playing a live action role,” he says.
“It is acting, there is no difference and it’s ludicrous to think of it in any other way.
“We are still living out our roles, we’re on set with the director and other actors and it is then
manifested through visual effects.
“In five years we won’t be having this discussion as it’s obvious what we do is acting and needs to be seen as that.”
Before the first film in the Planet Of The Apes series, 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Andy threw himself into observing the creatures.
He said: “I spent time at London zoo with the gorillas and keepers. Then I went to Rwanda to work with Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International.
“It’s fascinating to watch a troop of 23 gorillas. It was a bit like watching a group of hippies at Glastonbury.”
But for the sequel, he says his inspiration for Caesar changed as the ape’s character became more human.
In fact, he cites a slightly surprising role model – Nelson Mandela.
“There’s this sense that he’s this statesman-like figure and, as a leader, he’s created this 2,000-strong community and he wanted to lead, but not necessarily from the front.
“More like an egalitarian leader so that all the apes would feel valued. There’s real social responsibility by all of them for the community to survive,” he explains.
“I thought very long and hard about the pressure of being a world leader and I read a lot about Nelson Mandela because leadership, as we all know, is incredibly complex.
“To look at someone when they first become a leader and then to look at them again four years later and see the way they’ve been ravaged by the day-to-day decision making, was a very interesting idea.
“I wanted Caesar to have some of that in his countenance and in his physicality.”
“I’d throw tantrums and my three older sisters would have to hold me down. I always felt an outsider and that probably had a lot to do with my home situation.”
Ultimately, it was acting which let him channel his emotions – he’s called it his ‘saviour’.
Although at school he loved art and went to Lancaster University to study it, there he became interested in theatre.
He honed his skills at the Dukes Playhouse, Lancaster, and began touring.
Success on London stages in the early 90s coincided with his breakthrough in TV and film.
His work has ranged from Oliver Twist to 24 Hour Party People; Brighton Rock to the Adventures Of Tin Tin.
In 2010 he was Bafta-nominated for his role as polio-afflicted Ian Dury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll – for which he spent months walking with a heavy 70s-style calliper on his leg.
But it was as Gollum in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that he found global success, before working with the director again, taking his first simian role in 2005’s King Kong.
Andy and the other ape actors went through a kind of ‘ape therapy’ before filming.
“We had a number of weeks prior to filming called ‘ape camp’,” he said.
“It involved us improvising and setting up the hierarchy of the apes and a way of us communicating.”
He added: “I do most of my jumping around and hollering just before a take. The other ape actors will gather around and we’ll go into call and response mode.
“You’ll normally find me standing on a chair, leading them on, raising hell. The noise we make is terrifying.”
There’s no arguing Andy doesn’t give his all. And he says he learns from his characters too.
“Caesar was an immense and humbling figure to learn from.
“His ability to be empathetic and a great leader and have a strong presence while still being firm fair – it is quite a reach for me!” he says.
The actor’s originality may stem from an unconventional childhood.
He grew up in Ruislip, Middlesex with his Armenian doctor father, and his mother, who taught disabled children. Although his parents were married, they lived separately.
He describes how he would regularly visit his dad when he was working in Baghdad until it became too dangerous.
“I’d visit him during the school holidays,” he’s said.
“Things weren’t easy for him in Iraq. Back in the 70s he spent months in an Iraqi jail. He saw relatives vanish. I was an angry kid.
Now, set to appear in Star Wars Episode VII, and currently directing and acting Jungle Book: Origins, in which he will star as Baloo the bear, his star is rising.
The Jungle Book stars Oscar winners Christian Bale and Cate Blanchett and Andy, married to actress Lorraine Ashbourne, hopes the big names will help Hollywood realise the talent that goes into motion-capture technology.
“If you asked any one of them whether it is any different to acting in a costume they’d all say, ‘Of course not, it’s acting!’,” he says.
“I honestly think soon people will look back and say, ‘How did we think it was anything else?’”
Perhaps that day will come when Andy wins an Oscar…
By James Desborough, Emily Retter