As Caesar, the leader of the intellectualized simians in “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” (July 11), the world's premier performance-capture actor, Andy Serkis, must respond convincingly to group and family conflicts, not to mention a resurgent human threat. While totally covered in digital chimpanzee makeup.
“We drop into the story of the ape community 10 years on, and follow his journey as a revolutionary and a leader,” says Serkis, a 50-year-old British Shakespearean actor, referencing the events of the classic franchise's 2011 reboot, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”
He's created this utopian society, and all the apes believe at the beginning that the humans have been wiped out due to a pandemic. Then, 20 minutes into the movie, humans turn up, and that obviously becomes a huge conflict for Caesar and his tribe.”
Famous, if unrecognizable, for his portrayals of Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” movies and the title role in the 2005 version of “King Kong,” Serkis says that times have certainly changed when it comes to acting out a role that's going to be completely re-rendered in computers before anyone sees it, with digital animation added to the actors' filmed movements.
“There's absolutely no difference, playing a character like this now, compared to a live-action shoot,” he explains. “You're on a live set with a director and the other actors, the drama is achieved in exactly the same way. It's just that the performance-capture cameras are a different technology, different sets of cameras filming the performance in a slightly different way.
“In the ‘Lord of the Rings' movies, I actually did shoot every single scene with other actors on set; it's just that the performance-capture movement had to happen separately on a motion-capture stage at a later date, so in fact, I had to do every scene twice.
“Now, the technology has moved on to the point where you only have to shoot once, and there's better interconnectivity with the other performers because you're not working in isolation, sometimes months and months after you've shot the original scene.”
Ape-playing style also has evolved since the King Kong days.
“Kong is, basically, a 25-foot, lonely psychotic and Caesar is more of a very troubled outsider who becomes king,” Serkis observes with a laugh. “They're vastly different characters, aside from scale and species.”