Andy Serkis is a phenomenal actor. From his early days in theatre to his groundbreaking motion capture performances as Gollum in LOTR, King Kong and Caesar in RISE and DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, he has brought life to many an iconic character. There is no question of his incredible talent. In fact, every single performance he seems to give is praised by movie fans and critics alike. So with this much acclaim thrust upon him, why have we not seen his work recognized by the Academy Awards? Yes, itís true that he has a lot of help from the crazy brilliant folks at WETA. They have brought cinema technology leaps and bounds from even a few years back, yet not every actor would thrive as much as Serkis has. Letís look back briefly at his motion capture history shall we?
The first time I witnessed Gollum it was a sight to behold. From his voice to his well-defined mannerisms, Serkis, Peter Jackson and crew managed to do something miraculous. Hell, after the nightmares that came from witnessing the computer generated Jar Jar Binks in THE PHANTOM MENACE, it was impossible to imagine that Smeagol would be nearly as effective as he was. THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE TWO TOWERS was the first feature film to fully utilize a real-time motion capture character and the reception was highly praised. Even back in 2002, there was talk of whether or not the actor should get an Oscar nod. He was so good that to this day, his performance is one of the most memorable from this classic trilogy.
In 2003 when Gollum returned to be a pain in the ass for Frodo and Sam, the effects had already improved in THE RETURN OF THE KING. With a final on-screen moment that is near heartbreaking - even with his little deceptive heart - it is hard to imagine just any actor pulling that off. With this mix of technology and damn fine acting, Serkis seemed very comfortable putting on that tight fitting suit and delving into his inner animal or whatever his character happened to be. Thankfully, he was brought back several years later for what is arguably the best sequence in THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY from 2012. One can never get enough Smeagol/Gollum fun.
After stepping out of Middle-earth, he headed to New York City in a very big way. Re-teaming with Peter Jackson in the 2005 remake of KING KONG once again proved to be a winning combination. His ability to express emotion even through the rough and tumble exterior of a giant ape was an amazing feat. While the film itself wasnít quite on par with Jacksonís earlier endeavors for me personally, the relationship between Kong and Naomi Watts was a very solid and thrilling one that brought a tear to my eye when beauty ultimately killed the beast. Had this just been the simple work of CGI it would not have worked nearly as well and would have been your run of the mill remake. Serkis gave Kong a soul.
With RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES (2011), I was once again convinced that he is fully engulfed in a character. My first viewing of the film left me stunned. His take on Caesar was a revelation, and once again with the support of effects he maintained a very real, flesh and blood relationship with his co-star, James Franco. As brilliant as the effects may be, you cannot bring this level of emotion to something without the dedication he brings to these roles. And thankfully, he only continues to grow in the character with the recent DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES. Technically, this is brilliant. Yet much like an actor wearing make-up or anything else to enhance the reality of it, he brings this ape to living, breathing life. This is one of the best and most intense performances so far this year, one that is certainly worthy of award consideration.
Maybe itís the booze talkiní, but give Andy Serkis an Academy Award nomination already. All the special effects and techniques canít make an actor great. They can create something miraculous to look at of course, but that indelible human quality is impossible to craft without true talent. Mr. Serkis has constantly given wonderful performances without the enhancement of CG in television, theatre and film so clearly we are not just dealing with a dude who really has the Midas touch when it comes to motion capture. He is the real deal. As much as this advance breakthrough in film-technology deserves kudos all around, there is not a single reason to disqualify the one bringing it all together and making it seem as if it was easy. This year, Iíd like to just hear the words, ďAnd the nominees for Best Actor in a motion pictureÖ Andy Serkis for DAWN OF THE PLANET OF THE APES.