LOS ANGELES – The story of Fox's current “Planet of the Apes” franchise is very much about what Andy Serkis and his team have been doing in the realm of performance capture. Each film so far has represented a significant step forward, and the next installment will surely represent yet another leap. Serkis had all of this in mind recently when he stepped into the HitFix studio to discuss the film, which is now being positioned for awards by the studio with Serkis in the midst of a Best Supporting Actor campaign.
“I think it's moved on hugely in the last five years,” Serkis says in the video above about the technology's progression. “There's a much greater understanding and appreciation for what this is, which is just straight-forward acting. The advice that I would give to actors when they come in is they've got preconceptions about the fact that, because it's called performance capture, that there's a sense of having to over-articulate your body or to pantomime or to go outside of the character. The very simple thing that I impart to them when they start is you're being the character, you're not showing the character…It's about trusting the process.”
One of the new actors to the process was Toby Kebbell, who stars as eventual ape antagonist Koba and really pops opposite Serkis with a performance of frailty, complexity and, ultimately, tragedy. Serkis says he is delighted to see other actors take to performance capture so well. He's been the steward of this for so long that it's a relief to see someone like Kebbell receive their own attention for the work.
“Toby, I remember when he came in – he really wanted that role,” Serkis recalls. “He auditioned at the Imaginarium, which is our performance capture facility in London, and he just got it immediately. He knew what he wanted to do to show the damage that had been caused, the worldview that Koba has as a character, that he has that hatred for human beings because of the way he has been treated. It's entirely different from Caesar's [worldview].”
Serkis believes we're reaching a new age where actors aren't phased by the idea of the tech he has pushed forward for so long. To illustrate that, he points to his current experiences directing “Jungle Book: Origins,” which features performance capture work from people like Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch and Christian Bale. “They know they're going to be manifested on screen as something entirely different,” he says, “but they know they are offering the role in a very deep and meaningful way and that their choices are going to be represented on screen, that they are creating the role.”
As the “Apes” franchise continues to progress, that will be another part of the on-going equation: acceptance.
For more on all of this, check out our in-studio interview with Serkis embedded at the top of this post, or the second half, embedded here:
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” will hit DVD/Blu-ray on Dec. 2.