Andy Serkis On ‘Black Panther,’ ‘The Last Jedi,’ And The Long Strange Trip For ‘Mowgli’

Senior Entertainment Writer
12.19.18

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To hear it from Andy Serkis, he always knew Mowgli would be a, maybe, tougher sell. This certainly isn’t The Jungle Book, but, instead, a closer telling of Rudyard Kipling’s original story. In other words, it’s a little more violent, scary and, at times, disturbing — more than what you might be expecting. But, then again, that’s always been the point. And, in retrospect, the best thing that could have ever happened to Mowgli was its sale to Netflix from Warner Bros. Though, as Serkis tells it, that was still a shocking day.

It’s a pretty big year for Serkis. That other movie he’s was in, Black Panther, just picked up a cast SAG award nomination and looks like it’s on its way to a Best Picture Oscar nomination. And that was only a couple of months removed from The Last Jedi, where Serkis takes us through what it was like to find out that Supreme Leader Snoke was no more. But first, Serkis also has a viral video last week, when he lampooned British Prime Minister Theresa May as Gollum from The Lord of the Rings.

You went viral on the internet as Gollum as Theresa May.

It was an idea that was proposed to me by the People’s Vote in the UK. We’re in a bit of a pickle over there. It seemed very important to not to just dig at the people who want to leave the European Union, but to somehow get people to think differently, collectively about what’s happened over the last two and a half years – and the conflicted opinions that are flying around, and the mess that it’s all in. This was using allegory as our friend and saying something about that. It was nothing personal about the Prime Minister…

It was a little bit. I didn’t watch that going, “I think he likes her. I think he’s a fan.”

Okay, fair enough. But it’s more to do with the division that that’s caused. That schism. That conflict that the party has caused. Well, not the party, because it’s not about parties, it’s actually about leave or remain. The division of the country, and that’s really what that piece was about.

This is all sounding very familiar to me over here, too.

Right. Oddly enough, that piece, the overall view of it now that it’s been out for a few days and the response it’s had, has been, strangely, both remainers and leavers being drawn together a little bit by what it’s discussing. That’s why I love the world of allegory and metaphor and the sorts of films that we make because you can say something about the human condition through something other.

Was anyone like, “Let’s use Snoke”?

Well, yeah.

Maybe that would have been a little too heavy-handed.

I think the success of it has been that it isn’t just one-sided, that it is a conflict. It’s not too polemic, it’s having the whole notion.

Are you happy Mowgli is finally here?

Are you kidding?

This is your Guns ‘N Roses’ Chinese Democracy.

I hear you. It feels like it. When I think about it, it was 2013 when I first read the script and contemplating coming on board. Then, 2014, we started shooting. Here we are at the end of 2018. So it’s five years.

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