Andy Serkis

During my marathon interview with Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves, I asked if he had exchanged advice with his childhood friend JJ Abrams on Star Wars, or taken any advice from him for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Reeves admitted that he might be part of the reason Andy Serkis was cast in Star Wars Episode VII.

Reeves told me that he screened a very early pre-cg version Dawn of the Planet of the Apes for JJ Abrams:

I showed him a bit of the movie. I wanted to get some feedback. And I know that he had known and really loved Andy Serkis. But it’s the same experience I had coming in and asking to see all the footage of Andy from Rise with him in his helmet cam, so that I could understand exactly what the process was. And the thing that struck me, and actually got me so excited, was the mystery behind how great he is, is that he’s great. That he’s an amazing actor. And  the scenes that I showed him were of Andy just in mo-cap. And he was like “oh my God, he’s an incredible actor.” He was so blown away.

Star Wars Episode 7 Table Read high res

Since that screening, JJ Abrams cast Andy Serkis in Star Wars Episode VII in an unknown role. So was it a coincidence?

And now he’s in Star Wars. I don’t know if that had a direct… I mean, it could, [and] I think he’d always loved Andy. And they had known each other a bit before, anyway. But I think when he saw it, it was like a real revelation. He said to me, “that looks — I’m not kidding when I tell you I think that’s one of the best performances I’ve ever seen.” I said “I know, isn’t he amazing?” He’s so good.

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I was on set watching filming of both Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and even the performance capture clips you see of Andy Serkis don’t do the performance justice. It’s amazing. I know he’s found a great niche for himself and his company, but I’m actually surprised that Serkis doesn’t get cast in more live-action non-performance capture roles. He’s a great actor beyond the limits of performance capture.

Andy Serkis in The PrestigeLive action Andy Serkis in Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige

Could it be possible that JJ Abrams cast Serkis in a live-action role and not as a performance capture computer animated creature? Last month Serkis said the following to Sci-Fi Now about how he got involved in the project:

It’s extraordinary. I grew up with Star Wars and was a massive fan of the original films. I never imagined in a million years that I’d be engaging with this. It’s just come about so organically. JJ Abrams and I met, and we just had this incredible kind of vibe between us. He said, ‘You’d fit really well in this universe,’ and I said, ‘I think I probably could.’ We’re working very closely, as I say, in two ways: the Imaginarium is providing all of the performance characters, and I myself am playing a character in it. I’m thrilled, deeply excited. Sitting at that read-through the other day was just extraordinary. It was an amazing event; being with the original cast was just incredible. I just think the script is so wonderful, and both the old and the newbies in the cast are just so thrilled and excited to get together.

When this was reported and made its way around the interwebs, most people ran with the headline that Serkis confirms that he will play a performance capture role in the film — but he never actually said that. He said that his performance capture company the Imaginarium “is providing all of the performance characters, and I myself am playing a character in it.” I think its still possible that Serkis could be playing a live-action role in the film, but who knows.

We’ll have a ton more from the interview and talk a bunch about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes next week.

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