If anyone has had a cooler career path than Andy Serkis, I’d be interested to hear it. A classically trained actor, Serkis happened upon a technological revolution when he took on the role of Gollum in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. His performance capture work in those films helped define a whole new way to look at acting and then he took it to the next level with King Kong and eventually Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Along the way Serkis worked not only with Jackson but Steven Spielberg, among others, and became a behind the camera presence too, earning him the job of second unit director on Jackson’s return to Middle Earth, The Hobbit Trilogy.

Now he’s chosen a project as his feature directorial debut and it’s a work worthy of such an eclectic career. He’s joined up with a London based production company called The Imaginarium to develop and direct a performance capture version of George Orwell‘s landmark work, Animal Farm. Read much after the jump.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the news of the project, which is still very much in its infancy. They own the rights and Serkis is developing the project, but how exactly they’re going to make it work, which technologies they’ll be employing, etc. is still very much up in the air. The only thing that’ll certainly be used is performance capture because, well, all the main characters are animals and it’s Andy Serkis.

As a quick refresher, George Orwell’s Animal Farm is the quintessential allegory, a novella about a bunch of farm animals who come to be ruled by one very powerful pig name Napoleon, mirroring the rule of Joseph Stalin in the Soviet Union during World War II. Here’s Serkis:

We’re keeping it fable-istic and [aimed at] a family audience. We are not going to handle the politics in a heavy-handed fashion. It is going to be emotionally centered in a way that I don’t think has been seen before. The point of view that we take will be slightly different to how it is normally portrayed and the characters—we are examining this in a new light.

As for exactly what’s happening on the film now, Serkis said this:

We are in proof of concept stage at the moment, designing characters and experimenting on our stage with the designs. It is quite a wide canvas at the moment as to how much and how far we can take performance capture with quadrupeds and how much we will be using facial [capture]. We are not discounting the use of keyframe animation or puppeteering parts of animals. We are in an experimental phase; it’s terribly exciting.

Seems like a wildly ambitious film to tackle as your directorial debut but, as we’ve seen in the past, if anyone can do it, it’s Serkis.

Head to the THR to read more about the project, including if Serkis will act in it or not (he hasn’t decided), his thoughts on 3D, 48 fps and more.

Did you ever imagine you’d see Animal Farm quite like this?

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