Award season is now truly upon us, with all eyes on films such as Darkest Hour and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Whilst many incredible actors will be rewarded for their work, there remain some actors who the Golden Globes and the Academy continuously choose to ignore. Andy Serkis’ career in acting has lasted almost 30 years, and seen him play such iconic roles as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit franchises, Supreme Leader Snoke in the new Star Wars films, and a personal favourite of mine: Caesar in the Planet of the Apes franchise.
Despite these incredible performances, Serkis has never been recognised by the Golden Globes or The Academy for his motion capture and voice acting, (Serkis did, however, receive a nomination from the Globes for his live action performance in the television film Longford (2006)). As more films begin to incorporate motion capture performances, you would hope these award judges would recognise the time, training, and talent necessary to portray a character in the virtual realm.
Why is Serkis yet to be recognised for his work by any major film award committee?
In my personal favourite franchise of Serkis’, Planet of the Apes, Serkis portrays Caesar, an ape with incredible intelligence who learns to speak and think on the same level as or beyond that of human beings. Serkis’ incredible performance allows the audience to form an emotional connection with the character, with whom they obviously share no experience. Serkis’s ability to convey emotion and personality in his motion capture and voice acting is almost unmatched in the industry, which is perhaps why he is one of very few actors in this field who would be publically recognised by name. Why then is Serkis yet to be recognised for his work by any major film award committee?
There is an undeniable lack of consensus in the film world regarding technology’s increasing presence in film-making. A notable example is Ian McKellan’s experience when filming Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy. McKellan, Serkis’s colleague, described the experience as ‘pretty miserable’ and even claims to have considered quitting acting as a result of the process. McKellan found the majority of his work on the trilogy taking place in an isolated green screen environment, with no other actors present. The purpose of this was to create the effect of McKellan’s iconic character of Gandalf being much taller than the hobbits and dwarfs whom he accompanied in these films. This reliance on technology was heavily criticised by fans and professionals for taking away from the authenticity of the film, especially when considering that Jackson had previously used some practical effects in the original trilogy.
Where, then, does technology belong in the process of film-making? Can its implementation improve the quality of the film without taking the audience out of the story? Serkis’s performances prove just that, as his stunning portrayals of non-human characters continue to connect with an audience. The emotion and personality he puts into his work allow us to forget, for a moment, that Gollum isn’t real, and apes cannot talk.bookmark me