Andy Serkis Deserves Your Respect
If I say the name Andy Serkis, you’ll probably think of Gollum. His portrayal of J.R.R. Tolkien’s pitiful creature was an incredible physical performance, and the behind the scenes footage of the extended editions shows how much he put into the role. That scene where Gollum is chasing after a fish in a mountain river? Serkis donned his green suit in the freezing cold, and flopped about that river for so long that he nearly went over the waterfall at its end. Director Peter Jackson didn’t want to stop rolling, the take was so good, but eventually the actor’s safety was at serious risk, and he had to call it quits.
But I’m not here to talk about The Lord of the Rings. Many of you will have just let out sighs of relief, my boss included, while others will have already closed the tab and won’t be reading this sentence. It’s their loss. Because Andy Serkis is so much more than Gollum, and deserves your respect as one of England’s finest working character actors.
Staying within Middle-earth for the moment, Serkis showed that his talents amounted to more than just crawling around on all fours (expertly crawling around on all fours, to be fair). He directed sequences of The Hobbit trilogy, most notably the dreamy sequence in Mirkwood, which is a personal highlight of The Desolation of Smaug.
Before that, though, he became the go-to guy for mo-cap in films and raised the bar for what performance capture was capable of in all mediums. He played Kong in Jackson’s King Kong (as well as a small role as the ship’s cook), and Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and its sequels. His physical mannerisms as the ape were a step above Gollum, and he was instrumental in pushing forward a modern classic science fiction trilogy. But, as I said before, he’s more than just the man in the mo-cap suit.
Andy Serkis has also done fantastic work performing as a human, without CGI or prosthetics. Watch his portrayal of Ian Dury in biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll if you want to really see him flex his acting chops. In between lending his voice to video game characters (most recently in Warhammer 40,000: Chaos Gate – Daemonhunters), Lord of the Rings audiobooks, and more Hollywood mo-cap (The Force Awakens), he’s got some stellar roles dotted across his portfolio.
He didn’t do much for me as Alfred in The Batman earlier this year, but the inevitable comparison to the ineffable Michael Caine is hard to overcome. His turn as Ulysses Klaue in multiple Marvel films is deliciously evil, even if he leans into the pantomime of the superhero genre a little too much. But what got me thinking about his post-Rings career is his character in Andor.
The latest Star Wars series is by far the best, presenting an anti-capitalist and anti-authority story with fantastic poise. The most recent episodes have been satirising the prison system, and Serkis plays floor manager Kino Loy. The series is a who’s who of British actors, but I was most excited to see Serkis. His change from authority kiss arse to rebellion fighter only takes two episodes, but I believed every second of his transformation.
Andy Serkis might not be a leading man, and not all his roles will be bangers that leave you feeling awestruck and jealous of his talents. But the last line of Nobody’s Listening, Andor’s ninth episode, was an expertly written and impeccably delivered final moment. His three episode arc in the Star Wars TV show will be remembered for a long time, and I believe his episode nine performance to be the best of the three, despite his moving speech to mobilise the prisoners into action.
Andy Serkis is incredibly versatile – compare the physicality of Caesar with the character work of Loy – and memorable in all of his roles. Whether he’s wearing his mo-cap suit or not, he deserves your respect and attention.
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