How true-life tear­jerker Breathe beat Jun­gle Book to be­come Andy Serkis’ di­rec­to­rial de­but

Empire (UK) - - PRE.VIEW - WORDS Dan Jolin

whose act­ing ca­reer has been some­what un­con­ven­tional, it should come as no sur­prise that Andy Serkis hasn’t taken an or­tho­dox route into di­rect­ing. Usu­ally, ac­tors-turned­di­rec­tors start out with an in­ti­mate drama. But when Serkis first called “Ac­tion!” in 2015, it was on a big-bud­get, Vfx-driven adap­ta­tion of Rud­yard Ki­pling’s The Jun­gle Book. Ex­cept that was put on hia­tus by Warner Bros. when Dis­ney’s

The Jun­gle Book beat it to re­lease. So Serkis’ se­cond pro­duc­tion, shot over seven swift weeks last year, is now his ac­tual di­rec­to­rial de­but and it’s, well, a small, man­age­ably in­ti­mate drama. Al­though not quite that straight­for­ward.

Breathe re­lates the story of Robin Cavendish (An­drew Garfield) — the fa­ther of Serkis’ pro­duc­ing part­ner Jonathan Cavendish — who, in 1958, was struck by po­lio and paral­ysed from the neck down. With the help of his wife Diana (Claire Foy), he re­solved to con­tinue liv­ing as freely as pos­si­ble. “The script’s love story el­e­ment made me cry,” says Serkis, “but what most in­ter­ested me was the no­tion of pi­o­neer­ing [so­lu­tions for liv­ing with] dis­abil­ity in the 1950s to the ’70s. To be liv­ing two min­utes from death and then take your­self out of hospi­tal so you can live life to the full seems like putting your­self on the moon.”

With Robin’s friends ral­ly­ing round to help cob­ble to­gether res­pi­ra­tor chairs and re­fit cars, the story re­minded Serkis of Philippe Petit in

Man On Wire. “Robin had this Heath Robin­so­nian ap­proach to life where you’re mak­ing it up as you’re go­ing along,” he says. The re­sult is a movie that is less The The­ory Of Ev­ery­thing than, as Serkis puts it with a laugh, “The Div­ing Bell And

The But­ter­fly meets Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” What it isn’t is a mawk­ish dis­abled story. “It’s kind of a heist movie,” he ex­plains. “It’s about be­ing mav­er­ick, which is what re­ally ap­pealed to me about it.” Jun­gle Book may have to wait but, for Serkis, the ad­ven­ture goes on.

Above: Stephen Man­gan, An­drew Garfield and Claire Foy. Be­low: Robin (Garfield) with wife Diana (Foy). Bot­tom: And be­fore po­lio set his life on a dif­fer­ent course.

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