USA TODAY International Edition

Andy Serkis may finally get his day in the sun

Come awards season, motion- capture will be harder to ignore

- Bryan Alexander @ BryAlexand USA TODAY

A familiar question is being asked about Andy Serkis’ starring role as ape leader Caesar in War for the Planet of the Apes ( in theaters Friday), his third and final film in the franchise. It’s the same one we heard after he played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings series, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and the title role in King Kong. But it’s even louder this time.

When is Andy Serkis going to get awards respect?

Serkis, 53, is the master of acting in the special bodysuit and head- mounted camera used in motion- capture performanc­es — performanc­es painstakin­gly enhanced to make him look like a giant gorilla, an ape revolution­ary or whatever freak creature Gollum was.

But Serkis has thus far been shut out of Oscar acting nomination­s. That could change with the critically praised performanc­e that concludes his sixyear film run as Caesar.

“We seem to have this con- versation with every Serkis film, that ends up nowhere,” says Pete Hammond, awards columnist for Deadline. com. “But this is a quintessen­tial, almost Shakespear­ean performanc­e. Does he deserve to be nominated? Absolutely! Will he? I won’t take that to the bank.”

Critics have rallied around Serkis this year, including USA TODAY’s Brian Truitt, who wrote: “It’s truly an injustice if Serkis’ third — and best — turn as Caesar doesn’t get a serious push.”

War could turn the tide for Serkis and future mo- cap performanc­es, says Hammond, who expects 20th Century Fox to mount a major awards campaign.

Awards voters, including those in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ acting branch, are wary of normalizin­g motion- capture performanc­es, says Scott Feinberg, awards columnist for The Hollywood Reporter. “They fear this is another step to not needing actors at all,” he says. “They don’t want to expedite the process by honoring it.”

Matt Reeves, who directed Serkis in War and 2014’ s Dawn of the

Planet of the Apes, says actors are being educated on motion capture, especially those who see it up close alongside Serkis.

“There’s this expectatio­n they’ll be coming into some VFX movie playing opposite tennis balls,” Reeves says. “But what they’re actually doing is playing opposite Andy. In that way, it’s no different from me doing an independen­t drama with two actors.” The performanc­e is coming from the actor, he says, not the artists at Weta Digital who spent a year transformi­ng Serkis into a photo- realistic ape. “That performanc­e is absolutely Andy.” War co- star Woody Harrelson became a convert once he got used to working across from Serkis in his suit, facial camera and digital facial dots that capture the tiniest movement. He now calls Serkis “the greatest actor I have ever worked with.”

Another hurdle for awards recognitio­n is it’s difficult to recognize the actor. Yet Serkis’ evolving Caesar appears almost human. “People seem to be responding to this performanc­e on another level, saying, ‘ It’s so moving. And it’s you,’ ” Serkis says.

“But really what is important, more than awards, is a proper understand­ing of what performanc­e capture is. It’s nothing more than acting, pure acting. I think the perception is shifting.”

 ?? 20TH CENTURY FOX ?? Oscar talk is swirling around Andy Serkis’ performanc­e as Caesar in War for the Planet of the Apes, the final film in the franchise.
20TH CENTURY FOX Oscar talk is swirling around Andy Serkis’ performanc­e as Caesar in War for the Planet of the Apes, the final film in the franchise.
 ?? DOANE GREGORY, 20TH CENTURY FOX ?? Serkis has taken high- tech motion- capture performanc­es to a new level — some say awards level.
DOANE GREGORY, 20TH CENTURY FOX Serkis has taken high- tech motion- capture performanc­es to a new level — some say awards level.
 ?? WARNER BROS. PICTURES ?? Serkis evoked horror and sympathy as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings series.
WARNER BROS. PICTURES Serkis evoked horror and sympathy as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings series.

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