Photo by Eric Charbonneau, WireImage.com
Serkis is one of the preeminent actors in the field of "performance capture." That's the process where an actor's movements are recorded in three dimensions and used to create the animation of a fully digital character. Serkis broke new ground when he portrayed the computer-generated Gollum in the "Lord of the Rings" films, and he is taking the form to another level in the new film "Rise of the Planet of the Apes."
A native of London, Andy Serkis started his acting career on the stage. He appeared on British television throughout the 1990s, and scored the occasional film role like in Mike Leigh's Oscar-winning "Topsy-Turvy." But his career took off in a new and unexpected direction when Peter Jackson cast him in his "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
Photo: New Line Cinema
By using a talented actor as the basis for a digital creation, "The Lord of the Rings" revolutionized how CG characters could be used on film. Serkis gave such a layered, moving performance many critics argued that Oscar rules should be amended to allow acting nominations for digital characters. Serkis's face wasn't entirely absent from the trilogy, though. He did appear on camera briefly in the opening of the third film as Smeagol, the same character before he was driven mad by the power of the ring.
Photo: Universal Pictures
Since his success in Peter Jackson's films, Serkis has been seen in several live-action films. He played Tesla's assistant in Christopher Nolan's "The Prestige," and he was nominated for a Golden Globe for the HBO movie "Longford." But this weekend he's back as the lead -- and entirely CG -- character as Caesar the chimpanzee in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes." Unlike the earlier "Planet of the Apes" movies, all the simians in this were all created in the computer, not with makeup.
With advancements in performance capture technology, Serkis no longer has to redo his performance on a bare soundstage away from the other actors. For the first time, WETA Digital -- the same effects company that created Gollum, Kong, and the aliens of "Avatar" -- could record Serkis's work on an exterior location outside of a studio. Serkis was able to film scenes with stars James Franco and Freida Pinto while wearing a suit that tracked his movements, and he wore special headgear with a camera pointed at his face to register every subtle twitch and map it onto the digital chimp. Then in the computer, Serkis was erased from the shots and Caesar was put in his place.
Andy Serkis performing Caesar and the finished product.
Serkis isn't done with performance capture. In December, he'll play Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg's all-CGI film "The Adventures of Tintin," based on the internationally popular comic books. And his career will come around full circle as he reprises the role of Gollum in Peter Jackson's two-movie adaptation of "The Hobbit," coming in 2012 and '13.
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" opens in theaters on Friday. Watch an exclusive video showing how Serkis became Caesar the chimp below.
See more at Yahoo! Movies >>
Find showtimes and tickets near you >>
Learn how to get free popcorn at the movies >>
- Peter Jackson