Andy Serkis –

Andy Serkis and two of his motion-capture avatars: King Kong and Gollum.

About Andy Serkis (1964 – ____)

Andrew Clement "Andy" Serkis was born and brought up in Ruislip Manor in Middlesex. His mother, Lylie (born Leech), was English and taught disabled children. His father, Clement Serkis, was an Iraqi gynecologist of Armenian ethnicity. His ancestors' original surname was "Sarkisian". His father often worked away in the Middle East, while Serkis and his siblings were raised in Britain, with regular holidays in the Middle East including to Tyre, Sidon, Damascus and Baghdad.

Serkis was educated at St Benedict's School, Ealing, and then studied visual arts at Lancaster University. He chose theatre as a secondary subject so that he could design posters. Serkis was a member of the County College and part of the student radio station Bailrigg FM. He joined the Nuffield Studio, getting involved in designing and producing plays.

Having agreed to act in a couple of productions, towards the end of his first year Serkis played the lead role in Barrie Keeffe's play Gotcha, as a rebellious teenager holding a teacher hostage. As a result, he changed his major subject to acting, constructing his Independent Studies Degree around acting and set design, studying Konstantin Stanislavsky and Bertolt Brecht, and including minor modules in art and visual graphics. In his final year at Lancaster he adapted Raymond Briggs's graphic novel The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman, a satire about the Falklands War, as a one-man show, which he performed to acclaim.

In his third year at college, Serkis joined the backstage team at the local Duke's Playhouse to earn his Equity card. On graduation, although advised to take a one-year post-graduate acting course, he joined Dukes as an actor and, under director Jonathan Petherbridge who used workshops based upon the methods of Augusto Boal, spent 18 months acting in a broad range of productions from Brecht through Shakespeare to modern British playwrights.

After 16 months, and having gained his Equity card, Serkis joined a series of touring companies, including productions of: Bouncers opposite Hull Truck; Florizel in The Winter's Tale; and the fool in King Lear with director Max Stafford-Clark. In the early 1990s he settled in London, and took roles in Dogboy, the Royal Court Theatre's production of Mojo, Bill Sikes in a television film of Oliver Twist (1999) and Wilson Milam's production of Hurlyburly (1997) at the Queen's Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, with Rupert Graves and David Tennant.

Like many British actors, Serkis made the move to television by appearing in small roles, such as Greville in an episode of The Darling Buds of May (1992). However, one of his first major starring roles was in the joint BBC/HBO production of Einstein and Eddington (2008). Serkis played Albert Einstein, following the development of his theory of relativity, while David Tennant played British scientist Sir Arthur Eddington. Serkis joined director Mike Leigh's ensemble for two film productions, and appeared in the romantic comedy Loop (1997) alongside Susannah York.

Serkis' more critically acclaimed roles have been Sméagol/Gollum, in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001–03), the title character in the 2005 version of King Kong, in which he provided the movements for the CGI character as well as the ship's cook, 1970s new wave singer Ian Dury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (2010), and Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014).

His work on The Lord of the Rings started a debate on the legitimacy of CGI-assisted acting. Some critics felt Serkis should have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, since his voice, body language, and facial expressions were used. There is the argument that his CGI actions were partially, or in some cases fully, animated without his movements, but the same is true for actors in a traditional film with CGI. Serkis does appear briefly as Sméagol before he transforms into Gollum, and the CGI Gollum's facial characteristics are fundamentally based on Serkis' own.

Serkis worked with game developers Ninja Theory on the 2007 release Heavenly Sword, providing the motion capture and voice for King Bohan (the game's main villain), as well as acting as Dramatic Director for the game. He has played 30 roles in film and television productions. He appeared alongside Sacha Baron Cohen in The Jolly Boys' Last Stand.

Serkis was cast as serial killer Ian Brady in the BAFTA-nominated Longford, co-starring Samantha Morton as Myra Hindley and Jim Broadbent as Lord Longford. The film was attacked by relatives of Brady's and Hindley's victims. Winnie Johnson, the mother of Keith Bennett whose body has never been found, publicly criticized Serkis for requesting a meeting with Brady in preparation for the role. Serkis portrayed Brady in three scenes in the film, two of which depict prison visits by Longford, with Brady urging him not to support Hindley as she is a manipulative woman who will "destroy" him.

In 2006, Serkis appeared in the role of Mr. Grin in the film rendition of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider novel Stormbreaker. In 2006, he was in the film The Prestige as Mr. Alley, assistant to Nikola Tesla, and as the voice of Spike, one of the henchrats in the Aardman Animations film Flushed Away. In 2006 Serkis appeared in Jim Threapleton's improvised feature film Extraordinary Rendition, which premiered in 2007.

Serkis appeared in Sugarhouse, a low-budget independently made film, playing local crime lord Hoodwink, who terrorizes an east London housing estate. For the role, Serkis shaved his head and had sessions lasting 20 hours each to have temporary tattoos stenciled onto his body. The film premiered at the 2007 Edinburgh Festival and released in the UK on 24 August 2007.

In 2007, Serkis provided the voice over for Monkey Life, Five broadcast for three weeks in August 2007. This series is about Monkey World, the popular ape and monkey sanctuary and zoo near Wool, Dorset. Serkis reunited with Peter Jackson, as a cast member in Jackson's and Steven Spielberg's Tintin trilogy, based on The Adventures of Tintin. Serkis supplied the voice and motion capture performance of Captain Haddock (adopting a Scottish accent) as well as his ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock. Filming began in January 2009 and the film was released in 2011. Filming was due to begin in September 2008 but was delayed due to Universal pulling out of backing the project. In 2008, Serkis appeared as Rigaud in the BBC Television adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit and as Capricorn in Inkheart.

In 2009, Serkis voiced the role of the demon Screwtape in Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre audio adaptation of C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. In 2010, Serkis was cast as William Hare, with Simon Pegg as Burke, in the John Landis black comedy film Burke and Hare based on the Burke and Hare murders in Scotland in 1828.

In 2010, Serkis features in the TV series The Accused, in "Liam's Story", written by Danny Brocklehurst and Jimmy McGovern. He played Caesar in the 20th Century Fox science-fiction film Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Serkis was acclaimed for his performance as Caesar, and in a high-profile campaign by 20th Century Fox for him to be honored with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, his co-star James Franco stated: "Andy Serkis is the undisputed master of the newest kind of acting called “performance capture," and it is time that Serkis gets credit for the innovative artist that he is." In 2010, Serkis played Monkey, the lead character along with Lindsay Shaw in the video game Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.

In January 2011, it was confirmed that Serkis would reprise the role of Gollum in the three-part The Hobbit films which were released in 2012, 2013 and 2014. He was also the film's second unit director, which included directing aerial shots and battle scenes. He was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in June 2012 along with 175 other individuals. In 2014, Serkis reprised his role as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.

In Gareth Edwards' 2014 science-fiction monster film Godzilla, Serkis consulted on the film's motion capture sequences in order to "control the souls" of the creatures. Serkis played Ulysses Klaue in Marvel Studios' Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and was also a motion capture consultant on the film. Serkis played Supreme Leader Snoke in the 2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The character served as the film's secondary antagonist, after Adam Driver's Kylo Ren.

In late 2015, it was announced that Serkis was working on a modern film adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin, titled Steelskin. In addition to starring in the film, Serkis will serve as producer and director.

In 2011, Serkis founded The Imaginarium Studios with film producer Jonathan Cavendish. The Imaginarium is a creative digital studio based in Ealing, London and is dedicated to invention of believable, emotionally engaging digital characters using Performance Capture technology, in which Serkis specializes. On 20 October 2012 the studio acquired rights to The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon and a new motion capture adaptation of Animal Farm, which Serkis will direct.

Serkis has served as the second unit director for The Hobbit films.

Serkis published a memoir about his experiences playing Gollum in the The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Gollum: How We Made Movie Magic, published in late 2004. He also made an appearance in the music video for Neneh Cherry's "Woman", portraying the singer's abusive boyfriend. In 2015, Serkis collaborated with British alternative rock band Coldplay in the making of the music video for Adventure of a Lifetime as Performance Capture consultant.

Serkis was born to Catholic parents, and though he has been an atheist since his teenage years, he is drawn to the karmic possibilities of energy transference, specifically "the idea that your energy lives on after you".

Serkis married actress Lorraine Ashbourne in July 2002. He lives in Crouch End, north London with his wife and their three children: Ruby (b. 1998), Sonny (b. 2000) and Louis (b. 2004).

Andy Serkis's movie credits include...

Year Movie Role
1994Prince of JutlandTorsten
1995The Near RoomBunny
1996Stella Does TricksFitz
1997Career GirlsNick Evans
1998The Tale of Sweety BarrettLeo King
1998Among GiantsBob
1999Topsy-TurvyJohn D'Auban
1999Five Seconds to SpareChester
2000PandaemoniumJohn Thelwall
2000The Jolly Boys' Last StandSpider
2001The Lord of the Rings:
The Fellowship of the Ring
Gollum / Sméagol /
Witch-king of Angmar
2002The Lord of the Rings:
The Two Towers
Gollum / Sméagol / Snaga / Mauhur
2002The EscapistRicky Barnes
2002DeathwatchPvt. Thomas Quinn
200224 Hour Party PeopleMartin Hannett
2003The Lord of the Rings:
The Return of the King
Gollum / Sméagol
2004BlessedFather Carlo
200413 Going on 30Richard Kneeland
2004Standing Room OnlyGranny / Rastafarian /
Hunter Jackson
2005King KongKing Kong / Lumpy the Cook
2006Extraordinary RenditionLead Interrogator
2006StormbreakerMr. Grin
2006The PrestigeMr. Alley
2006Flushed AwaySpike
2008The CottageDavid
2009Sex & Drugs & Rock & RollIan Dury
2010Burke and HareWilliam Hare
2010Death of a SuperheroDr. Adrian King
2011Brighton RockMr. Colleoni
2011Rise of the Planet of the ApesCaesar
2011Arthur ChristmasGeneral Elf
2011The Adventures of Tintin:
The Secret of the Unicorn
Captain Haddock /
Sir Francis Haddock
2012Wild BillGlen
2012The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyGollum
2012The SpiderEverett
2013The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
2014Dawn of the Planet of the ApesCaesar
2014The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
2015Avengers: Age of UltronUlysses Klaue
2015Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force AwakensSupreme Leader Snoke
2017War for the Planet of the ApesCaesar
2017Star Wars: Episode VIIISupreme Leader Snoke
2018Jungle BookBaloo

Andy Serkis's television credits include...

Year Show/Series Role
1989Morris Minor and
His Marvelous Motors
Sparky Plugg
1992The Darling Buds of MayGreville
1993Pie in the SkyMaxwell
1997The Pale HorseSergeant Corrigan
1998The JumpSteven Brunos
1999Oliver TwistBill Sikes
1999Shooting the PastStyeman
1999Touching EvilMichael Lawler
2000Arabian NightsKasim
2003The SimpsonsCleanie (voice)
2006Simon Schama's Power of ArtVincent van Gogh
2006LongfordIan Brady
2007Monkey LifeNarrator
2008Little DorritRigaud
2008Einstein and EddingtonAlbert Einstein
2010AccusedLiam Black

Memorable Quotes by Andy Serkis

[ on playing Gollum in Lord of the Rings ] “Everyone has their own interpretation of what he is, what he looks like and how he sounds. So it was up to me to just trust my own instincts.”

[ on his title character in King Kong ] “We didn't want to anthropomorphize him to the point where we were explaining every single little gesture. Gorillas, both in captivity and the wild, have an enigmatic quality - a sense of disconnect, of otherness.”

“I've always been really in touch with my primal instincts. In my profession you have to be. You have to be open to going where your emotions take you. Acting is a sort of pressure cooker that allows the fizz to come out the top. God knows what I'd be like if I didn't have that. Even more animal, perhaps.”

[ on learning at 'ape school' how to walk and move like a simian, playing Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes ] “When you are watching yourself as an actor who has played a computer-generated role [King Kong], obviously you are looking to see if your performance has fully manifested itself on the screen, and if it contains all the original intention that was put there. And what I've seen,so far, has delighted me, because I know Rupert [Wyatt] has been devoted to try and push the emotional core of all the performances right through the post-production phase.”

[ on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ] “Trying to get back into the head of "Gollum", it felt like kinda doing an impersonation if a character I had played. It was weird 'cause it was like having to re-own it again.”

“I do feel incredibly liberated when I'm inside another's skin, basically, and so method does afford you that, hugely.”

Things You May Not Know About Andy Serkis

He was required to don a wetsuit and flail around in literally freezing water during re-shoots for The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002).

Owns one of two prop rings used in "Lord of the Rings." The other went to Elijah Wood, who played Frodo Baggins.

Although he was critically acclaimed for the performances, he was ruled ineligible for Best Supporting Actor nominations at the 2003, 2004 and 2012 Academy Awards because his characters Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes were computer generated.

He based the voice of Gollum on the sounds his cats made while coughing up fur balls.

His last day of filming on the Lord of the Rings trilogy was only a few weeks before the theatrical release of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003). On the carpet of Peter Jackson's living room, they filmed the facial reaction of Smeagol/Gollum when he realizes Frodo intends to destroy the ring. The resulting video was e-mailed to Weta Digital so the animators could replicate the shot with the CGI character.

Uses his "Gollum" voice on his children, for fun and/or when they misbehave.

Andy Serkis, with Paddy Considine, in 24 Hour Party People (2002).
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Andy Serkis in Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)... top picture with Idris Elba.
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Serkis in Burke and Hare (2010)... third picture with Simon Pegg.
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Andy Serkis's most famous motion capture avatar:
Gollum from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy.
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Serkis in Inkheart (2008)... bottom picture with
Brendan Fraser, Jamie Foreman, and Eliza Bennett.
Serkis playing the ship's cook, Lumpy — one of his two roles in King Kong (2005).
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A pre-Gollum Andy Serkis in The Lord of the Rings:
Return of the King (2003)... bottom picture with Thomas Robins.
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In motion-capture garb for Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011).
Taking on second unit direction duties in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012).
Serkis handled the motion capture work for
General Snoke in Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens (2015).
Performing motion capture work for the Captain Haddock
character in The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011).
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Serkis in The Prestige (2006)... top picture with David Bowie and Hugh Jackman.
Handling motion cap for the upcoming War For the Planet of the Apes (2017).
Andy Serkis in Wild Bill (2012).