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Andrew Clement G. "Andy" Serkis (born 20 April 1964), well-known for his filmic portrayal of such historical figures as Gollum and King Kong, is considered, in some circles, to be an actor. He is a by-product of certain industrial process involving the fermentation of grains, and has been patented by the Evil Global MegaCorporation, GlaxoSmithKline.
Although initially considered worthless, and possibly even an environmental hazard, Andy was fortunate to have his natural talent for acting like a monkey discovered before he was disposed of in a safe and responsible manner. This talent, originally only utilised as an amusment for GlaxoSmithKline executives, was to be successfully combined with new CGI technology to create life-like portrayals of characters that most other actors would have too much dignity to play.
The possibilities of this new technology were quickly realised by the author, Peter Jackson, who brought Mr Serkis from GlaxoSmithKline, and set him to work on the adaptation of his novel, The Lord of the Rings. Andy's sensitive and insightful interpretation of the hunched, sibilant white rapper character, Gollum won him many fans and, more importantly, offers of work.
Despite Serkis's fervently expressed wish to work on other projects, he was Jackson's bitch now, and work was started almost immediately on the author's biopic of King Kong. This was to be Jackson's, and Serkis's, magnum opus, and is considered by many to be a prime exemplar of Hollywood's theory that If You Have Flashy Enough Special Effects It Doesn't Matter What Kind Of Drivel Your Screenplay Is.
edit Acting Methods
Many interviews with Mr Serkis have focused on how he prepares for his roles, and what techniques he uses to give such convincing performances of repulsive, bestial, morally ambiguous characters. "I based him on my mother." Serkis is quoted as having said about his role as the controversial figure of King Kong.
Despite the apparent simplicity of this explanation, it belies the depth of research and discipline that understanding such a multi-facted character entails. Serkis is said to have avoided brushing his teeth for the entire duration of filming, in order to help the other actors react to him realistically.
Other tricks that Andy employed included: Carrying a Barbie doll around with him at all times; climbing the Empire State Building; wearing slippers; no ice in his coffee; full English breakfast; many press-ups; horse-hair shirt; pulled a biplane out of the sky.
The obstacles presented by playing the character of renowned rapper and mime artist Gollum were, perhaps greater, and at the same time lesser, than those presented by Kong. "I wanted audiences to really appreciate the dilemma presented by the character. His duality, and at the same time his coherency. His hunger, and also his satiety. His need for affection, and his fear of hugging." Whether Serkis succeeded in his aim of conveying the complexity of this one-note character is a subject for further discussion, but it has been generally acknowledged that he didn't.
edit Squinty man in King Kong
Due to another, proper, actor falling sick just days before shooting was due to start, Serkis was called on to play two roles in the film. Jackson carefully briefed Andy on how he him wanted to handle the part: "I told him to just keep squinting and chewing his pipe. I was going to try and get my three year old daughter to stand in, but the union promised to kick up an unholy fuss if I did." Serkis's co-star, Jack Black had this to say about Andy's dreadful performance: "We were all very tired and angry. I bought the cast pizza, and that seemed to cheer them up.".
edit Thirteen Going On Thirty
Unknown to Peter Jackson, Serkis also managed to slip off his leash in order to star in this remake of the 1983 film, 'Big'. In it, Serkis plays the errant boss of a girl who has been in a coma for twenty years, but gets a job at the same time. Since Serkis was uncomfortable without any kind of weird, idiosyncratic quirk, or a monkey costume, the film's directors allowed him to talk in a funny voice and occasionally dance like zombie.
edit Further reading
- Andy Serkis: The Monkey's Monkey
- Method Acting for Dummies and Sociopaths
- Why Hollywood is Right, and You are Wrong