Serkis at the premiere of Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
The Hollywood Reporter today broke the exciting news that motion-capture actor extraordinaire, Andy Serkis, best known for his role as Gollum in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy (and subsequent The Hobbit trilogy - which he also acted as second-unit director on) is set to make his directorial debut on a motion-capture adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm!
Serkis is also well known for his role as King Kong in Peter Jackson's such-titled remake, and his phenomenal - Oscar nomination snubbed - performance as Caesar in Fox's Rise of the Planet of the Apes. All roles marked by his use of performance-capture technology, something Serkis has came to personify, and his feature directorial debut, being developed by his London based The Imaginarium studio, will employ those same techniques.
The allegorical Animal Farm is potentially heavy subject matter for a film which Serkis assures THR will be for "a family audience", adding that he's "keeping it fable-istic":
"We are not going to handle the politics in a heavy-handed fashion. It is going to be emotionally centered in a way that I don’t think has been seen before. The point of view that we take will be slightly different to how it is normally portrayed... We are examining this in a new light."
On what shape the finished film will take, Serkis said:
"It is definitely using performance capture, but we are using an amalgamation of filming styles to create the environments. We are in proof-of-concept stage at the moment, designing characters and experimenting on our stage with the designs. It is quite a wide canvas as to how much and how far we can take performance capture with quadrupeds and how much we will be using facial [capture]. We are not discounting the use of keyframe animation or puppeteering parts of animals. We are in an experimental phase; it’s terribly exciting."
Something even close to an animated film being directed by Andy Serkis? Count me in! Serkis recently gained experience on an animated film, as Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson's The Adventures of Tintin; although it sounds like Animal Farm will be more of a mocappuccino of various styles.
Whatever the outcome, it's an extremely exciting premise, and if anyone can adapt such a complex literary work with motion-capture, it's Mr. Motion-Capture himself, Andy Serkis - who, it turns out, may also be acting in the film:
"It might well be that I do [act as well], but nothing is set in stone yet. At the moment I’m very fixed on the creation of the characters and world from a directorial point of view."
Head on over to THR to read more from their exclusive interview with the actor-turned-director, including thoughts on The Hobbit, its debated use of 48 fps and more!