Andy Serkis filmography and biography
Date of birth: 20 April 1964, Ruislip, London, England, UK
Andy Serkis biography
He was born Andy Serkis on April 20, 1964, in Ruislip Manor, West
London, England. He has three sisters and a brother. His father, an
ethnic Armenian, named Serkissian, was a Medical Doctor working abroad,
in Iraq, and the Serkis family spent a lot of time traveling around the
Middle East. For the first ten years of his life Andy Serkis used to go
backwards and forwards between Baghdad and London. His mother was busy
working as a special education teacher of handicapped children, so Andy
and his four siblings were raised with au pairs in the house. Young
Andy Serkis wanted to be an artist; he was fond of painting and
drawing, and visualized himself working behind the scenes in
productions. He attended St. Benedict's School, a Roman Catholic School
for boys at the Benedictine Abbey in London. Serkis studied visual arts
at Lancaster University in the north-west of England. There he became
involved in mechanical aspects of the theatre and did stage design and
set building for theatrical productions. Then Serkis was asked to play
a role in a student production, and made his stage debut in Barrie
Keefe's play 'Gotcha'; thereafter he switched from stage design to
acting, which was a real calling that transformed his life.
Instead of going to an acting college, in 1985 Serkis began his professional acting career at the Duke's Playhouse in Lancaster, where he was given an Equity card and performed in fourteen plays one after another, as an apprentice of Jonathan Petherbridge. After that he worked in touring theatre companies, doing it for no money, fueled by a sense of enthusiasm, moving to a new town every week. He has thus appeared in a host of popular plays and on almost every renowned British stage. In 1989 he appeared in a stage production of Shakespeare's 'Macbeth', so beginning his long association with the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, where he would return many times to appear in 'She Stoops to Conquer', 'Your Home in the West' and the 'True Nature of Love' among other plays. In the 1990s Serkis began to make his mark on the London stage, appearing at the Royal Court Theatre as the Fool in 'King Lear', making his interpretation of the Fool as the woman that Lear, a widower, could relate to - a man, in drag, as a Victorian musician. He also appeared as Potts in the hit play 'Mojo', playing in front of full houses and earning huge critical success. In 1987, Serkis made his debut on television, and he acted in several major British TV miniseries throughout the 1990s.
In 1999, Andy Serkis landed the prize role of Gollum in Peter Jackson (I)'s epic film trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien's saga 'The Lord of the Rings'. He spent four years on the part and received awards and nominations for his performance as Gollum, a computer generated character in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King which won 11 Oscars. Gollum was the collaborative team's effort around Serkis's work in performance capture - an art form based on CGI-assisted acting. Serkis's work was an interactive performance in a skin-tight CGI suit with markers allowing cameras to track and register 3D position for each marker. Serkis' every nuance was picked up by several cameras positioned at precisely calculated angles to allow for the software to see enough information to process the image. The images of Serkis' performances were translated into the digital format by animators at Weta Digital studio in New Zealand. There his image was key-frame animated and then edited into the movie, Serkis did have one scene in the Return of the King showing how he originally had the ring, killing another hobbit to posses it after they found it during a fishing trip. He drew from his three cats clearing fur balls out of their throats to develop the constricted voice he produced for Gollum and Smeagol, and it was also enhanced by sound editing in post-production.
Serkis spent almost two years in New Zealand and away from his family, and much of 2002 and 2003 in post-production studios for large periods of time, due to complexity of the creative process of bringing the character of Gollum to the screen. Serkis had to shoot two versions for every scene; one version was with him on camera, acting with (chiefly) Elijah Wood and Sean Astin, which served both to show Wood and Astin the moves so that they could precisely interact with the movements of Gollum, and to provide the CGI artists the subtleties of Gollum's physical movements and facial expressions for their manual finishing of the animated images. In the other version, he'd do the voice off-camera, as Wood and Astin repeated their movements as though Gollum were there with them; that take would be the basis for inserting the CGI Gollum used in the released movie. In post-production, Serkis was doing motion-capture wearing a skintight motion capture suit with CGI gear while acting as a virtual puppeteer redoing every single scene in the studio. Additional CGI rotomation was done by animators using the human eye instead of the computer to capture the subtleties of Serkis' performance. Serkis also used this art form in his performance as Kong in King Kong, which won him a Toronto Film Critics Association Award (2005) for his unprecedented work helping to realize the main character in King Kong, and a Visual Effects Society Award (2006) for Outstanding Animated Character in a Live Action Motion Picture.
Apart from his line of CGI-driven characters, Serkis continued with traditional acting in several leading and supporting roles, such as his appearances as Richard Kneeland opposite Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30, and Alley opposite David Bowie in The Prestige, among other film performances. On television he starred as Vincent Van Gogh in the sixth episode of _Simon Schama's Power of Art (2006)_, the BBC2 series about artists. Serkis is billed as Capricorn in the upcoming adventure film Inkheart. At the same time, he continued the development of performance capture while expanding his career into computer games. He starred as King Bothan in martial arts drama Heavenly Sword (2007) (VG), a Playstation 3 title, for which he provided a basis for his in-game face and also acts as a dramatic director on the project.
Andy Serkis married actress and singer Lorraine Ashbourne, and the couple have three children: daughter Ruby, and two sons Sonny (b. 2000) and Louis George (born 19 June 2004). Away from acting, Andy Serkis is an accomplished amateur painter. Since his school years at Lancaster, being so close to the Lake District, Serkis developed his other passion in life: mountaineering. He is pescetarian. Serkis has been active in charitable causes, such as The Hope Foundation which provides essential life-saving medical aid for children suffering from Leukaemia and children from countries devastated by war. In October 2006 he was a presenter at the first annual British Academy Video Games Awards at the Roundhouse, London. Andy Serkis lives with his family in North London, England.
Andy Serkis trivia
- His father was a doctor in Iraq. His mother taught handicapped children.
- Has three children, two sons and a daughter.
- Was required to don a wetsuit and flail around in literally freezing water during re-shoots for _Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The (2002)_.
- He went to St Benedict's School, London, UK.
- Is a vegetarian.
- Owns one of two prop rings used in "Lord of the Rings." The other went to Elijah Wood, who played Frodo Baggins.
- He was ruled ineligible for a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the 2003 Academy Awards because his character Gollum in Lord of the Rings onscreen was computer generated.
- September 2004 - Attended the Armaggeddon Pulp Culture Expo Convention in Wellington, New Zealand as a Lord of the Rings guest
- Based the voice of Gollum on the sounds his cats made while coughing up furballs.
- His last day of filming on the Lord of the Rings trilogy was only a few weeks before the theatrical release of _Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The (2003)_. On the carpet of Peter Jackson (I)'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.
- His family name, Serkis, is of Armenian descent like Mikhail Vartanov's and Sergei Parajanov's but originally would have been Sarkisian, Vartaniantz and Parajanian (respectively)
- Uses his "Gollum" voice on his children, for fun and/or when they misbehave.
- Children: Sonny, Ruby and Louis George (born 19th June 2004).
- Has three sisters and a brother.
- His performance as Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy is ranked #10 on Premiere Magazine's 100 Greatest Movie Characters of All Time.
- Completing and Directing Motion Capture for Playstation 3's game 'Heavenly Sword' at Weta Digital in Wellington, New Zealand. Plays the Character of 'King' in the game.
Andy Serkis quotes
- [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."
- "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." - on his title character in 'King Kong' (2005)
- I do feel incredibly liberated when I'm inside another's skin, basically, and so method does afford you that, hugely.
- 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.