Watch: Andy Serkis in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Without VFX

January 16, 2012
Source: HitFix, Deadline

Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes

With an Oscar campaign now underway for Andy Serkis to get some much deserved credit for his motion capture performance as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the debate about how to approach this unique acting technique rages on. However, for those who have some difficutly seeing what Serkis has contributed to the film through all the visual effects that also assist in bringing the ape to life, we finally have a video without any visual effects applied that just might convince you how gifted an actor Serkis is and how integral his work is to making the character, and thus the film itself, come together. View more below.

Here's a scene with Andy Serkis in Rise of the Planet of the Apes without visual effects (via HitFix):

And if that wasn't enough, James Franco, who shares the screen with Serkis in the film, recently wrote a piece about why the motion capture actor deserves to be honored. To begin with, Franco states flatly, "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." But the more important point he makes is that motion capture performances aren't much different than those done by actors with heavy amounts of prosthetic make-up which also help bring a character to life. Franco explains and elaborates how important it was for him to have Serkis acting opposite him on set, and also how visual effects should not overshadow a truly great performance:

""For years computer technology forced actors to act opposite tennis balls if a movie wanted to have CG creatures, but now the process has come full circle so that actors playing CG creatures can perform in practical sets, just like the 'human' actors. In acting school I was taught to work off my co-stars, not to act but react and that was how I would achieve unexpected results, not by planning a performance, but by allowing it to arise from the dynamic between actors, and on The Rise of the Planet of the Apes that’s exactly what I was able to do opposite Andy as Caesar. And Andy got to do the same because every gesture, every facial expression, every sound he made was captured, his performance was captured.

Then, what the Weta effects team did was to essentially “paint” the look of Caesar over Andy’s performance.  This is not animation as much as it’s digital make-up.'  There are plenty of Oscar winning performances that depended on prosthetic make-up to help create the characters: John Hurt’s in The Elephant Man, Nicole Kidman’s in The Hours, Sean Penn’s in Milk. Those actors depended on make-up artists to augment the look of their characters, but the performance underneath came solely from the actors. Well, that’s exactly the same position that Andy is in, his problem is that the digital 'make-up' is so convincing that it makes people forget that he provides the soul of Caesar. That soul, the thing that was so compelling about that film, came from Andy, and the way he rendered that soul is of equal importance, if not more important than the photo realistic surface of the character.

It's quite a compelling piece of writing (you can read it in its entirety at Deadline), and should convince any naysayers that Andy Serkis is indeed worthy of at least an Oscar nomination. Between that and the video above that shows Serkis pouring his heart and soul into the performance like any actor would who isn't covered in technology and later visual effects, I will be absolutely flabbergasted and disappointed in the Academy if a nomination does not come to fruition. Just like the Oscar campaign has said, the time is now to honor an actor like Andy Serkis for his revolutionary and awe-inspiring work. So what do you think?

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Serkis did a fantastic job in, "Rise of The Planet of the Apes". His performance as Caesar really STOLE the flick. I was rooting for the ape all along! Serkis really deserves an honorary award and even a category named in his honor! He makes any flick he's in, BETTER!

Spider on Jan 16, 2012


Man. I thought Ceasar's performance was good, Serkis's was so much more emotional and heartbreaking.

Ara Pehlivanian on Jan 16, 2012


Eerie. He is so good! I could never make all those facial expressions.

DAVIDPD on Jan 16, 2012


Get your hands off me, you dirty ape

Anonymous on Jan 16, 2012


As good as Serkis is, I have to agree with what the awards voters say....Serkis is not the SOLE reason why Caesar or Gollum is good. Even watching this vid, you can see important subtle differences between Caesar and Serkis. Those subtle additions are what the animators do.

Havehope on Jan 16, 2012


Yes, but the "subtle additions", or nuances and imaginative ability to emote by Serkis IS where the animators get their cues from and make it a visual reality! So with utmost respect to the animators, Serkis is where I see the majority of the credit go to!

Spider on Jan 16, 2012


Some of the work the animators did isn't even subtle. There are shots of Cesar that are completely keyframed

Blah on Jan 17, 2012


This shows one scene from an entire film. Plus this scene would have been hand picked as it would have had been not only Serkis's best take but also the one which may have had the least amount of changes and tweaks added by the post team. Yes Serkis does a great job in this scene and movie but to say he is worthy of an oscar is ignorant and insulting to all those who create his performance. It is not digital make up, in the end what we're seeing is a performance that is able to be improved and changed to the smallest detail in post.

:pd: on Jan 16, 2012


All performances are a team effort. Actors will play a role with feedback from the director. Music can effect how a performance is seen. Lighting and so forth. Then we have editing. A  performance can appear very different in different edits of a film. It's all a team effort. The raw performance and what we see on screen is always different, and yet the actors still get an Award if their performance in a film is brilliant. So why not Andy? Why can't Andy get an award for his performance and the animators get the award for the visuals. It's not like Rise will not get an award for visual effects this year.  

Irfonw on Jan 17, 2012


Award, or no award, what Andy does is amazing.

Jace LeRoy on Jan 16, 2012


This nomination would make a huge impact, on how an actor's performance is viewed by cinema-goers, and implicitly on the awards season. This isn't only about Serkis performance, who arguably is the "undisputed master" of this kind of acting, but also about the future of performance capture and its significance. Therefore, it's a very delicate subject matter that needs an urgent resolve, since we live in the so-called technological age. All that I know is that I enjoyed the heck out of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Andy Serkis captured performance convinced me that Caesar is more than just an ape. If that deserves an Oscar nomination, then I would be more than pleased to see it happen.

Anonymous on Jan 16, 2012


hey Isildur, i agree it's a difficult one. @a3a582ca50e4f31418108cfe30248d21:disqus and Franco make an important point, which is that it's not only his performance capture but also his reactions on set and in real time that enhance the entire scene. like your thoughts on Ceaser, what still gets me more than anything in LotR are the scenes where Gollum's two sides fight for control. it's the voice, the expressions, the *acting* involved. i don't think anyone aims to insult the animators involved, as @e6bbda42e57c210960403f7aa7f6320e:disqus suggests; most people would appreciate the hard effort and contribution that they have put into helping create this character. it's just recognising that this type of acting is as worthy of recognition as any other. i agree with the digital make-up analogy, although i know it's a divisive issue. when John Hurt was nominated for Best Actor for The Elephant Man, no-one proposed that he shouldn't be nominated and that only his make-up team should be instead (although the fact that they weren't contributed to the Oscars make-up award being introduced the next year). you can change as many aspects as you like in post - and it takes real skill and talent to do this well - but it's still building on that captured performance.

Anonymous on Jan 16, 2012


Exactly! No one thinks the animators don't deserve credit for their hard work and ingenuity. Actually, it's the other way around. The Two Towers, The Return of the King, King Kong - all won the oscar for best visual effects and Rise is likely going to be nominated as well. It seems clear that Andy Serkis gets the wrong end of the stick every time. It is unfair that his acting is overlooked just because his performance is captured. That's why there is a category for visual effects and one for acting. Anyway, I'm skeptical about him being nominated... it will be too huge. The Gollum/Smeagol scenes are alluring and epic, just like the entire LOTR trilogy. Cheers!

Anonymous on Jan 17, 2012


for those of you who say the Academy is right - you are the ignorant ones. Without the basis of his performance, the animators wouldn't have NEARLY as much to work with in the end - Andy is just as physically involved in every role he undertakes as any of his on-screen counterparts. And he's ALWAYS there on set acting with them. he NEEDS to get recognized for his work!!!!

Andiana97 on Jan 16, 2012


waste of time - he will never win!

Dom on Jan 16, 2012


this was amazing. AMAZING!

Nick S. on Jan 16, 2012


This begging is becoming unseemly...

norm on Jan 16, 2012


Nice work again, Andy (as well as the many digital artists and animators, etc.), but this kind of performance is not Oscar-worthy for a single person.

Max Renn on Jan 16, 2012


if he is oscar worthy that means, a motion capture performance from an actor/actress for an animated movie can win, things will change.

Dpramroop on Jan 16, 2012


If andy is such a great actor why doesn't he step outta proformance capture and accept a movie roll as "himself" then he could prove to people that he's worthy enough to be nominated for an oscer? Or maybe accept a roll with just wearing make up and leaving computer FX outta the proformance.....if someone wants to argue if people deserve to be nominated for an oscer for there proformance capture then please nominate everyone that was in avatar lol...Andy is just a tool that computer FX people use for reference to the character that there trying to CG so technically they could alter his facial expressions and body language in post production.

Drsteelr on Jan 17, 2012


Errrrr he has. 

Irfonw on Jan 17, 2012


he does, and to sometimes great effect. check out his portrayal of child murderer Ian Brady in the TV movie "Longford' (a quick check for which shows he got Best Actor nominations at BAFTA and Best Supporting at the Golden Globes) and his role as Ian Dury in the film Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (another Best Actor BAFTA nomination). his best roles seem to have been chameleon-like interpretations of well known characters.

Anonymous on Jan 17, 2012


Also if you people think that andys performance would have been the same if the director decided to use FX make up instead of CG your crazy, the apes were brought to life with the help of andy and computer animaters. Anything that andy couldnt do or didn't do right could have been easily fixed with post production by ANIMATORS. When an actor is putting a performance on film they have to continue to take and retake that performance until its perfect because there performance will be forever on film and nobody can alter or take that away from them...andy doesn't have to do that because he has animators to make it right for him

Drsteelr on Jan 17, 2012


one could argue that anything Andy couldn't physaclly do would have been done by animators anyway.

Irfonw on Jan 17, 2012


Every aspect of film making is a collaborative process! Serkis is a TALENT and the point of origin for the animators to build upon! He sets the tone of the performance and the animators superimpose the ape effects over him,-- taking cues from him!  Serkis is the go-to guy and TALENT who makes the gestures and actions that ADD SOUL to help the animators bring the characters to life!  I seriously doubt that the animators would have conjured such effective emotion had Serkis not been involved!!! I tip my hat to Andy!

Spider on Jan 17, 2012


Movie making is getting far different from when it was first conceived .

Polly Jenkins on Jan 17, 2012


Put him in ACTUAL makeup like Planet of the Apes should be, THEN give him the award

Atomic01 on Jan 17, 2012


What a stupid comment!!! So disrespectful!

Blue Silver on Jan 17, 2012


The Oscars, just like everything else, needs to adjust to the times. Technology in film has evolved so much and Andy was there from the start. That's why he's the master. He's perfected it where others are just starting, or maybe just doing a role here or there. Motion capture is the next big thing in Hollywood, and the Oscars and other cinemagoer's need to realize that and acknowledge those involved. Andy deserves an Oscar, not just for his awesome role as Cesar, but for being an instrumental part of putting motion capture on the map. It's true that the animators deserve credit, but they should get it where it's due, in animation, or maybe a new category. Franco was right in saying that Andy was pivotal in making Rise because of the dynamic. He had to work with Andy, just like any other actor, not a tennis ball. Without that dynamic, who knows how much emotion would have been lost, or untranslated, if Franco wasn't able to have the connection. Hollywood needs to acknowledge the future of film, and they need to start by honoring Andy.

Erin on Jan 17, 2012


Actors. They think they're the sole reason why a film gets made. 

Kyle Robinson on Jan 17, 2012


I have been very impressed with Serkis' live-action roles and would never knock him as an actor, but this performance should not be eligible.   "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."I wholeheartedly agree with Franco's comment, but this acknoweldgement should be given in the form of a special award (and I have no doubt that Serkis will one day receive a lifetime achievement award).  His performance is so very different than others which have been nominated that any comparison would be extremely difficult for academy members.  Prosthetics and makeup are different in that whatever you see on screen actually happened, in real time.  Sure, Franco played off of Serkis' expressions and nuanced performance, but we don't see those nuances that were involved.  It's tough to compare such a performance to Albert Brooks' or Christopher Plummer's because they just aren't the same. Yes, Serkis should be rewarded, but giving him the Best Supporting nom would be unfair to both him and the conventional actors he would be competing against. He's the pioneer of his field, and the reality is that everyone knows that.  When (and if) there comes a time that the field of mo-cap performance is flooded with actors, then there will be a need to recognize the best, but right now I don't think there are many that would argue Serkis isn't the best. To demand to be recognized alongside conventional actors does disservice to the major advancement that Serkis has been instrumental in.

guest on Jan 17, 2012


Cesar was the best character in a movie for 2011. Amazing work.

Chjapa on Jan 22, 2012

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