The Man Behind the Mask
While Serkis might not be the most recognizable face in Hollywood, his characters are among the most notable and profitable in cinema history. With a pioneering Oscar campaign under way for his standout motion-capture portrayal of the evolved chimpanzee Caesar in Fox's Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the London native might -- despite never actually appearing on camera -- snag the nomination many believe he deserved for inhabiting the tragic character Gollum in Peter Jackson's epic The Lord of the Rings trilogy (which grossed more than $2.9 billion worldwide).
"Performance-capture is not a genre of acting -- you don't act any different," says Serkis, 47. "It is another way of recording an actor. It still reclaims the fidelity of a performance."
Because digital artists use computer technology to create the finished product that audiences see, motion-capture suits allow an actor to play a role without being limited by body shape or size. Says Serkis: "It allows you to transport yourself into anything and takes you further than prosthetic makeup." The actor recently reunited with Jackson for his role as Captain Haddock in Paramount/Sony's The Adventures of Tintin (which opens in the U.S. Dec. 21 but has already grossed more than $233 million internationally) and is reprising his Gollum character for the soon-to-launch Hobbit franchise. But it's his role as Caesar in Rise (which grossed $481.2 million worldwide) that Serkis hopes will convince Academy voters that motion-capture work "allows for truthful, emotionally engaging performances" no different from a live-action role. And it seems the studios are finally listening: Serkis closed a reported seven-figure deal with Fox to return for an Apes sequel.
Co-founder of London studio The Imaginarium, the actor is exploring the future of motion-capture for film, TV, games and live performances. "Holograms, avatars -- I think there will be a range of possibilities for how this will be used," Serkis says. "We are at the very beginning of storytelling."
Photographed by Iva Lenart on Dec. 11 at Fiordland Lodge in Te Anau, New Zealand