Fox to Push for Supporting Actor Oscar Nomination for Andy Serkis

Caesar Comes To Life
Courtesy of Weta

A finished shot of Caesar, featuring Serkis' performance combined with Weta VFX expertise.

NEW YORK - Fox will push to create momentum for a possible best supporting actor Oscar nomination for Andy Serkis for his performance as ape Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chairman and CEO Tom Rothman said here Monday night.

"I think we may be at the place where we will see a first-ever in Hollywood this year, which is to see Andy Serkis get nominated for a best supporting actor for Planet of the Apes, even though his face never actually appears," he told The Hollywood Reporter at the Gotham Independent Film Awards at Cipriani Wall Street when asked about Fox's contenders for awards season. "But his performance appears, so we are going to push that hard."

Will the Academy really recognize his acting work this time? The issue of what makes an actor an actor first surfaced when Serkis played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.

Though Avatar beat box office records and earned nine Academy Award nominations, director James Cameron and producer Jon Landau were frustrated that the movie's actors were ignored by Oscar voters.

"Who knows, but I give the Academy much more credit than most people do," Rothman said. "I don't think they are old and stodgy. I think they are smart and with it, and I'd like to think they are going to get it."

Part of the challenge is to make people understand the motion capture technology involved. "I think part of what we have to do is help educate people to understand that that is 100 percent his performance," Rothman argued. "It is great emotional acting. Tom Hanks didn't have to say any dialogue in Castaway for it to be a great performance."

Further discussing Serkis' work Rothman said: "The emotionality - what you see and what you feel - he did it. I saw him. I watched him. Then they digitally overlaid - you can think of it as a costume - the skin and the hair of an ape. But I tell you the thing that people felt – and a lot of people where moved when they saw the movie - is because of his performance."

Rothman also noted that Fox Searchlight Pictures has The Descendants and Martha Marcy May Marlene, which were key contenders at the Gothams, as well as Shame and The Tree of Life among its awards season titles this year.

Rothman was one of the honorees at the annual Gothams Monday night. "It is lovely for me. It is kind of a homecoming," he said about the honor. "Two of my oldest friends, Jim Jarmusch and Ang Lee, were kind enough to come out and hand me the award. And a lot of people in the room I have known for many, many years."

While other units of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. have made headlines with the phone hacking scandal, Rothman expressed pride in the film division and its work.

"Those are obviously entirely different divisions of a very large company," he said when asked about the studio and other parts of the empire. "The great thing about working at Fox over all these years is that they have always given us a great deal of freedom. They have always given us great editorial freedom and always encouraged us to take risks. It's a very entrepreneurial company, and I'm eternally grateful for that."

While Fox has had its share of blockbusters, such as Avatar, Rothman also highlighted its ties to the indie world. "I'm proud of the fact that through our support of Searchlight through all the years, we have been able to help in our small way to keep the heart of independent film beating," he told THR.

Twitter: @georgszalai