Many people snickered during the promotion of Rise of the Planet of the Apes thinking that the 20th Century Fox reboot of the classic film franchise was just another poor quality remake. But people sat up with interest once they saw footage featuring Caesar, the head ape portrayed by motion capture virtuoso Andy Serkis, was released, and shortly afterward Rise of the Planet of the Apes not only became one of the best reviewed films of the year, but one of the highest grossing (with a box office take of over $450 million worldwide).
Both critics and audiences agree, however, that the film’s greatness rests primarily on Serkis’ digital shoulders. As a result, after months of rumors 20th Century Fox is committing to pushing an Oscar campaign on behalf of Andy Serkis for his motion capture portrayal of Caesar.
Though Serkis is currently shooting his reprisal of the motion capture role which made him a star — Gollum — in the Lord of the Rings prequel The Hobbit (Serkis is also taking a turn behind the camera as second unit director on the two-film project), Fox is scheduling screenings of Rise at the Screen Actors Guild and at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with via-satellite Q&A sessions with Serkis.
This isn’t the first time Serkis’ motion capture performances have generated Oscar buzz — there were many rumors that Serkis would be nominated as Best Supporting Actor for his performance as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (he wasn’t, but he did receive a Saturn Award and an Empire Award for The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and a Toronto Film Critics Special Citation for his motion capture performance in King Kong). Serkis has the support of Woody Schultz, a motion capture actor who has “appeared” in Avatar, The Polar Express, Beowulf, and The Adventures of Tintin (which also features Serkis). Schultz is the chairman of the Screen Actors Guild’s Performance Capture Committee, and says, “There was a lot of fear in the acting community that this technology would somehow displace actors. Now people are becoming more savvy. They have a greater understanding of it. Part of it is thanks to the overwhelming success of Avatar.” Though Avatar won three Oscars and was nominated in six other categories, none were acting categories, which shows that the Academy has a long way to go before accepting motion capture as a nomination-worthy acting style.
I don’t see motion capture as much different from actors wearing layers of make-up (and undoubtedly Leonardo DiCaprio will be nominated for J. Edgar, and parts of that film have the actor under heavy make-up), but I think at the very least Serkis deserves an Honorary Oscar for his decade of pioneering motion capture work. But what do our Daily Actor readers think? Would you support a nomination for Serkis, or should Oscars and other awards be reserved for acting in the flesh? Let us know your thoughts!