SAG Awards: No love for Andy Serkis' digital acting in 'Apes'
If Wednesday's SAG Award nominations are any indication, Hollywood's acting community isn't yet ready to honor work in the performance capture format. Despite a heavy awards push for his role as a hyper-intelligent chimp named Caesar in Fox's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," Andy Serkis was omitted from SAG's supporting actor category.
Serkis has been an ad hoc spokesman for the format of performance capture, or motion capture, a technique in which the actions of human actors are recorded and used to animate digital character models. He appears in performance capture roles in two films this year -- as Caesar and as Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tintin," which will be released in the U.S. Dec. 21. In a sign of how performance capture poses some existential questions for Hollywood come awards season, "Tintin" is being campaigned as an animated film.
Fox, which also released the performance capture blockbuster "Avatar" in 2009, has been running "for your consideration" trade ads in which an image of Serkis in his motion capture suit is juxtaposed with the finished shot in the film, in which he has been rendered an ape by artists at Weta Digital. "The Time is Now," the ad says in bold type, with a quote from Time magazine film critic Richard Corliss that reads, "Serkis gives a performance so nuanced and powerful it may challenge the Academy to give an Oscar to an actor who is never seen in the film."
Serkis was part of the cast that won a SAG award in 2004 for "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," for his work as another digital character, Gollum.
In an interview in late October from set of his next film, Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit," Serkis seemed optimistic that performance capture work would get more acknowledgement in time.
"For many years talking about Gollum, it was about the technology, the how of it all," Serkis said. "Performance capture was an exotic, strange activity, separated from the craft of acting. People thought when I was doing Gollum, 'What is he? Is he a contortionist or a dancer or a circus performer? How does he fit into the process?' Ten years down the line it's become an industry standard and it's more about talking about character."
Photo: Andy Serkis played super-smart ape Caesar in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' Credit: WETA/20th Century Fox