‘Dawn of the Planet of the Apes': Andy Serkis on Caesar’s Ape Utopia

Published 11 months ago by

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Koba1 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Andy Serkis on Caesars Ape Utopia

Of the many sequels set for release this summer, Matt Reeves’ Dawn of the Planet of the Apes definitely ranks among our most highly anticipated titles. Set ten years after the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the next chapter in the life of ape revolutionary Caesar (Andy Serkis) finds him leading an established ape colony outside San Francisco, with his wife Cornelia (Judy Greer) and teenage son River (Nick Thurston). That’s teenage in ape years, of course.

Meanwhile, the human population has been devastated by the so-called “Simian flu,” but is still clinging on to survival. A party from a nearby settlement, led by the movie’s new human lead Malcolm (Jason Clarke), reaches out to the apes in an attempt to create peace between the two species, but if the war-painted apes on the posters for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes are any indication, this alliance does not go smoothly.

The first prequel to the classic 1968 sci-fi film surprised many moviegoers by being better than expected, and much of the praise was attributed to Andy Serkis’ performance as Caesar, who had probably the most screen time out of all the characters – human or otherwise. Speaking in an extensive interview with Dread Central, Serkis explained just how far the apes have come since their dramatic escape at the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

“To be able to play characters which are apes that are anthropomorphic to the point where we can really see the human condition, and all of its difficulties and complications… It sets up a world where you’re finally in a beautiful, utopian Garden of Eden really, that is suddenly shattered in a violent and dramatic way.

“Caesar ten years on since yesterday, he’s galvanized all these tribes of apes, and it’s succeeding, it’s working. The next generation is becoming educated; the design of their community reflects their intelligence. They are resourceful, they can build aqueducts, they have plentiful food supplies, they respect each other as different species: Gorilla, Orangutan, Chimpanzee can all speak equally and communicate equally. Until the arrival of human beings, who, by the way, are not the villains of the film! They are also a species who are very much suffering from being almost completely wiped out.”

dawn planet apes new release date Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Andy Serkis on Caesars Ape Utopia

Serkis’ promise that Dawn of the Planet of the Apes presents a balanced story of both the ape and the human sides of the conflict, with both communities having members in favor of war or peace, has certainly rung true in the trailers so far. Characters like Caesar and Malcolm have demonstrated a genuine interest in creating an alliance, but others like Koba (Toby Kebbell) and Dreyfus (Gary Oldman) are less trusting of their cousins.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes certainly had a very revolutionary spirit, from Caesar’s initial confinement to Will Rodman’s house, through to his imprisonment for demonstrating loyalty, his first contact with his ape brethren and his eventual orchestration of their escape. Serkis says that this theme continues in the sequel.

“I think these films were always about civil rights, and I think that metaphor carries through and resonates with audiences worldwide. Why do you think the Apes franchise has endured so long? Because anthropomorphizing is something that we do, even with our pets, and we do that because we have grown further away from animals and are encouraged to see ourselves as an elevated species; when in fact we could learn quite a bit more from animals. And we learn so much more from apes, because they are so close to us genetically.

“I don’t think there’s one specific metaphor; when Rise of the Planet of the Apes came out, the Arab spring was happening, there were riots in London, there was an attitude of real unrest and people wanting change, and being oppressed, and standing up and saying, “I’ve had enough,” and not knowing what’s going to happen next. And we’re still in the throes of that worldwide. The beginning of this movie is setting up a society, which may or may not work but seems to be working, until something else happens that conflicts with that.”

Andy Serkis Dawn Planet Apes Dawn of the Planet of the Apes: Andy Serkis on Caesars Ape Utopia

Rise of the Planet of the Apes was praised for its convincing CGI, including cutting-edge performance capture technology (originally created for Avatar) that allows for detailed preservation of an actor’s performance. The footage is then passed on to a team of animators, who use it as a guideline to bring the apes to life, right down to each individual hair. Because the actors’ original performances have become so crucial, Serkis explains that the motion-capture performances were directed in exactly the same way as the human performances:

“The facial expressions are directed. My children were actually watching last night, and they recognize Caesar totally as me… Because the technology, the fidelity to replicate the nuanced performance choices of the actor is so close now! When you see the side-by-sides, it’s fantastic…

“It’s just acting, it’s just another method of recording an actor’s performance, it’s new technology; it’s exactly the same process on set – you’re being directed, you’re making character decisions, the director is saying, “Yes, we’ve got that in the camera, moving on,” they cut the movie, there is no difference.”

As for his future projects, Serkis intends to stay firmly in the animal kingdom. His company, The Imaginarium, is set to work on an upcoming adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Serkis will also soon direct a new version of The Jungle Book, which he describes as, “[a return] to the Rudyard Kipling, much darker, law of the jungle, much more right of passage.”

It will certainly be interesting to see the motion capture performances for the non-humanoid creatures in The Jungle Book. Hopefully it will be just as entertaining as Benedict Cumberbatch doing performance capture for Smaug.


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is out in theaters on July 11, 2014.

Source: Dread Central

Follow H. Shaw-Williams on Twitter @HSW3K
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  1. I’m going to go epicsh*t!

  2. Serkis is a self-aggrandizing ass.

    • Because you said so? OK.

      Andy Serkis is a genius. Jealous much?

        • Question:

          Who’s the one doing the actual performing for the motion capture process? Andy Serkis or the animators?

          Seems two of us now are calling you out for being jealous of Andy. Have you seen him in The Escapist? No motion capture work there but still a brilliant performance from Serkis.

          • What exactly would I be jealous of Andy about? I’m not saying that he doesn’t contribute to the character’s creation. But what Andy would have you believe is that HE is the final result that you see on screen. If you guys truly believe that between the mo-cap session and the release of the film, that the only thing that’s happening is the animators painting over his face and blue leotard, you guys need to go spend a day at a studio in the tiny room with 100+ animators working overtime without overtime pay and find out what really is going on. Hey, if Andy’s an incredible actor, then please win your oscar with a non-mocap performance. Instead he chooses to marginalize what a workforce of hundreds working countless hours after the final shot has been wrapped to polish and perfect enough for people to believe in the final product they see on-screen. These characters are a collaboration. Andy’s mo-cap provides a basis, his facial footage is reference, but there are hours of artistic interpretation to move the ape’s brows, nose and mouth, long limbs, etc to make the cgi character come alive. Yeah, it’s not exactly paint buy numbers as the genius ANDY SERKIS would have you believe. I just don’t care for him diminishing the work of the artists behind him to prop himself up.

          • And yes, I am a vfx artist and I have also participated in mo-cap work. So I know what both processes mean to each other.

          • Here’s an excerpt straight from the horse’s mouth:

            Andy Serkis to Ent.Weekly
            “The technology is one thing, but basically one has to remember that it is only technology. Performance capture is another bunch of cameras. It’s 360 degree cameras filming an actor, and I think it’s the understanding of that has changed, and that’s happened because we’ve gone from a single character like Gollum to multiple characters in films like Avatar. It suddenly went from being an outside, peripheral activity and a singular activity to virtual production. Avatar was a groundbreaking movie. And [in terms of] performance capture live on set, Rise of the Planet of the Apes was a game changer there because it enabled you to be actually out on location shooting the movie. And then this movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is the biggest ever. In Rise we were shooting on sets for the first time. And with this, it’s the biggest on-location shoot with performance capture and multiple characters. There’s been a significant change.

            But also the way that Weta digital, whom I’ve worked with on oct of those projects, that they have now schooled their animators to honor the performances that are given by the actors on set. And the teams of people who understand that way of working now are established. And that’s something that has really changed. It’s a given that they absolutely copy [the performance] to the letter, to the point in effect what they are doing is painting digital makeup onto actors’ performances. It’s that understanding which has changed as much as anything.”

            Please ready the article I cited above to find out what really is going on after the cameras stop rolling.

            • You must be out of work then. Seriously, copying and pasting stuff off the internet doesn’t make you a VFX artist.

              Secondly, a true professional doesn’t go on the internet and call people an ass –
              You especially don’t call an ass the guy who gets the money train rolling.

              You’re the ass, buddy.

              • I guess stuff I’m citing is too hard to read. Nothing I copy and pasted was meant to legitimize my claim as a vfx artist. I said it so you guys knew plainly from which side I’m coming from.

                My citations were in regards to Andy’s own views about his own self importance.

                I’m sure if you worked hard on something and you sup took all the credit and pretty much said you didn’t do jack, well I dunno…would you be there still licking his boots? Or would you think that he was an *ss? Sure you may not say it, but you certainly would think it. Or are you the type to just take it.

                Seriously, just read the Ent. Weekly article then if you don’t want to hear from the vfx side. He’s still there marginalizing everyone involved in the process except himself. Not sure what he’s done for your life, but you sure are rabidly defending him. I on the other had am trying to defend my industry that continually gets marginalized by people who haven’t a clue on what it takes.

              • Let me put it another way.

                How would you react if say you were part of a team that worked really hard on a project. Then your team leader turns in the project and tries to get a bonus for himself by saying you and the other workers didn’t really have any pertinent contribution. Would you be the ass in this scenario or would it be your Supe?

                • I can’t find anything in that interview where Serkis says the animators didn’t have a pertinent contribution. All he says that they were schooled to honor the actors’ performances. If you told a painter that they had honored the spirit of their subject, I doubt they would take it as an insult.

                  • I guess you guys really can’t relate to how us from the other side feel about the words he’s using.

                    “And that’s something that has really changed. It’s a given that they absolutely copy [the performance] to the letter, to the point in effect what they are doing is painting digital makeup onto actors’ performances. It’s that understanding which has changed as much as anything.”

                    Is really what has most of us in the community up in arms. It’s kinda like that Kevin Smith joke from Chasing Amy…Oh you’re an inker? So really you’re just a tracer.

                    But yeah, I guess I can’t really convey how I feel when reading such a quote to you guys without you guys putting in the work on this side.

              • Also, I used to be a big Andy Serkis fan for how serious he took the mo-cap work.

        • As many of the commenters on that article pointed out, the headline misrepresents what Andy Serkis actually said by taking his original quote out of context.

            • That’s also not really relevant, since Cook last worked with Serkis over a decade ago, several years before the technology that Serkis talks about in the EW interview was first used. Cook even explicitly says that he can’t speak to Serkis’ more recent performance capture work since he wasn’t involved with it.

              • Actually it is relevant in pointing out where Andy likes to come from when he’s on his press tours. Given the article starts with yet another qoute from him back in 2003. He has been selling the same line that the artist do nothing but trace over his work since then, and nothing’s changed with what he’s selling now. The tech has changed and improved, which makes the process cleaner…but please believe me when I say, it still takes hours and hours of interpretation and hand animation to get these characters to where they need to be. But a lot of what Andy is saying pretty much makes it like a mechanical process and the artists just pushing buttons, when it really is still a collaborative process.

                    • And to be clear, that fidelity you see in your featurette relies just as much from the animator’s interpretation along with the actor’s captured expressions. It’s what I’ve been saying, it’s a collaboration. The animator must interpret how the ape’s face will move in relation to the actor’s. It’s not like Andy is sporting the exact ape facial features for the animator to trace over. The fact that you hold the fidelity in such high regard is a tribute to the animator.

    • Calm down….calm down kt. A woman will come along and pop your cherry one day. Jeez……. These virgins are getting more hostel by the minute.

  3. “Ape Heirarchy”….
    “…And as always, we thank you for shopping your local Wal-Mart!”

  4. War paint on apes…I can’t see why they need war-paint, but OK, whatever. Just hope I don’t see one dressed up in Indian garb with a bird on his head like the latest rendition of Tonto, or I’m gonna think Johnny Depp has snuck on the set and is in this film!!

  5. Andy Serkis- “Digital Underwear.”

  6. I don’t know why but caesar’s face reminds me of Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa’s face of 47-Ronin.
    You can see his facial expressions of anger are similar to Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa expressions.