It's no exaggeration to say that Andy Serkis is a master of motion capture, well-known for bringing Gollum to life in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the decade since Serkis has founded a mocap studio of his own, and earned even more praise in his performance as Caesar, the highly intelligent chimpanzee in the rebooted Planet of the Apes series.
But as acclaimed as his recent turn in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes may be (read our review), Serkis has set his talents to a new task: working as a motion capture consultant on The Avengers: Age of Ultron, helping Mark Ruffalo breathe even more life into his Incredible Hulk. The actor also let it slip that he would be playing an additional role on film, and while it's still a mystery, it seems at least one 'mad Titan' can be crossed off the list of possibilities.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Serkis explained how he and the Imaginarium - his studio providing motion capture for Age of Ultron - contributed to Ruffalo’s performance as the Hulk mainly through educating the actor. Serkis is no stranger to being the least impressive figure on a given set, and passed that experience on to the only un-costumed Avenger:
"Previously, he would’ve walked onto a set and you’ve got Thor and all the other characters in their costumes looking magnificent, and then you’d have Mark [Ruffalo] in a grey motion-capture suit playing this enormous character, so it’s about giving the actor the right atmosphere and credibility for the performance, which we did in a number of ways. We had to educate the director that the actor owns the role, and what you get on the set is what you should be aiming to put into your cut as the final performance—with the rendering coming later on."
Additionally, Serkis used other means to help Ruffalo get into the mindset of an enormous, green rage monster (useful skills if the Hulk will play as large a role in the future as rumored). Regardless of who has provided the man beneath the monster, the sheer scale and size of the Hulk means animators had their work cut out for them in keeping anything beyond the actor's face intact. But to help translate Ruffalo's performance to the final product, Serkis and his team used some unconventional means:
"We worked with Mark in really grounding him and playing with the digital avatar before going on set so he could see himself as the Hulk before going onscreen, and we put weights and inhibitors on him to give him the sense that his arms were these big, giant wrecking balls, and so that his biceps wouldn’t intersect with his body. We equipped him. We also gave him a sound system and pitch-modulated his voice so you could hear the enormous Hulk roar coming out of these speakers, so the crew would go, “Jesus! That’s Hulk on set!” It gives Mark the sense of feeling better, and if he feels better, then he’ll be more comfortable in the performance."
While Serkis was willing to provide more insight into his role as motion capture consultant, he was less forthcoming about the character he will portray on screen in Age of Ultron. But there is one character we know for sure he will not be playing, though: Thanos:
"I’d have to deny that character at this point. But I am playing a character. I was really thrilled that Joss Whedon asked me to be involved. It’s fantastic. I’ve had a ball working with them, both as performance capture consultant through the Imaginarium, but also being asked to be in it. But I can’t say anything more!"
This may not come as any surprise since Josh Brolin was recently revealed to be voicing Thanos in Marvel’s next cinematic installment, Guardians of the Galaxy. However, those wondering whether Serkis’ role in Avengers 2 could be the motion capture for the Mad Titan now seem to have their answer.
Still, Serkis’ comments leave many questions unanswered: will his role require performance capture? Will it be a cameo or a more substantial character arc? It’s hard to guess, but Joss Whedon has a penchant for including actors close to his heart, so fans can only imagine what lies ahead if Serkis finds his way into Whedon’s inner circle.
We won't know what role Serkis will portray in Age of Ultron until the film hits theaters next year. For now, what do you think he's up to? A major role, or simply a secondary character?
The Avengers: Age of Ultron premieres May 1st, 2015.
Source: The Daily Beast