Between the returning team members from The Avengers and newcomers like Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch, The Avengers: Age of Ultron is shaping up to have a pretty robust cast. One of the potential perils of a team-up movie with so many big personalities is that the limited screen time can lead to some characters getting somewhat sidelined within the story.
To a certain extent, this was the fate that befell the Hulk in the first movie, but actor Mark Ruffalo has said the the big green guy (and his smaller, not-so-green alter-ego Bruce Banner) will have a bigger and more complex role in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Not only that, but Marvel also hired performance capture expert Andy Serkis to help get the best motion capture possible for the Hulk sequences.
Now Serkis has revealed that he wasn't just acting as a coach for Ruffalo while he was on the set of The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Speaking in an interview with Variety, Serkis teased that he has a role in the movie, though he wouldn't say whether it's a live-action or CGI character:
"It’s all the same to me. I’ve never drawn a distinction when playing a role, whether it be live action or performance capture. Acting is acting. It’s just basically what you wear to the set that’s different."
While it might be assumed that Serkis is simply doing more motion capture (there are plenty of non-humans in the Marvel universe), that won't necessarily be so. Although his main passion is performance capture, Serkis has also had a respectable number of live-action roles. In King Kong, for example, he not only provided motion capture for the giant ape of the movie but also played Lumpy, the cook, barber and surgeon of the SS Venture.
Ruffalo has said that Serkis' help has enabled him to "completely embrace" the technology used to translate his performance into the animation of the Hulk on screen, and Serkis added that The Avengers: Age of Ultron will be a step up from what was seen in The Avengers:
"Performance capture was used on the previous “Hulk,” but not to the same extent Mark is using it now. There are tools and ways of working with an actor that makes them feel that they own the character. And a character the size of the Hulk needs ownership, which Mark has now."
Serkis first shot to fame after providing the voice and motion capture for Gollum in Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and since then has co-founded his own performance capture studio, The Imaginarium, where he is currently working on adaptations of The Jungle Book and Animal Farm. The actor will also reprise his role as Caesar in the upcoming release of Dawn of The Planet of the Apes, which has already been receiving almost universally positive reviews.
Whether his role in The Avengers: Age of Ultron will just be a cheeky cameo or whether it will be something a bit more substantial remains to be seen, but at this point it would be nice to see Serkis playing a human character - if only because we're starting to forget what he actually looks like.
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is out in theaters on May 1st, 2015.