The marketing for Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens - the overall seventh Star Wars live-action movie and the first released under Disney/Lucasfilm - has placed a heavy emphasis on not just the film's youthful heroes, but also the antagonist Kylo Ren (Adam Driver): a servant of The First Order (formed from the remnants of the Galactic Empire) and member of a group of dark Force users, known as the Knights of Ren. Everyone has a master, though, and for Kylo it's Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).
Snoke, like Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong'o's Force Awakens character, Maz Kanata, is a motion-capture creation; hence, it comes as no surprise that Force Awakens co-writer/director J.J. Abrams sought out Serkis for the role, given the latter's experience creating such memorable (and acclaimed) mo-cap characters as Gollum, King Kong, and Caesar from the recent Planet of the Apes films. However, when it came to Snoke, neither Abrams nor Serkis was certain about how the character would look - at first, anyway.
EW has continued its exclusive coverage of new Star Wars: The Force Awakens details by unveiling its interview with Serkis, wherein the actor reveals that Snoke's physical appearance actually changed as he and Abrams worked together throughout production on the film:
“When we first started working on it, he [Abrams] had some rough notions of how Snoke was gonna look, but it really hadn’t been fully-formed and it almost came out of discussion and performance... That’s been fascinating. And in the meantime I’ve been able to see the look and design of the character grow and change as the performances change. So it’s been really exciting in that respect.”
Many fans have speculated that Snoke will, in essence, be the new Darth Sidious/Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) for The Force Awakens; that is, a master of the Dark Side of the Force and a brilliant, though insidious, political strategist, who quietly pulls the strings on The First Order - and might have been responsible for messing up any peace deals between the Galactic Empire and Rebel Alliance that formed after Palpatine's death in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. It's certainly possible that will prove to be true to some degree in the film (see also: the rumored backstory for The Force Awakens).
Nonetheless, the way Serkis describes Snoke makes him sound quite different than Palpatine:
“Supreme Leader Snoke is quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful. Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage. As I said, there is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda, I suppose.”
It's become increasingly clear throughout The Force Awakens' pre-release buildup that Abrams, along with co-writer Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back) and original script draft writer Michael Arndt (Toy Story 3), are painting the Star Wars universe in deeper shades of grey with this new installment, in order to better parallel how the real world has changed since Return of the Jedi was released over thirty years ago. Hence, it make sense that, based on how Serkis describes him, Snoke won't be quite the (pardon the wording) force of pure evil that Sidious/Palpatine was before him.
At the same time, Serkis appeared to play down any suggestion that Snoke is "damaged" as a result of the war between the Empire and Rebel Alliance - which, if that were the case, could mean Snoke is out for revenge - and told EW that the character wasn't really involved with the events that occurred in the previous six Star Wars movies:
“No, he’s a new character in this universe. It is very much a newly-introduced character. He’s aware of what’s gone on, in the respect that he has been around and is aware of prior events. I think it’d be fair to say that he is aware of the past to a great degree.”
Finally, alleged concept art of Snoke that's made its way online indicates the character may have some snake-like qualities in terms of his physical appearance; though, since Serkis has now specifically noted that the character's appearance changed over the course of production on The Force Awakens, it's best to not make too many assumptions about his final look just yet. Nevertheless, Serkis explained to EW why motion-capture was necessary to bring the character to life - and in turn, why practical makeup or puppetry wouldn't have worked quite so well:
“The scale of him, for instance, is one reason. He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design – you couldn’t have gotten there with prosthetics. It’s too extreme. Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone structure and facial structure. You could never have done it [in real life.]”
So, what does Snoke look like? Well, it seems that secret will remain under-wraps until Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters in just over a month (at the time of writing this)...
Star Wars: The Force Awakens hits theaters on December 18th, 2015, followed by Rogue One: A Star Wars Story on December 16th, 2016, Star Wars: Episode VIII on May 26th, 2017, and the Han Solo Star Wars Anthology film on May 25th, 2018. Star Wars: Episode IX is expected to reach theaters in 2019, followed by the third Star Wars Anthology film in 2020.