'War for the Planet of the Apes' star Andy Serkis on how he brings characters to life

PHOTO: Andy Serkis on the set of Twentieth Century Foxs "War for the Planet of the Apes."Play2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.
WATCH 'War for the Planet of the Apes' star on how he brought Caesar to life

Critics and fans alike are praising Andy Serkis’ performance in his return to the role of primate leader Caesar in “War for the Planet of the Apes.”

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Still, many fans haven’t caught on to how Serkis brings the character to life via performance-capture acting.

Some people might be surprised to learn that Caesar is not computer-generated. In an appearance on ABC News' “Popcorn With Peter Travers,” Serkis explained how it works, noting that many may not realize he’s performing his role on-set alongside the other actors.

“We wear a head-mounted camera and we have 360-degree cameras which are picking up all of these markers which are on our suits. So it tracks all of our physical movements,” Serkis said. “And we have markers on our face which track all our facial expressions.”

WHAT TO KNOW
  • Andy Serkis appears on Popcorn With Peter Travers

PHOTO: Andy Serkis on the set of Twentieth Century Foxs War for the Planet of the Apes. Right, Andy Serkis stars as Caesar in War for the Planet of the Apes.2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.
Andy Serkis on the set of Twentieth Century Fox's "War for the Planet of the Apes." Right, Andy Serkis stars as Caesar in "War for the Planet of the Apes."

He added, “In the original 'Planet of the Apes' movie, those guys, [actor] Roddy McDowall, those guys had to sit in makeup for five hours in layers of foam and latex and rubber, which could’ve basically obscured their face. And all they could do was sort of force these facial expressions.

“We don’t have to do any of that with performance-capture. You could play really internally. For the movie, a lot of these scenes are played in close-up and they’re very internal moments and very emotional moments.”

Travers said he believes unfamiliarity with performance-capture acting is the primary reason Serkis has not received an Academy Award for his performances. “It’s just crazy,” Travers said, asking if it’s disappointing.

“All I want is for the process to be understood,” Serkis, 53, told Travers. “Ultimately, it’s not about awards. It’s about recognition for what we do. People say to me, ‘Were you actually on set with Woody [Harrelson]’?”

PHOTO: Andy Serkis and Peter Travers at the ABC News studios in New York, July 13, 2017.Emilie Richardson/ABC News
Andy Serkis and Peter Travers at the ABC News studios in New York, July 13, 2017.

Serkis’ performance-capture roles have become fan favorites. He was Gollum in “Lord of the Rings” before playing King Kong. He's also well known for his role in the "Star Wars" films as Supreme Leader Snoke.

Serkis explained how the odd look of that character came from director J.J. Abrams.

“That design was J.J. Abrams,” he said. “We talked a lot about that character, that he was a formidable force. That he was damaged. There were so many iterations of the design for the character, so many designs. But, finally, it sort of found its place and manifested as we see him, a very, very scarred jaw, that’s been eaten away.”

Asked to demonstrate how Snoke sounds, Serkis said, "Along with the malevolence, there's a damage to him."

He then jumped into character with a deep haunting voice to deliver this line: "There’s been an awakening in the force. Have you felt it?"

PHOTO: Andy Serkis, as Supreme Leader Snoke, in a scene from Star Wars: The Force Awakens.Lucas Film
Andy Serkis, as Supreme Leader Snoke, in a scene from "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."

Serkis told Travers that he will be playing Snoke again in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” which will be released later this year.

Download the all new "Popcorn With Peter Travers" podcasts on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play Music and Stitcher.

Still, despite the arguable "coolness" of the characters he plays, Serkis said none of the roles earn him cool points with his children anymore. Travers asked whether they still bring their friends home to meet him.

“The kids have grown up with all these films. There's curiously nothing special about it,” Serkis said. “They've gotten past that stage now because it's no longer cool. There was a limited window where it was cool.”

Travers added, “I would think the ‘Star Wars’ thing would be cool. Do you go around the house making these sounds?”

“I know better than to do that now. That's not impressive anymore,” Serkis said.

“War for the Planet of the Apes” is in theaters now.

Be sure to watch the full interview with Peter Travers and Andy Serkis in the video above.