Andy Serkis is best known for playing Gollum and Smeagol in Peter Jackson's Lord Of The Rings trilogy, but he's also motion-captured the giant ape in King Kong, played Moors murderer Ian Brady and sung on stage with Tenacious D. Now he's playing despot King Bohan in Heavenly Sword. PSM3 caught up with him in London.
You've played Gollum who was quite evil, King Kong - who was sort of nice - and now the king, who seems totally evil again. Which is the most fun?
Andy Serkis: They're all interesting, it just depends how they're written. You can have badly written bad guys. What was appealing about this project was acting in a new medium and bringing truthfully-captured characters into a videogame environment. Also, I came on board mainly as the dramatic director, so I got involved in the early stages of the character development, casting and rehearsal.
The other actresses were saying this was their first motion-capture experience. What kind of advice did you give them?
AS: The main thing is that there's really no difference between acting and motion-capturing. The research, the trying to embody a character is the same. But the main thing about motion-capture is that you're sort of puppeteering a version of yourself. You can calibrate that by manipulating certain things about your personality.
We've read that you spent a while studying monkeys in preparation for Kong. Did you do anything at all like that for Heavenly Sword?
AS: Well, Bohan was this dictator that created his own moral universe where he was right. Rather than just playing an evil guy, you have to sort of believe in what you're doing - most dictators do. So I've been reading about dictators. Also, I'm pretty hopeless at games, but I've been getting familiar with them. I love playing Shadow Of The Colossus, just riding round on my horse looking for colossi. I haven't actually found any yet, though.
Part of the beauty of motion-capturing is that you can play any character. Bearing that in mind, if you were designing a character for yourself, what would it be like? We'd definitely be a ninja robot...
AS: Well, I don't think there's much point motion-capturing a human character. So even these characters, what they are, they're slightly heightened and exaggerated. I always like to play that sort of character, but I can't think of anything specific right now.
Are we right in thinking this is the first time when more than one character's been motion-captured at once? Does that make it easier?
AS: Well yes, because it's like shooting a film. It's much easier when you've got other people to work with...
Can you see a time when people get academy awards for their performance in a videogame?
AS: Well, I'm slightly ambivalent about the difference between playing a character and being motion-captured. It's no different from being in costume, except that instead of having synthetic materials on your face you've been captured in a game. Simple as that.