Few people are more plugged into the pop culture zeitgeist than Andy Serkis. Decades after becoming the poster child for performance capture, the multi-hyphenate creator is about to release his third feature film as a director, Venom: Let There Be Carnage. Over the years he’s also helped shape some of the biggest franchises in the world: Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes, Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and more. He’ll even appear in the next Batman film, as Alfred. Which is a long way of saying, even if you’re talking to him about Venom, it’s hard not to mention a few other things.
The Marvel/Sony superhero sequel, Let There Be Carnage opens October 1 and we’ll have more on that next week. But when io9 recently spoke to Serkis over video, we talked about a lot more you all might find interesting. In Star Wars, Serkis played Supreme Leader Snoke—a mysterious figure who caused a ton of speculation in The Force Awakens and really began to blossom in the next film, The Last Jedi. Of course, that was before he was shockingly murdered by his apprentice, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Later, it was revealed the mysterious Snoke was a clone of Emperor Palpatine, nothing but a cog in a larger plan to bring the galaxy’s big bad back. We asked Serkis how he felt when he found out about Snoke being killed off and what he felt about the ultimate revelation of the character’s purpose.
“I was devastated when I read that script because it was all going so well,” Serkis said. “I was like, ‘Man, this is a boss character. I’m going to love playing... what!? You’re kidding me, what?’ I was like ‘Okay, is a good idea? I supposed it is. I was slightly mortified, pardon the pun.” Serkis admits, though, that while he was shocked and let down that this great character of his was being killed, he understood it was necessary for the story, which was ultimately about the developments of Kylo Ren and Rey. “It was all in the right, I think,” he said. “I loved playing that character and I love the face-off scene between Kylo Ren and Rey, and so it was great.”
As for the whole clone thing, he was as in the dark about it as the fans were. “The journey towards discovering that he was a Palpatine clone was something that happened during the process because everything was so secret since Force Awakens,” Serkis said.
Long before he went to a galaxy far, far, away though, Serkis was living on Middle-earth. His original claim to fame was joining Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy as Gollum/Smeagol, a role that required both full motion-capture and more traditional live-action performances. It not only helped change how movies could be made but Serkis’ career, too. He did performance capture for King Kong and as Caesar in the new Planet of the Apes movies, and ultimately Jackson hired him to direct the second unit on The Hobbit trilogy. He has a long history with the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, so it seemed pertinent to ask him his thoughts on the new show coming from Amazon. Is he excited? Does he know anything?
“Well, yes and no,” Serkis admitted. “Tangentially, I’ve recently been involved in reading an audiobook of the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Tolkien estate were very keen to kind of have that book come out... During the reading of that, I read the appendices of the books so it’s always teeing up the series to come, which, of course, is looking at a different age of Middle-earth. So yes and no. I know a little bit about what the series is going to offer.” He continued, “I’m super excited to see [what direction] it takes because it’s such an incredible world. Middle-earth is such an incredible world to have been part of playing Gollum all those years ago. And actually revisiting Middle-earth, and reading the books just myself and a microphone for six weeks, it was a treat. It was a challenge, and it was really hard work.”
The only thing around these days that compares to Lord of the Rings and Star Wars in terms of scope is the Marvel Cinematic Universe—and Serkis, of course, has been a part of that too. He played arms dealer Ulysses Klaue first in Avengers: Age of Ultron, then later in Black Panther, where he was murdered by Erik Killmonger. He did, however, recently reprise his role on Disney+’s animated What If and with the Black Panther sequel, Wakanda Forever, which is set for release next year, we wondered, what he was most excited for as a part of that universe?
“Wakanda as a world, as a place, as a philosophy is such an extraordinary thing, he said. “So I’m really excited to see how it evolves, how it unfolds. Obviously, it’s very, very sad in the wake of [Chadwick Boseman’s] departure, but I’m sure that the story will go some way to memorialize such an extraordinary performance and such an incredible actor and person in that movie.”
We’ll have much more from Serkis, discussing all things Venom: Let There Be Carnage, next week.
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