Andy Serkis is an actor that has revolutionised the film industry. Rarely one to push himself to the front of the queue when it comes to promotional duties, his time in the limelight is often short, and the fact that some of his most iconic roles are hidden behind the magic of CGI leaves him short of the sort of superstardom experienced by actors of far less impressive careers.
Any actor with franchises as iconic as Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes and Star Wars on their CV has to be a special one, and when you consider the epic roles Serkis played in each of those titles, his name is one that should be celebrated outside of Hollywood's inner sanctum much more than it is. In playing the likes of Gollum, Ian Brady and King Kong, he has taken on roles that have far-reaching cultural significance and that have made waves in industries beyond cinema.
Having trodden the boards to great critical acclaim and starred in a number of small, independent films and projects, Serkis' first stand-out mainstream performance came in BBC TV's 1999 mini-series Oliver Twist, where he played Bill Sykes. In a role famously portrayed by the likes of Oliver Reed and Robert Newton, Serkis stole the screen from a cast including Julie Walters, Robert Lindsay and Annette Crosby.
Two years later came his career-defining role as Gollum in the multi-Academy Award-winning Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. It kick-started off a love affair with character CGI that stretches to this day and made him the flagbearer for the art. He continued this role throughout the trilogy, of course, and leant his voice to a number of further Lords of the Rings-embossed productions including a string of popular cross-platform video games and a number of spin-off projects.
Serkis' next major CGI role came as he followed Peter Jackson into the 2005 blockbuster King Kong, where again the roles of both Kong and Lumpy earned him huge critical acclaim and transcended the film industry, with appearances in video games, including the multi-million-selling console title of the same name.
And the iconic CGI performances didn't stop there. When it was announced that the Planet of the Apes reboot was to utilise CGI trickery in its major roles, Serkis was quite rightly front of the queue and took on the lead role of Caesar, for which he again earned huge critical acclaim. Indeed, Serkis' image also features on the Planet of the Apes video slots game, which pits characters from each of the two of the titles against one another.
Similarly, it was surely only a matter of time before his talents were welcomed into the fold of the Star Wars franchise once its reboot was announced. His role as Supreme Leader Snoke is another that doesn't show Serkis' actual face, and with further titles to be announced in the coming years and Serkis' rumoured to play an even more prominent role in these, his talents are to be seen on Star Wars films far beyond The Last Jedi edition, released in 2017.
Among these huge roles came other iconic performances, with figures such as Ian Dury and Ian Brady having been immortalised in cinema by Serkis. His performance as Dury in the 2010 biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock n Roll was described as 'simply uncanny' by The Guardian and served to further promote his reputation as a world-class character actor away from the green screen. In much the same vein, his performance as Ian Brady in the 2006 TV film Longford was a triumph that earned him numerous award nominations.
While Serkis' achievements within the film and television industries are widely recognised within those industries themselves, it remains to be seen whether he will receive the sort of widespread, mainstream acclaim an actor of his considerable standing should. The man that brought us Gollum is precious indeed.
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