Who Is Andy Serkis?
Born on April 20, 1964, in the London suburb of Ruislip, Andy Serkis began acting in college. After decades of performances on stage and television, he won the role of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001-2003). Serkis also served as the actor behind the digital presentations of primary characters in King Kong (2005), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015).
Early Life and Career
Andy Serkis was born on April 20, 1964, and raised in Ruislip, West London. He was one of three children. His mother taught children with disabilities, and his father was a doctor whose medical practice required extensive travel to the Middle East. Serkis attended college at Lancaster University, where he studied visual arts and hoped to design posters. In his last year at college, Serkis performed the lead role in Gotcha. The play sparked his love for the stage and led him to pursue a career in acting. "I literally put down my paints and wanted to become an actor," he said in 2011.
During his early 20s, Serkis honed his craft at The Dukes Playhouse in Lancaster and went on to join such touring theater companies as Paines Plough and Hull Truck. In 1989, he took part in a production of Macbeth at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester. Showing his range, Serkis also appeared in Cabaret, The Threepenny Opera and a musical version of Some Like It Hot.
One of his first big television roles was on a 1994 show about London gangsters, called Finney. He later appeared in a handful of other shows, including Oliver Twist, for which Serkis received praise for his menacing portrayal of the character Bill Sykes.
Serkis's appearances in film began with roles in Topsy-Turvy (1999), Pandaemonium (2000) and Shiner (2000). His breakthrough role, however, came in the 2001 film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, in which he played the part of Gollum. The performance was rendered completely with motion-capture technology and required the actor to wear a Lycra bodysuit covered with sensors. Serkis's performance won worldwide acclaim yet failed to win him an Academy Award nomination—a controversial snub of technology that Serkis himself has criticized.
"My take is that acting is acting. A performance is a performance. With performance capture, if you don't get the performance on the day, you can't enhance the performance," he said in a 2011 interview. "I think there is a woeful lack of understanding from the acting community. ... The tool is nothing more than another way of recording an actor's performance."
Following the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Serkis appeared in an array of films, but mainly was known for roles in which his appearance was again masked by motion-capture technology and CGI. Such roles included the titular giant gorilla of King Kong (2005); Caesar the ape in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) and its sequels; a reprisal of Gollum for The Hobbit (2012); and Supreme Leader Snoke for Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and its 2017 sequel.
Serkis is married to actress Lorraine Ashbourne and has three children. He has branched out with voiceover work for video games and has called mountaineering one of his biggest passions in life.
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