Serkis at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con
Andrew Clement Serkis
20 April 1964
|Alma mater||The County College, Lancaster|
|Occupation||Actor, narrator, film director, film producer|
|Children||3 (including Louis Ashbourne Serkis)|
Andrew Clement Serkis (born 20 April 1964) is an English actor, narrator and film director. He is best known for his performance capture roles comprising motion capture acting, animation and voice work for such computer-generated characters as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001-2003) and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012), King Kong in the eponymous 2005 film, Caesar in the Planet of the Apes reboot series (2011-2017), Captain Haddock / Sir Francis Haddock in Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin (2011), and Supreme Leader Snoke in the Star Wars sequel trilogy films, The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017) and The Rise of Skywalker. In 2018, he portrayed the character of Baloo in his self-directed film, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.
Serkis is one of the highest-grossing actors of all time, and his film work in motion capture has been critically acclaimed. He has received an Empire Award and two Saturn Awards for his motion-capture acting. He earned a Golden Globe nomination for his portrayal of serial killer Ian Brady in the British television film Longford (2006) and was nominated for a BAFTA for his portrayal of new wave and punk rock musician Ian Dury in the biopic Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll (2010). In 2020, Serkis received the BAFTA Award for Outstanding British Contribution To Cinema.
Serkis portrayed Ulysses Klaue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Black Panther (2018). He will play Alfred Pennyworth in The Batman (2022). Serkis has his own production company and motion capture workshop, The Imaginarium Studios in London, which he used for Mowgli. He made his directorial debut with Imaginarium's 2017 film Breathe. He will also direct Venom: Let There Be Carnage (2021), which is set in Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters.
Serkis was born and brought up in Ruislip Manor in Middlesex (now within Greater London). His mother, Lylie Weech, was English and taught disabled children; his father, Clement Serkis (Armenian: ? ), was an Iraqi-Armenian gynaecologist. His ancestors' original surname was "Sarkisian". Both of his parents were Roman Catholics. His father often worked abroad in the Middle East, while Serkis and his siblings were raised in Britain, with regular holidays in the Middle East including to Tyre, Sidon, Damascus and Baghdad.
Serkis was educated at St Benedict's School, Ealing. He studied visual arts and theatre as part of his degree at Lancaster University and graduated in 1985. Serkis was a member of The County College and part of the student radio station Bailrigg FM. He joined the Nuffield Studio, getting involved in designing and producing plays.
Having agreed to act in a couple of productions towards the end of his first year, Serkis played the lead role in Barrie Keeffe's play, Gotcha, as a rebellious teenager holding a teacher hostage. As a result, he changed his major subject to acting, constructing his Independent Studies Degree around acting and set design, studying Konstantin Stanislavski and Bertolt Brecht, and including minor modules in art and visual graphics. In his final year at Lancaster he adapted Raymond Briggs's graphic novel The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman, a satire about the Falklands War, as a one-man show, which he performed to acclaim.
In his third year at university, Serkis joined the backstage team at the local Duke's Playhouse to earn his Equity card. On graduation, although advised to take a one-year post-graduate acting course, he joined Dukes as an actor and, under director Jonathan Petherbridge, who used workshops based upon the methods of Augusto Boal, spent 18 months acting in a broad range of productions from Brecht through Shakespeare to modern British playwrights.
After 16 months, and having gained his Equity card, Serkis joined a series of touring companies, including productions of: Bouncers opposite Hull Truck; Florizel in The Winter's Tale; and the fool in King Lear with director Max Stafford-Clark. In the early 1990s he settled in London, and took roles in Dogboy, the Royal Court Theatre's production of Mojo, and Wilson Milam's production of Hurlyburly (1997) at the Queen's Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, with Rupert Graves and David Tennant. Serkis also developed a career in television, appearing in small roles such as Greville in an episode of The Darling Buds of May (1992). Serkis joined director Mike Leigh's ensemble for two film productions, and appeared in the romantic comedy Loop (1997) alongside Susannah York. In 1999, Serkis played Bill Sikes in ITV's adaption of Oliver Twist. He appeared alongside Sacha Baron Cohen in The Jolly Boys' Last Stand in 2000.
Serkis first came to wide public notice for his performance as Sméagol / Gollum, in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy (2001-2003), for which he provided motion capture movements and voice for the CGI character. His work on The Lord of the Rings started a debate on the legitimacy of CGI-assisted acting. Some critics felt Serkis should have been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, since his voice, body language and facial expressions were used.
Serkis has done critically acclaimed motion capture work in several other films, including the title character in the 2005 version of King Kong (in which he also played the ship's cook in live action) and as Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), and War for the Planet of the Apes (2017). He also worked with game developers Ninja Theory on the 2007 release Heavenly Sword, providing the motion capture and voice for King Bohan (the game's main villain).
In 2006, Serkis starred as serial killer Ian Brady in the BAFTA-nominated Longford, co-starring Samantha Morton as Myra Hindley and Jim Broadbent as Lord Longford. That same year, Serkis appeared in the role of Mr. Grin in the film rendition of Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider novel Stormbreaker. He also acted in the film The Prestige as Mr. Alley (assistant to Nikola Tesla), as the voice of one of the henchrats in the Aardman Animations film Flushed Away named Spike, and appeared in Jim Threapleton's improvised feature film Extraordinary Rendition, which premiered in 2007. In 2007, he appeared in Sugarhouse, a low-budget independently made film, playing local crime lord Hoodwink, who terrorises an east London housing estate. For the role, Serkis shaved his head and had sessions lasting 20 hours each to have temporary tattoos stencilled onto his body. The film premiered at the 2007 Edinburgh Festival and released in the UK on 24 August. Also that year, Serkis provided the voiceover for Monkey Life, on Five broadcast for three weeks from 13-31 August 2007. This series was about Monkey World, the popular ape and monkey sanctuary and zoo near Wool, Dorset. In the joint BBC/HBO production Einstein and Eddington, (2008) Serkis played Albert Einstein, following the development of his theory of relativity, while David Tennant played scientist Sir Arthur Eddington. In 2008, Serkis appeared as Rigaud in the BBC Television adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit and as Capricorn in Inkheart, the film adaptation of Cornelia Funke's novel. In 2010, Serkis played 1970s new wave singer Ian Dury in Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll.
Serkis reunited with Peter Jackson, as a cast member in Jackson's and Steven Spielberg's Tintin trilogy, based on The Adventures of Tintin. Serkis supplied the voice and motion capture performance of Captain Haddock (adopting a Scottish accent) as well as his ancestor, Sir Francis Haddock. Filming began in January 2009 and the film was released in 2011. Filming was due to begin in September 2008, but was delayed due to Universal pulling out of backing the project.
In 2009, Serkis voiced the role of the demon Screwtape in Focus on the Family's Radio Theatre audio adaptation of C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. In 2010, Serkis was cast as William Hare, with Simon Pegg as Burke, in the John Landis black comedy film Burke and Hare based on the Burke and Hare murders in Scotland in 1828. He also featured in the TV series The Accused, in "Liam's Story", written by Danny Brocklehurst and Jimmy McGovern. He played Caesar in the 20th Century Fox science-fiction film Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Serkis was acclaimed for his performance as Caesar in 2011, and in a high-profile campaign by 20th Century Fox for him to be honoured with a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination, his co-star James Franco stated: "Andy Serkis is the undisputed master of the newest kind of acting called "performance capture," and it is time that Serkis gets credit for the innovative artist that he is." In 2010, Serkis played Monkey, the lead character along with Lindsay Shaw in the videogame Enslaved: Odyssey to the West.
In January 2011, it was confirmed that Serkis would reprise the role of Gollum in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey the first film in the three-part The Hobbit films. It was released in 2012, and the follow-ups were released in 2013 and 2014. He was also the trilogy's second unit director, which included directing aerial shots and battle scenes. He was invited to join the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in June 2012 along with 175 other individuals. In 2014, Serkis reprised his role as Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and again in 2017 for War for the Planet of the Apes, the last of the trilogy.
In Gareth Edwards' 2014 science-fiction monster film Godzilla, Serkis was the consultant on the film's motion capture sequences in order to "control the souls" of the creatures. Serkis played Ulysses Klaue in Marvel Studios' Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015), and was also a motion capture consultant on the film. He reprised the role in Marvel Studios' Black Panther (2018). He played Supreme Leader Snoke in Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and reprised the role in Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019). Serkis appeared as the Ghost of Christmas Past in the 2019 BBC/FX three-part miniseries A Christmas Carol.
In late 2015, it was announced that Serkis was working on a modern film adaptation of Rumpelstiltskin, titled Steelskin. In addition to starring in the film, Serkis will serve as producer and director.
In 2011, Serkis founded The Imaginarium Studios with film producer Jonathan Cavendish. The Imaginarium is a production company and creative digital studio based in Ealing, London and is dedicated to invention of believable, emotionally engaging digital characters using Performance Capture technology, in which Serkis specialises. On 20 October 2012, the studio acquired rights to The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon and a new motion capture adaptation of Animal Farm, which Serkis will direct.
Serkis has served as the second unit director for The Hobbit films and made his directorial debut with Breathe. He also directed the film, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle. In August 2019, The Hollywood Reporter announced that Serkis would direct Venom: Let There Be Carnage, the sequel to Venom, scheduled for release on 25 June 2021.
Serkis published a memoir about his experiences playing Gollum in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, Gollum: How We Made Movie Magic, published in late 2004. He also made an appearance in the music video for Neneh Cherry's "Woman", portraying an abusive boyfriend. In 2015, Serkis collaborated with rock band Coldplay in the making of the music video for "Adventure of a Lifetime" (which saw the group perform as chimpanzees) with Serkis acting as a performance capture consultant.
In December 2018, he appeared in a video for People's Vote as UK Prime Minister Theresa May using the voice of Gollum, spoofing May's Brexit deal. He also appears in the BBC Earth programme, Neanderthals: Meet Your Ancestors.
Serkis, together with fellow Lord of the Rings castmates Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, Miranda Otto, John Rhys-Davies, Liv Tyler, Karl Urban and Elijah Wood, plus writer Philippa Boyens and director Peter Jackson, on 1 May 2020 joined Josh Gad's YouTube series Reunited Apart which reunites the cast of popular movies through video-conferencing due to COVID-19, and promotes donations to non-profit charities.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, on VE Day, Serkis read the entire book of The Hobbit to raise money for NHS Charities Together and Best Beginnings, a baby charity he has been an ambassador of. More than 650,000 people tuned in worldwide, and Serkis raised more than £283,000 ($351,000).  He also recorded an audiobook of the novel that came out in September.
Serkis was born to Catholic parents, and though he has been an atheist since his teenage years, he is "drawn to the karmic possibilities of energy transference", specifically "the idea that your energy lives on after you".
Serkis married actress Lorraine Ashbourne in July 2002. He lives in Crouch End, North London with his wife and their three children: Ruby (b. 1998), Sonny (b. 2000) and Louis (b. 2004), all of whom are actors. Louis and Ruby starred in the 2019 film The Kid Who Would Be King and the 2020 Netflix series The Letter for the King respectively. Serkis also starred alongside Ruby, and they played father and daughter. Louis also voiced Bhoot in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, which was directed by and co-starring his father.
During the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, Serkis read out loud the entirety of the classic J. R. R. Tolkien book, The Hobbit to raise money for charity. Serkis read the book live on his YouTube channel on the 8th of May 2020 to raise money for baby charity "Best Beginnings" and NHS Charities Together. The reading, dubbed the "Hobbitathon", took just under 11 hours and raised in excess of £300,000 ($367,800).
On July 2nd 2020 HarperCollinsUK announced that Serkis would professionally narrate The Hobbit again to be published for Audible. The audiobook was released September 3rd 2020. The cover art, by Alan Lee, was drawn specially for the release.