Tales From The Water Cooler: Give him an Oscar for great apedom

Tim Walker
Saturday 13 August 2011 01:00

When a reviewer writes of an animal themed film that the chimpanzee/rabbit/St Bernard gives a better performance than the lead actor, it's generally meant as a poor reflection on the human star. In the case of this week's biggest release, it's a measure of the brilliance of the beast.

I struggle to recall seeing any more affecting turn this year than Andy Serkis as Caesar, the freedom-fighting chimp at the heart of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. With that in mind, I'd like to commend him to the Academy.

And not for inclusion in some sham new Oscar category - Best Performance By A Man In A Blue Wetsuit, or similar - but for Best Actor. Many still misunderstand motioncapture, a field in which Serkis is, by a wide margin, the leading practitioner.

Caesar, Gollum and King Kong are his creations, and he's playing Captain Haddock in Steven Spielberg's forthcoming CGI spectacular, The Adventures of Tintin. As the actor himself laments: "People say, 'Oh, so you did the voice of Gollum?' Or people go, 'You did the movements for Kong?' It's frustrating, because I play Gollum and I play Kong. It is acting."

He may be pioneering a new discipline, but Serkis channels film acting's earliest silent stars; sign-language notwithstanding, Caesar is a dialogue-free character.

Oscar voters famously reward disability, royalty, or a funny accent. To that list, let them add the portrayal of another species. The fictional scientific advances in Rise … allow Caesar to cross the boundaries of apedom into a new category.

The technical advances in its production should allow Serkis to do the same.

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