These days, it's common for actors to wear skintight outfits covered with tracking balls and portray the motions of characters who will be digitally created later. However, there's one man who has spent the past decade pioneering this craft: Andy Serkis. From The Lord of the Rings to Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, no actor has been more heavily involved in making "mo-cap" an art form. It's time to run through Serkis' greatest hits and explore why he's the best.
Gollum in The Lord of the Rings (2003)
This is where it all began. Andy Serkis was originally hired to voice the all-CGI Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but when actors Elijah Wood and Sean Astin needed someone to interact with on set, Serkis stepped in and his career as a motion-capture performance artist was born. It's impossible to imagine these films without him.
King Kong in King Kong (2005)
After their groundbreaking work together in the Lord of the Rings films, director Peter Jackson tasked Andy Serkis with bringing the title character to life in King Kong. Unlike Gollum, there's no dialogue to be found here. It's just Serkis inhabiting the body of a wild beast, perfectly replicating an ape's movements while giving him just enough soul to make him sympathetic.
King Bohan in Heavenly Sword (2007)
As the evil King Bohan in the PlayStation 3 game Heavenly Sword, Serkis is given the opportunity to embody a full-fledged fantasy villain, scheming and scowling while filling rooms with maniacal laughter.
Monkey in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (2010)
Andy Serkis' contributions to the world of video games continued with Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. However, he doesn't play a villain this time around. Instead, motion capture affords him the chance to play something he'd never get to play in a live-action movie: a tall, ripped, handsome action hero.
Captain Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin (2011)
Serkis returned to the world of cinematic motion capture with The Adventures of Tintin, which saw him take on the role of the lovably drunken sailor Captain Haddock. Speaking with a thick Scottish brogue, Serkis breathes life into an iconic comic book character, making him a force in both dramatic and comedic scenes.
Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)
When it came time to cast Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, they turned to one of the only actors in recent Hollywood history to successfully embody an ape. Serkis's work in King Kong made him a natural fit for the role of a hyperintelligent chimpanzee, providing a mixture of raw human emotion and animal physicality.
Gollum in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Watching Andy Serkis return to Gollum in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is like reuniting with an old friend. Serkis' work on these films remains astonishing, hilarious, frightening and pathetic, all in one seamless performance.
Caesar in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
As exciting as it is to see Serkis return to the role of Caesar, we're just as pumped to see the rest of the cast at work around him. Serkis may be a pioneer of mo-cap acting, but he's leading an entire ensemble of ape actors this time. He gets to play the heroic lead on-screen, but he's also a leader offscreen, as the veteran actor helps everyone else learn the craft he's perfected.