Motion-Capture Maestro Andy Serkis has, with the help of hundreds CGI artists, created some of cinema’s most beloved characters. Most notably, the 54-year-old actor made a name for himself in 2002 after playing Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, making him the industry leader in performance capture.
In a recent video from GQ, Serkis goes into the process of portraying his second major motion-capture role—the iconic King Kong, in the 2005 film of the same name. When it came to preparation for the part, he wasn't messing around.
“I went off to Rwanda to study gorillas,” he remembered. “I learned about their vocalizations, I learned about how they behaved socially and interact, how they beat their chest—just everything about how they were.”
He also explained what it was like working with his co-star Naomi Watts, who filmed many of her scenes separately.
“I had her on a little clam-shell monitor that I could literally look down, and they were capturing my facial expressions as I was playing opposite this little image of her.”
So, basically, he was Facetiming her.
One might assume that playing a supercharged ape might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but nope—he went on to play Caesar the Chimpanzee in three Plant of the Apes movies several years later. Although most actors might be afraid of being pigeonholed after all of this, Serkis would probably play a masterful pigeon, if asked.
Watch him break down his many roles, both CG and not, in the full video below.