Looks like Andy Serkis’ contributions to The Hobbit won’t be limited to slipping on the ol’ grey catsuit and leaping around to portray Gollum again – Peter Jackson has asked him to serve as second unit director on the two films in addition to his acting work.
Announcing the news to the Heat Vision Blog, Serkis explained why he thought he’d been recruited: “I think I understand Peter’s sensibility and we have a common history of understanding Middle Earth. A lot of the crew from The Lord of the Rings was returning to work on The Hobbit. There is really a sense of Peter wanting people around him who totally understand the material and the work ethic."
But while he’s done some directing in the past on video games that employed performance capture, he was still a little taken aback by Jackson’s message. “There was this email out of the blue. It was a fantastic surprise.”
So exactly what does the job entail? The second unit director’s tasks vary from film to film, but it sounds like Serkis will be very much involved. "It is wide ranging and encompasses a lot of directing aspects of filmmaking and story. Yes, there is some performance capture, but I will be very much on the live action sets and locations helping Peter to tell the story. The learning curve is The Hobbit is being shot in 3D."
Oh, and he’s already completed much of the performance capture for Gollum, which will leave him more time to use his new gig as practice for a planned eventual move into directing films himself, alongside setting up a performance capture training centre and studio called The Imaginarium.
Serkis will crop up this year playing ape rebel Caesar in freshly re-titled prequel story Rise of the Planet of the Apes (sounds over-long to us, but 20th Century Fox reports it “tested well”) and the Steven Spielberg-directed, Peter Jackson-produced The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn.