Notary was in agreement with Serkis, describing mo-cap as “a different form of costume” and stating that Serkis should have won for his turn in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes. Serkis was quick to acknowledge the “amazing work” the animators do during post-production and discussed the “gray area” of who ultimately is responsible for the character audiences see in the final product. As one would expect, Serkis believes it is the actor first and foremost, suggesting that what he and the others do on-set lay the foundation for what the digital artists later work with. If it weren’t for the actors, things could be greatly changed:
“But without question, these characters are authored by what we are doing on set. They are not authored by animators. Animators do amazing work translating, interpolating the characters in the facial performances. What we’re creating on set, if you don’t get it on the day, in the moment, on set, in front of the camera with the director and the actors, the emotional content of the scene and the acting choices, if they are not there on the day, they will never be in the movie.”
Serkis makes an interesting point. There’s no denying that the visual effects team does tremendous work and deserves much credit for animating extremely lifelike apes that have become the stars of the franchise. However, Serkis, Notary, and Toby Kebbell (Koba in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) are the ones who breathe life into the characters. It’s safe to say that the apes in these films are not typical digital effects and the end result is a byproduct of what the actor and VFX artists do. The old “digital makeup” argument has been made for years and definitely has some merit. Actors whose appearances have been altered due to heavy amounts of prosthetics have been nominated in the past (John Hurt in The Elephant Man, for instance), so it’s frustrating for fans that Serkis and his fellow apes cannot be invited to the ceremony as well.
While the Academy may never break this ground, there is a compromise to be made. The Oscars hand out Honorary Awards each year, recognizing the achievements of various industry professionals in fields ranging from costume design to acting. Regardless of how one feels about Serkis scoring a nomination in a competitive category like Best Supporting Actor, many would be in agreement that his contributions to advancing the art of mo-cap acting are certainly worthy of some kind of award. Hopefully one day in the near future, Serkis is honored by the organization. Perhaps another captivating performance as Caesar will make it happen.