His performances in films from The Lord of the Rings to Planet of the Apes helped transform movie acting. But his decision to direct a film, Breathe, about a disabled-rights campaigner is a very personal one, he explains Breathe is not technically Andy Serkis’s first film as a director. He had already shot his adaptation of The Jungle Book using the performance-capture technology for which the man inside Gollum has become known. But while that was in post-production, Serkis found time to direct Breathe. There is a bit of CGI – Tom Hollander plays twins – but, otherwise, it’s an interestingly old-fashioned film from a man who likes to talk about digital characters and next-generation storytelling. It was the script that did it, he says. “I really did cry my eyes out, and that never happens to me.” It was one of the films on the slate of the Imaginarium, the performance-capture studio and production company Serkis had set up with the film producer Jonathan Cavendish. Serkis was lined up to do the more whizzy performance-capture films such as adaptations of Animal Farm and The Jungle Book – the latter an entirely separate reworking from the Disney adaptation released in 2016 (both films went into production at roughly the same time) – but he asked Cavendish if he could direct Breathe. Could anyone turn down Serkis? As soon as I meet him, I’m struck by how warm and bighearted he seems – blue eyes shining, wild badgery hair and an unassuming manner.
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