Actor Andy Serkis has played many roles in his 20-year-plus career where he looks like himself. But he's best known for his pioneering roles in performance capture, in which computer technology transforms him into characters like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies, the towering King Kong, and the highly evolved Caesar in the recent Planet of the Apes trilogy.
In 2011, Serkis and producer Jonathan Cavendish created Imaginarium, a performance capture studio in the UK. They've also made the new film Breathe, with Serkis stepping behind the camera to direct. It's not the kind of movie you'd expect from people focused on new technology -- it's an old-fashioned love story starring real humans.
For Cavendish, Breathe is a very personal project -- the story of his extraordinary parents. Cavendish's father Robin was stricken with polio in 1958 and became paralyzed from the neck down, unable to breathe without a ventilator.
At the time, few people in that condition lived long and all were confined to hospital beds. Breathe depicts Robin Cavendish's battle to change that. In the film, Andrew Garfield plays Robin, while Claire Foy plays his wife Diana, who is determined to help him escape from the hospital. Robin Cavendish went on to become a pioneer in the fight for rights for the severely disabled.
Breathe is the first film Serkis has directed to hit theaters, though it's not technically his directorial debut. He has been at work on a long-gestating performance-capture version of the Jungle Book -- not from Disney but from Warner Brothers. That film is still in post production.
Serkis and Cavendish tell us about some of the projects in the works at Imaginarium, and share why they wanted to make a rather old-fashioned film like Breathe, a hopeful movie that demonstrates triumph in the face of adversity. They also talk about Andrew Garfield's commitment to the role (including wearing a mold of Jonathan Cavendish's teeth!), and another of Serkis' contributions to the film: you can hear him play saxophone on the soundtrack.