Andy Serkis has carved out a unique niche in modern movies: He's become the go-to guy anytime someone needs a bit of soul injected into a CGI creature. He (and a lot of animators) made us believe in King Kong, as well as Caesar in 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes,' not to mention that stinker Gollum, whose famous schizophrenia scene in 'Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers' was not only a marvel of computer animation, but of acting.
But Serkis has also had a long and colorful career as a "real" actor, like his silky gangster in the new film 'Brighton Rock' and a bumbling grave robber in the upcoming comedy 'Burke and Hare.' He's also planning a biopic about landmark photographer Eadweard Muybridge as well as 'Cloud Atlas' and a possible 'Animal Farm' film.
We've rounded up clips that show his impressive range, including his uptight magazine editor in '13 Going on 30,' his tour de force lead performance in 'Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll' and an early turn as a murderous Charles Dickens character.
'Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll' (2010)
For an actor who's made his mark in memorable supporting roles, it's a treat to see Serkis take center stage in this biopic about raucous British rocker Ian Dury. Our own Michael Hogan wrote about the film when it was at Tribeca last year, saying, "You can't take your eyes off of [Serkis]."
Even if you saw this delightful film about Gilbert & Sullivan's launching of their operetta 'The Mikado,' you probably didn't recognize Serkis as the quirky choreographer who clashes with Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) on how English actresses should play bashful Japanese schoolgirls. That's Serkis doing those goatlike leaps (pipe in mouth) at the beginning of this clip.
'24 Hour Party People' (2002)
When we meet him as record producer Martin Hannett in this clip, he's perched on top of a cliff, "recording silence." He may be eccentric, but he's sharp enough to demand 50 quid an hour and a partnership in the company. In the studio, he asks Joy Division drummer Stephen Morris to play "faster, but slower." And when he hears a rattle, he orders him to dismantle the entire drum kit and reassemble it on the roof! Warning: Clip is NSFW.
'13 Going on 30' (2004)
As Jennifer Garner's stressed-out boss, Serkis is far too uptight to enjoy himself at a party, until she breaks out the 'Thriller' dance. He's mortified at first, but before you know it, he's zombie-stepping with the rest of them.
'The Prestige' (2006)
Sporting a rare American accent, Serkis plays the assistant to Nikola Tesla (David Bowie), who dazzles magician Hugh Jackman with some real magic.
Serkis has a lot of fun as the cartoonish, bald villain who's freed from the confines of a book and has no intention of going back there, not with all the riches from the real world at his disposal, not to mention lots of fun fairy tale creatures like flying monkeys from 'The Wizard of Oz.'
'Oliver Twist' (1999)
Now here's a real villain: Charles Dickens' murderous Bill Sikes, whom Serkis portrayed in this British TV adaptation that also co-starred Keira Knightley, Isla Fisher, and Ron Weasley's mum, Julie Walters. In this scene, Sikes shows no mercy when he thinks his lover Nancy will betray him.
'King Kong' (2005)
Sure, that big misunderstood beast gets all the attention, but chef Lumpy had his share of troubles too. Not least, getting eaten by giant worms! Poor Lumpy, we hardly knew ye.
Andy Serkis portrait courtesy of Dan Steinberg/AP Photo