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Is It Time For Oscar To Recognize Andy Serkis?

You rarely see his face, but you’ve seen his work in several genre films

It would be the first time it’s ever happened, but Twentieth Century Fox doesn’t care — it feels it’s time for history to be made.

Fox, the distributor for the recent film “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” wants the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to finally recognize Andy Serkis, even if you never once see his face on screen for “Planet of the Apes.”

Serkis played Caesar, the ape that grows up intelligent and creates a whole new evolved society in the Rupert Wyatt film that surprised observers by not only making back its $93 million price tag domestically, but actually pulling in $176.5 million in North America alone.

Most interesting about “Apes” was that, unlike the 2001 attempt from Tim Burton, this film achieved reachable goals, and didn’t try to create an epic experience. Instead, it flew under the radar, earning critics and audience ratings well about 80 percent from Rotten Tomatoes.

Serkis, who many believe was unfairly passed over in his role of Gollum for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, should get at least some consideration for the work he did in bringing the CGI character of Caesar to life.

“I think we may be at the place where we will see a first-ever in Hollywood this year,” said Fox Filmed Entertainment co-chair and chief executive Tom Rothman. He believes Serkis should be up for best supporting actor, “even though his face never appears.”

If the Academy were to look past the hang-ups surrounding CGI characters, this could open the door for other projects in the near future, including the next two Avatar movies in production by James Cameron. The director, who earned nine nominations for his 2009 film, was reportedly upset that none of the actors were recognized, believing they were overlooked because of the heavy use of CGI in creating the alien creatures.

The biggest stumbling block affecting actors like Serkis, however, is the fact that many who vote and select nominees simply aren’t familiar with how CGI creations work. For “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” for example, Serkis himself appeared in many scenes, mimicking what an intelligent ape would do in various scenes. He was then replaced by a CGI character, whose facial characteristics were pulled from Serkis himself, using facial recognition technology developed for “Avatar.”

“I think part of what we have to do is help educate people to understand that that is 100 percent his performance,” Rothman said of Serkis’ work, according to The Hollywood Reporter. “It is great emotional acting. Tom Hanks didn’t have to say any dialogue in ‘Cast Away’ for it to be a great performance.”

Hanks was nominated in 2001 for “Cast Away,” despite having limited dialogue and limited interaction with other characters. His main partner was a blood-stained volleyball that kept him company on the deserted island for years after his FedEx cargo plane crashed.

Serkis has appeared on screen as himself, but has really found an art in motion capture through CGI replacement. Besides Caesar and Gollum, he also played King Kong in Peter Jackson’s 2005 film. He is expected to reprise his role of Gollum in the upcoming “Hobbit” films.

If Serkis did indeed win the nomination, it would not only be groundbreaking in terms of CGI characters, but it also would be the highest acting nomination ever given by Oscar in the entire Planet of the Apes franchise.

Oscar nominees will be announced in late January.

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