Mowgli's Andy Serkis: Portraying bear was more difficult than ape
Andy Serkis describes challenges of making Mowgli
Andy Serkis is best known for his brilliant performances in motion-capture acting and voice work roles, from The Lord Of The Rings' Gollum to simian leader Caesar from the Planet Of The Apes series.
Now, the 54-year-old English actor-director is taking on another animal species, portraying Baloo the bear in Mowgli: Legend Of The Jungle, which he also directed and premieres on Netflix on Dec 7.
He reinvents Rudyard Kipling's beloved masterpiece, in which a boy torn between two worlds accepts his destiny and becomes a legend.
Mowgli (Rohan Chand) has never belonged in either the jungle or the world of man, and now he must navigate the dangers of each on a journey to discover where he truly belongs.
Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Freida Pinto, Matthew Rhys and Naomie Harris lead an all-star cast in this fantasy adventure.
Serkis, who was in town this month for the Netflix See What's Next: Asia event, told The New Paper in a round-table interview that capturing Baloo proved to be "a little (more) difficult physically" than any member of the primate family.
He said: "The bear is a big quadruped. With a lot of our animals that we capture, we use two people. We would have our A-list actor playing at the front and someone playing the back end. Translating the actor's facial expressions into a non-humanoid face was the most difficult.
"Take a character like Gollum. My facial structure is similar to his, but if you're looking into the face of a bear, wolf or tiger, it is a completely different structure. We had to design the animals very carefully so that you could see the actors' faces in them."
The father of three, who has been working on Mowgli for five years, oversaw the entire film, but the "most challenging" feat was juggling the dual role of actor and director.
Serkis said: "When you're directing, you're also directing the music, the animation, the live-action performances, and I loved every single aspect.
"We had already cast all the other characters and then we had to find Baloo. When we were searching for potential actors, a number of people turned around to me and said, 'Why don't you do it? You've got to be in it.'"
Mowgli's release was delayed numerous times to improve the visual effects and to create space between itself and the 2016 release of Walt Disney Pictures' own Jungle Book adaptation.
Then in July, the original studio Warner Bros Pictures sold the rights for the film to Netflix.
It is set to be released in select theatres in North America tomorrow, followed by its subsequent digital Netflix release.
Despite the hiccups, Serkis insisted he is "delighted" that Mowgli can now be seen "immediately across all platforms".
He said: "I am very interested in next-generation storytelling and how stories will be received in the future.
"I love that there is a 3D version of Mowgli and I think people will see that in the cinema. Equally, it has an intimacy - it is not just a cinema spectacle, it works across all mediums.
"And what I love about Netflix is the global reach. It places as much importance on the regional audiences as North America."