Andy Serkis is one member of the all-star cast in the new audio adaptation of Robert Rankin’s The Brightonomicon, available now from BBC Audio. And, just before his signing session at Forbidden Planet in London earlier this week, he spared us ten minutes for a chat…
Let’s start with the obvious question! What drew you to a project such at The Brightonomicon?
Oh , the script, and I knew a little bit about Robert’s writing. Not a huge amount to be honest, but as soon as I saw the script, had a look at the characters and got the measure of what it felt like, it was a bit of a no-brainer, really! It looked like it’d be a heap of fun!
And given the range of work you’ve done in the past, was it liberating to just go into a voice studio and be able to let rip?
Absolutely! Just launch into it, and it was in and out. Literally within a few hours came in and launched straight into it. We decided on a voice together, and just kind of went for it really!
You say you haven’t read many of Robert’s books before?
No, I just knew of The Brightonomicon, and so took it from there.
And are you convereted now?
Oh I’ve got the whole set now!
Obviously working with a cast such as this on a voice production is considerably rare. Is it a thrill to be a part of something like this? Even though I understand you did most of your bits indendently – is that right?Yeah, I mean, they’re odd things to do. When you do animation – well, straightforward animation, although it’s not straightforward – the voice for a character or something, they’re always singular experiences really. Although here I did have the chance to work with my friend Danny [Eastman] here! But so I never got to hang out with David [Warner] or Robert or Jason [Isaacs], or any of the guys. That’s just the nature of the thing really.Does the lack of direct interaction make it a problem?
I don’t know, you’d have to listen to it! [laughs] Fortunately I had someone great to read with, so it was fantastic. And [producer/director] Neil Gardner was very clear about what he wanted.
The position you find yourself in is clearly strong. Lord of the Rings and King Kong alone have brought you quite a fan base, as the queue forming behind us shows. Does that kind of reaction take you aback still?
It doesn’t take me aback. As it accumualtes you sort of get used to it. I’m always appreciative of it, and it’s never, ever been too much. It’s always seemed quite healthy and well balanced really. And, you know, it’s lovely when people appreciate your work. I think when actors run away from their work that they’re slightly crazy, really! People are just genuinely really pleased to be able to meet an talk about stuff. I’m always up for it!
And the question of the moment, really, which we’re surely nobody has ever asked. But would you be looking to get involved in The Hobbit?
Yeah, well if The Hobbit happens, and there’s reason to believe that it will, then I think I’m in with a chance! Gollum is very much part of The Hobbit, after all.
And can we ask you about your work behind the camera? You’ve been working on short films and we’d imagine you’ve as broad an experience of the modern film process as any actor. What’s your ambition when it comes to behind the camera work?Well, before I became an actor I was a visual artist, and I’ve always hankered for the storytelling behind the camera. So I’ve directed short films and I’ve directed theatre, and last year I directed a performance for a game called Heavenly Sword on the Playstation 3. So consqeuently, I’ve been over the last five or six years been gearing myself up towards directing my first feature. And I’m working on a couple of projects at the moment, and they could be falling into place. So that’s the next big step, really.
Is it something you’d like to move into exclusively?
No, no, no. I’m an actor, a director, and it’s easier these days to move in and out of either of those roles, really.
Do you specifically look for smaller fare as much as anything else now, and you’re more keen for projects you can do a bit quicker. Or are you still keen to immerse yourself in special effects-driven blockbusters?
Oh, it’s all about script really. You don’t look at the size of the project. Actually, yes, it’s been nice since King Kong finished being back home in England – although we went back to New Zealand to do Heavenly Sword – but I’ve enjoyed this year working at home, and being with my family, and getting to choose smaller projects. This year I did a couple of very low budget British films…
Yeah, it’s a comedy horror film that was great fun to work on, with Paul Andrew Williams who did London to Brighton. That was great fun. And also I shot a film last year called Rendition with James Threapleton – it was his first feature – and Gary Love’s first feature, Sugarhouse. It all comes down to the script though, and whether the characters are interesting.
You’re working with a lot of first and second time writers and directors too. Is that part and parcel of it, too?
Well, it’s the story and the characters first. And it happens to be tied in with people, too. I knew Gary as an actor and really admired his acting, and James is a highly intelligent man who had a great and important story to tell. So there are different reasons why you take on a project.
And The Cottage is just a brilliant piece of work! It’s totally, totally different from London To Brighton – it’s the anti-film to it. Just so people are clear, it’s very much a departure, in fact it was written well before London To Brighton. It was going to happen four years ago! Paul Andrew Williams is a very ecelectic filmmaker and has a wide range of stuff to offer.
And finally, is there anything more you can tell us about Tintin?
Yes, it’s happening. I’m going off to do a little bit of work on it in March, and then it starts shooting properly in September. Steven Spielberg is directing one, and Peter Jackson is directing another. That’s about as much as I know at the moment! But they’re looking for to make a trilogy.
Andy Serkis, thank you very much.