Andy Serkis, the actor who breathed life into the computer-generated characters of Gollum in the “Lord of the Rings” movies and Caesar in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” and the upcoming “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” will make his directorial debut with a live-action adaptation of “The Jungle Book” for Warner Bros., according to the Hollywood Reporter. It is unclear if Serkis will star in the film, THR reports.
Though he is best known as an actor, Serkis does have directing chops too: He served as a second unit director on Peter Jackson’s two “Hobbit” movies, including the elaborate and widely praised barrel chase scene in “The Desolation of Smaug.” He has long been a favorite among fans of fantasy films, and has given rise to a movement of sorts for Hollywood to recognize computer-aided performance as much as it does the live-action kind.
The new “Jungle” film is based on Rudyard Kipling’s 1894 short-story collection, fables of the orphan boy Mowgli who was raised by wolves in the Indian jungle. The film is said to explore life-and-death issues, with a darker tone closer to Kipling’s original stories than the well-known Disney animated version, which was released in 1967.
Serkis, whose credits also include Jackson’s “King Kong” and Steven Spielberg’s “The Adventures of Tintin,” has extensive experience working with computer-generated imagery and motion capture, which would presumably come in handy helming a film that, though live action, features numerous anthropomorphic animal characters.
As “Jungle Book” director, Serkis fills a void left by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Babel”), who left the project due to scheduling conflicts, and Ron Howard, who was briefly in talks to take the reins.
The installation of Serkis as director marks a significant step for Warner Bros., especially considering that Disney has a competing live-action “Jungle Book” project in the works. Disney’s version will be directed by “Iron Man” helmer Jon Favreau and recently cast Idris Elba as the voice of the fearsome tiger Shere Khan.