Earlier today TheWrap‘s Steve Pond posted an interview with WETA’s Joe Letteri that includes a discussion prompted by (and referring to) a recent HE riff about Dawn of the Planet of the Apes star Andy Serkis deserving an acting nomination. Serkis has stated in interviews that his performance as Caesar is his own and that WETA has essentially provided “digital makeup.” Letteri’s response: “I know that Andy has used that metaphor of digital makeup before, but I think that he was just trying to explain it to an audience that was not technically very savvy. The difference is that makeup is passive. And the more makeup you put on, the more it actually deadens the performance. [Which is why] we sometimes need to enhance the performance. So yes, we do make those sorts of translations all the time. Sometimes we have to exaggerate it so it reads in camera.”
Hilarious! In a very polite and respectful way, Letteri has helped to kill Serkis’ shot at a Best Actor nomination. Serkis to Letteri backstage at an awards event five or six months hence: “Thanks, Joe!” The best Serkis can hope for at this stage, I guess, is some kind of special Oscar nomination.
Here’s Dawn director Matt Reeves offering his explanation in a recent HE interview: “The subtlety, the emotionality….what you’re responding to is Andy. Andy’s performance is amazing. There’s a version of this movie that’s just Andy on his own with WETA additions, and that version works emotionally. [But] it’s not quite as simple as what you’re saying [about WTA providing digital makeup]. The term ‘digital makeup was to some degree was coined by WETA, but it’s an oversimplification. What WETA does is, they translate what Andy does onto an anatomy of an ape….the WETA guys have to translate what is in Andy’s eyes…what WETA is doing is equally fantastic, but in a different category. This is not done without artistry but their artistry is in taking Andy’s performance and translated it into an ape…so ‘translated’ is the term, but it’s no easy task.”