Hollywood’s reigning king of motion capture performance is planning to adapt another literary classic. Just days after his film Mowgli was acquired by Netflix from Warner Bros., Serkis’ next film, an adaptation of George Orwell’s classic parable Animal Farm, has been snapped up by Netflix as well. Serkis will direct the motion-capture-based feature, with Matt Reeves as a producer. Reeves of course directed Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, in which Serkis starred, so this is a pretty significant reunion.
Orwell’s allegorical novel concerned a group of farm animals who revolt to throw off the shackles of human impression, borrowing heavily from the Marxist revolution in 1917 Russian. At first, the newly created, animal-run farm seems like a paradise, but the altruistic intent is slowly undermined by a pig named Napoleon who cunningly eliminates his rivals and consolidates power until the animals are in just as poor a situation as when they started. Moral of the story: Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The film has reportedly been something of a dream project for Serkis, and it’s easy to see why—as he did in the upcoming Mowgli, there are endless opportunities to anthropomorphize the animal cast of the novel through the use of motion capture. Of course this is likely to mean that we’ll all be talking about “how weird do these animals look?” when we see a trailer a year from now, but such chatter is inevitable when you’re trying to broaden a film’s artistic sensibilities outside of the norm.
“We are incredibly excited to have finally found the perfect creative home in Netflix for this extraordinarily zeitgeist work by George Orwell,” Serkis said in a statement. “On top of that, to be re-united with my great friend Matt Reeves—with his acute sensitivity, storytelling intelligence and honesty and command in this realm—is to have the very best scenario for our long-held passion to bring this fable alive.”
Reeves, meanwhile, said the following: “Andy is such an incredible artist—he is truly a force of nature and a beautiful soul. To be able to work with him again and with Jonathan and Netflix to see Orwell’s classic tale brought to life in a totally new and exciting way is an absolute dream.”
Years after coming to popular attention through his portrayal of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, Serkis is more visible than ever at age 54. His directorial debut Breathe was released in 2017, and he had a major supporting role in 2018’s Black Panther. Between Mowgli and Animal Farm, we could be seeing the emergence of a new heavy hitter in terms of Hollywood directing.