Andy Serkis in mo-cap rigging (Lucasfilm/StarWars.com)
When Jon Favreau’s The Jungle Book came out earlier this year and won glowing reviews and staggering box-office receipts, many wondered what the point was of Andy Serkis directing his own version of the Rudyard Kipling book for Warner Bros. Yes, it’s got a great cast including Cate Blanchett and Benedict Cumberbatch, and Planet of the Apes veteran Serkis is a motion-capture pioneer, but what can it bring to the table that Favreau’s didn’t already? We put that question to Serkis at the Vanity Fair/Chopard party, held in honor of the Cannes Film Festival.
“Ours is for a slightly older audience,” Serkis noted, though it will blend live action and computer graphics in a similar fashion. “It’s a PG-13, more a kind of Apes movie, a slightly darker take, closer to Rudyard Kipling’s.” Serkis said that movies these days are too cautious when it comes to children. “Which is wrong,” said Serkis. “It’s great to scare kids in a safe environment because it’s an important part of development, and we all loved to be scared as kids, so we shouldn’t overly protect them.”
“Kids are so sophisticated,” he continued, “and that is why our Jungle Book is quite dark. … It’s a story of an outsider, someone who is trying to accept the laws and customs of a particular way of living and then has to adapt to another culture, a human culture, which of course he should be able to adapt to, because this is what he is. So it’s about two different species and their laws and customs, and neither are entirely right.”
But for now, Serkis is prepping to direct his first live-action film, Breathe, in three weeks; he was at Cannes to secure the last of the financing. It’s the “small but beautiful” true story of an adventurous couple who continue to travel the world even after the man is paralyzed by polio, and is actually about the parents of Serkis’s production partner in the Imaginarium Studios, Jonathan Cavendish. Andrew Garfield and Claire Foy (soon to be seen as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s event series The Crown) play the leads, and despite the downer premise, he promises it’s funny and uplifting. “It’s a polio comedy!” said Serkis. “We’re starting a new genre. We saw a real gap.”