Serkis was giving the press Q&A specifically to talk about The Bone Season, the new book for which he and his team at The Imaginarium have obtained the film rights. This first novel in a new fantasy series is a real page turner, and has great potential for the big screen – and Serkis was clearly excited to tell us about it! He also talks about other upcoming projects, how working with Peter Jackson has influenced his career, and, in response to the questions put to him specifically by TORn, he leaves us with a tantalizing remark about Gollum and The Hobbit…
What is it about The Bone Season that compelled you to include it in The Imaginarium Studio’s very first slate of films?
We first came across the manuscript at the London Book Fair and immediately fell in love with the scope, the scale and the exceptional detail of the world Samantha Shannon had created. It’s a really compelling story with such a great central character – we all immediately saw its potential as a fantastic feature film.
Have you met author Samantha Shannon? How involved will she be in the film’s production?
Yes of course – she’s a delightful, incredibly intelligent person. She’s very warm and a passionate storyteller – dedicated beyond belief. We’re working very closely with her on all aspects of bringing the world of the book to the screen. We’ve been involving her with all the early concept artwork that we’re beginning to put together. Obviously it’s her world so we want to make sure we bring it to life in the way that she wants.
Can you tell us about how the creative process for adapting a story like The Bone Season begins?
It begins with knowing the story you want to tell. There are thousands of stories contained within the world that Samantha has created – we have to be very disciplined about opening up the world in a way that will lead us on to further investigation in the rest of the series. We need to find the emotional heart of the story; the relationships; the tension; the suspense and the drive; and of course working closely with Samantha is going to make it much easier.
At this very early stage it’s about finding the right writer and the right approach to telling the story. Hand in hand with developing the screenplay, it’s also about developing the visual world and bringing that to life; finding the right visual effects team who understand Samantha’s concepts.
You have been part of bringing some of the world’s most famous and well-loved fantasy worlds to contemporary audiences. Which of your experiences across film, tv, stage and video games would you say has been most helpful in preparing you to produce The Bone Season?
It would be impossible to single out any one single experience, it’s an accumulation of all my experiences to date, but obviously having worked on The Lord of the Rings and Tolkien’s extraordinary world with Peter Jackson is incredibly useful. Peter basically gave me the opportunity to work on a lot of extraordinary characters in a lot of extraordinary worlds, and has opened up my eyes to a genre that I knew very little about before.
Will performance capture come mostly into play when portraying Shannon’s ‘Rephaim’ race [the dominant alien race in the story] on screen in The Bone Season? Can you give us any insight into how you’d like these characters to appear?
We’re in very early stages of designing how we want to portray these characters, and are exploring a variety of avenues to bring these characters to life. We’re certainly not tied to any one production technique at this early stage.
George Orwell’s Animal Farm is the other film on your inaugural slate. What can you tell us about this project?
We’re extraordinarily excited about Animal Farm. We have been working on the methodology this year, the development of the characters and the story. We’re working with a wonderful character designer and very pleased with how the animals are developing as visual characters.
In terms of story, we’re remaining very truthful to the original book; however we are relocating the setting as if Orwell were writing in the present day – we’ve been working very closely with the Orwell estate on this.
Your talents are very varied! If you could only do one thing for the rest of your career, which would you choose (stage/tv/film/video game roles, voice roles, director or producer)?
greendragon from TORn asks:
Having read The Bone Season, I would guess that this book is going to be a big hit, and it seems like a sure fire bet for a successful film. What would you say, however, makes it stand apart from the other successful ‘Young Adult’ series such as Twilight and The Hunger Games? What do you see as this writer’s own particular touch?
It’s not just a YA series. Like [the book’s publishers] Bloomsbury, we think it has huge crossover potential. It’s beautifully written and appeals to the young and old alike.
I think what sets The Bone Season apart from books in similar genres is the epic vision Samantha has for the world she’s created – it’s immensely rich and detailed. She’s fearless in her subject matter and being able to envision the various ethereal worlds she’s created.
GD: TheOneRing.net’s readers are excited to see what films come out of The Imaginarium. Is there one particular story above all others, which you’ve always wanted to see on the big screen, and which motion capture and technological advances now make it possible to film?
I’m passionate about all the stories we’re developing, but the one I’m most excited about right now is Animal Farm. I’ve wanted to make a performance capture adaptation of this book for a long time now, and it’s so exciting to see this become a reality.
GD: We couldn’t let this go without a question about Gollum! So, I wondered – how will Gollum stay with you, going forward? What parts of Gollum are intrinsically part of you? And – if I may sneak in another half to that question – can we hope that we might have another tiny glimpse of Gollum to look forward to? Any chance we might just see him in any future scenes of The Hobbit movies?
I think for good or bad Gollum is intrinsically linked to my everyday existence in some way, shape or form. Luckily he’s a character that I love!
What’s great about playing these characters in Performance Capture is the fact that the characters are what are left behind. For Gollum to have meant so much to so many people is actually the great reward for me.
Re: The Hobbit – I have no control over that and do not know, but I always say “never say never”…
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There you have it! TORn message boarders have been speculating that Gollum might just be seen leaving the Misty Mountains at the very end of the last Hobbit movie – and Andy Serkis doesn’t rule out the idea…. Grist for the rumour mill! One thing that is certain, however, is that we’ll be seeing plenty more from Serkis in future; and we can’t wait to see whatever The Imaginarium produces!
Meanwhile, if you’re intrigued about The Bone Season, you can buy the novel by clicking below; or check out the official facebook page.