You may never have seen his face, but his name and roles have crossed many borders.
At 53, his voice, gestures and mimicking abilities have enabled him to bring myriad characters to life, including Gollum, the alien cave creature in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, or “King Kong” – no introductions needed there. He is also Captain Haddock in the Spielberg adaptation of Tintin but his incredible talent was truly confirmed when he stepped into the skin of Caesar, the talking and thinking chimpanzee in “Planet of the Apes”.
To play Caesar in “Planet of the Apes”, I had to put on a kind of tight-fitting suit so that there would be no “wastage” in my movements. Sensors resembling pellets were placed on the suit and were all recognized by a special camera that transferred each of my gestures to a computer. Every time the actor in me moved, powerful computers showed my virtual character come to life on a screen and evolve in its own environment! The technique is called motion capture performance. My strength is that I have never let myself get swamped by technology. It is a tool and in no way a crutch I have to rely on!
I draw a parallel between this and people who make wine using a computer. I read that in a magazine once. The machine is managed by software and takes care of the winemaking process. I don't doubt the process but I think that by losing the tradition and sense of place that the machine can't feel, we are trivializing and standardizing wine! We are turning it into a basic consumerist function based on yield and are destroying the enjoyment.
It is important for me that there should be human intervention, and that people don’t just press a button! Above all, it is vital that we don't hurry too much and that we give things time – the French have an expression for that! For hundreds of years and up until very recently, we have created such beautiful things on Earth. And we did it perfectly well without binary codes and algorithms!
By Frank Rousseau