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Andy Serkis: Where Shire Meets Scion

2 October 2013 | Mary Howell

Andy Serkis has recognised the feature length potential in author of the moment Samantha Shannon's debut novel The Bone Season. London Calling finds out more about the creative process behind making the film, how working with Peter Jackson has influenced his career and, of course, about Gollum and The Hobbit.

At the tender age of 22, Samantha Shannon’s already got her feet firmly set on the path to literary stardom. Having been catapulted into the limelight after her debut novel, The Bone Season, reached bestselling status, international ‘next J K Rowling‘ predictions have started amassing around her.

The Bone Season is the first installment of her seven part fantasy series. Paige Mahoney has a curious gift. She can break into people’s minds. At the start of our journey she is working for the criminal underworld of Scion London; a dystopian city set in 2059. As a mighty, supernatural race slumbers at the doorstep to her world, Paige’s life is soon set to change forever...

Gripping stuff! Similarly to Potter, the books are set to make their mark in the film world. Andy Serkis (aka Lord Of The Rings’ Golum) quickly recognised the story’s capacity to be translated into a feature length film. Now that his Ealing based Imaginarium Studios are in the process of delivering Samantha’s words to the big screen, Serkis tells London Calling more…
 
 
London Calling: What is it about The Bone Season that compelled you to include it in The Imaginarium Studio's very first slate of films?

Andy Serkis: 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 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.

LC:  Have you met Samantha Shannon and how involved will she be in the film's production?

AS: 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.

LC:  Can you tell us about how the creative process for adapting a story like The Bone Season begins?

AS: 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.

LC: 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?

AS: It would be impossible to single out any one 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.

LC: Will performance capture come mostly into play when portraying Shannon's Rephaim race on screen in The Bone Season? Can you give us any insight into how you'd like these characters to appear?

AS: 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.

LC: Animal Farm is the other film on your inaugural slate. What can you tell us about this project?

AS: 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.

LC: You're 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)?

AS: Mountain Climber.
 
There's no release date for The Bone Season’s screen debut just yet, so you’ve plenty of time to get the first installment down. Your copy of the next big thing is waiting for you here.

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