From sneered-at needless sequel to a dead franchise to the lone summer blockbuster that managed to pick up both good reviews and a storming box office (it's closing in on $500 million worldwide), "Rise of the Planet of the Apes" was probably the most pleasant surprise of the year. And what was perhaps most interesting about how 20th Century Fox turned it around; human stars James Franco and Frieda Pinto took a backseat on the press circuit to a man whose face wasn't seen once on screen in the film -- mo-cap maestro Andy Serkis, who played lead ape Caesar.
Having played Gollum, King Kong and Captain Haddock via performance capture in the past, Serkis killed it as Caesar, to all intents and purposes the film's lead, and whispers of Oscar have even circled his performance since it opened in August. While news has, until then, been quiet on the sequel front, it was only a matter of time before it popped up, and Deadline report that Fox have got the ball rolling by locking down their most valuable primate.
According to the site, the studio have locked Serkis into a deal to reprise the role of Caesar in multiple sequels to "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," with the actor set to earn well over seven figures, likely his biggest payday to date. Joining him, at least for the next film, will be director Rupert Wyatt, who's become quite the hot property since the film's release -- his original deal locked him in for at least one follow-up. Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, who penned the draft that got the film made, will also return, and will produce the next film as well.
Not yet in the picture? Franco and Pinto, generally seen as the weakest link in the first film. Franco's character was originally meant to die, but last-minute reshoots saved him. The film concluding as it did, however, things didn't look too good for, well, any human characters, and a decision won't be made on courting Franco and his screen missus to return until it's clear whether their characters will be needed or not. There's no timeframe on the follow-up yet; it's clearly a priority for Fox, but with no script in place, we'd be surprised if "Beneath The Battle Of The Escape From The Conquest Of The Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes" appeared before the summer of 2014.
Meanwhile, the studio have confirmed to Deadline that they'll be launching an Oscar campaign for Serkis, something that, to be honest, was probably always going to be the case. The thing is, as we've said before, we think his chances of getting in are minimal. Even assuming he campaigns in the less competitive Best Supporting Actor category (he is the film's lead, but it's the kind of category shenanigans that they could get away with), there's still a great suspicion of performance-capture among the acting branch, particularly with mixed messages being given out -- James Cameron insists it's an actor-led medium, but "The Adventures of Tintin" crew are adamant that it's bolstered by animators, in an attempt to qualify for the Best Animated Feature category at the Oscars. We'll see how things turn out, but fans shouldn't hold their breath too long.