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SAS: Red Notice's Andy Serkis On Comparing Movie-Making To A Military Operation - Exclusive

The actor who previously had the privilege of bringing Gollum to life in Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy, Andy Serkis, is now inhabiting a different kind of role — one that involves far less motion capture tech. 

He stars as one of the main characters in SAS: Red Notice, a new action-filled thriller directed by Magnus Martens. This time around, his character is George Clements, a member of the Special Air Service (SAS), a British Army special forces unit. As he is deployed to take down the terrorist group holding a passenger train hostage in the Channel Tunnel, his tenacious nature prevails. Clements is composed in the face of the mayhem. When blood is being spilled in all directions and captives are terrified to the core, Clements keeps his cool.

The film is adapted from Andy McNab's Red Notice, and unlike many book-to-film projects, the author remained heavily involved with the production. He spent an ample amount of time on the set, informing the actors about their respective characters. Serkis said that he had no problem getting himself immersed in McNab's world, and credits the author's advice with easing the process. "I sort of took my cues from him, really," Serkis explained to Looper during an exclusive chat. 

Getting to know McNab, he could see the similarities between the writer and Clements: "In many respects, if you had to sit and have a drink with Andy or with Clements, you just wouldn't ever get to really know all the layers beneath. However, the superficial level is one of complete and utter charm, straightforwardness, and straight-talking. And the thing is, he's deeply honest."

Interestingly, Serkis found some parallels with his own career in Clements' honest accounts of military life.

Serkis on finding the calm side of a military operative

McNab was a member of the special forces himself, and his books draw on that experience. Red Notice is part of the Tom Buckingham series, and in this movie, Sam Heughan plays the lead charming sociopath. Serkis absorbed McNab's true stories, digesting them into his uncanny performance. "He's such a fascinating man. He taught military skills to me, showing me how controlled it is and how there's a level of psychopathy as an actor — you're going undercover and creating a role," said Serkis. 

McNab was also able to show Serkis how to approach a position in the military, leaving any preconceived notions behind: "He explained how he's able to disconnect emotionally to carry out the things he has to do. I tried to imbibe as much as I could from him."

After spending so much time with McNab, Serkis found direct parallels between movie-making and military operations. "In terms of creating a movie, for instance," he noted, "building a movie and going on-location and setting up a base camp, those are all military operations. In fact, the filmmaking system is built around a military strategy plan, I suppose, in terms of chain of command and so forth."

Watch Andy Serkis become the calm and collected special forces agent George Clements in SAS: Red Notice, now streaming.