‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’: Andy Serkis’ Villainous Character Details Unveiled

     November 12, 2015


The only official image of Andy Serkis’ character in J.J. Abram’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens is the in-process motion-capture shot pictured above. That hasn’t changed yet – unless you’ve scoped some questionable concept art that’s been floating around the Internet – but Serkis has at least been allowed to talk about his character Supreme Leader Snoke at long last.

In one of many interviews with EW for the latest Star Wars film, Serkis provided the first solid details about the mysterious character. Not only do we get hints of Snoke’s visual appearance – and why it couldn’t be done practically – we also learn a bit about his motivations, outlook, and alignment with the forces of good and evil, light and dark.

andy-serkis-motion-captureSerkis feels fan frustrations at the amount of secrecy surrounding his character, especially since he wasn’t even allowed to see the fully realized Supreme Leader Snoke himself:

“It’s the first time I’ve been on set not yet knowing what the character’s gonna look like. I mean talk about secrecy!”

What’s interesting, however, is that the character’s look evolved based on Serkis’ performance with input from both the motion-capture master and director Abrams:

“When we first started working on it, he had some rough notions of how Snoke was gonna look, but it really hadn’t been fully-formed and it almost came out of discussion and performance,”

In other words, those concept art images that leaked might be from very early stages, if they’re legit at all. The character still went through changes even after principle photography had wrapped:

“We shot on set of course, and I was in the scenes I have with other actors, but the beauty of this process is you can go back and reiterate, keep informing and honing beats and moments,” Serkis says. “So J.J., after we shot last year, we’ve had a series of sessions where I’d be in London at The Imaginarium, my studio, while he’s been directing from L.A., and we’ve literally been creating further additions and iterations to the character. That’s been fascinating. And in the meantime I’ve been able to see the look and design of the character grow and change as the performances change. So it’s been really exciting in that respect.”

andy-serkis-motion-captureThough we likely won’t see Snoke until the film officially opens – unless some TV spot or toy spoils it – Serkis did provide some character details on the “long-range schemer, [who’s] not an impulsive hothead type”:

“Supreme Leader Snoke is quite an enigmatic character, and strangely vulnerable at the same time as being quite powerful,” Serkis says. “Obviously he has a huge agenda. He has suffered a lot of damage. As I said, there is a strange vulnerability to him, which belies his true agenda, I suppose.”

Even though Abrams’ vision uses a lot of practical effects, the size and scale of Snoke wouldn’t make traditional make-up and prosthetics, well, practical:

“The scale of him, for instance, is one reason. He is large. He appears tall. And also just the facial design – you couldn’t have gotten there with prosthetics. It’s too extreme. Without giving too much away at this point, he has a very distinctive, idiosyncratic bone structure and facial structure. You could never have done it [in real life.]”

Snoke and Maz Kanata, Lupita Nyong’o’s character, “are the only two performance-capture characters in an otherwise very analog world.”


Image via Lucasfilm

Since Serkis described Snoke as “damaged”, one wonders if this means physical and/or psychological damage sustained in the conflict between the Rebellion and the Empire:

“No, he’s a new character in this universe. It is very much a newly-introduced character,” Serkis says. “He’s aware of what’s gone on, in the respect that he has been around and is aware of prior events. I think it’d be fair to say that he is aware of the past to a great degree.”

And yet, he’s looking to sow more discord in the universe, thus continuing the great cycle of destruction and resurrection. We can put these details together with some comments from Abrams in an interview with Empire earlier this year, in which he explained:

“Kylo Ren is not a Sith. He works under Supreme Leader Snoke, who is a powerful figure on the Dark Side of the Force.”

andy-serkis-motion-captureSo Serkis’ character reigns atop the First Order, a military group that presumably longs to continue along the path that the Empire embarked upon:

“That all came out of conversations about what would have happened if the Nazis all went to Argentina but then started working together again?’” Abrams reveals. “What could be born of that? Could The First Order exist as a group that actually admired The Empire? Could the work of The Empire be seen as unfulfilled? And could Vader be a martyr? Could there be a need to see through what didn’t get done?”

Those comments make more sense in light of the full trailer for the film, especially with Kylo Ren nearly deifying Vader while holding his iconic helmet. Just exactly how Snoke fits into this whole picture remains to be seen, but will certainly be revealed on December 18th.

For more on Star Wars: The Force Awakens, be sure to check out some of our recent coverage here:


Image via Lucasfilm

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