With Breathe opening in theaters this weekend, I recently spoke to Andy Serkis about his directorial debut. He talked about why people might not be expecting this kind of movie from him, how he got cinematographer Robert Richardson to shoot the film, what he learned from doing second unit directing on The Hobbit and working with Peter Jackson, how friends-and-family screenings impacted the film, taking inspiration from Pixar’s Up, and so much more. In addition, Serkis talked about why we haven’t seen much from his version of The Jungle Book yet and when he found out that J.J. Abrams was returning for Star Wars: Episode IX.
If you haven’t seen the trailers for Breathe, the film is based on the true story of Robin Cavendish (Andrew Garfield), a young man who contracted polio in 1958 and became paralyzed from the neck down, requiring a respirator to breathe. At the time, mobility for patients on a respirator was non-existent, and we watch as Cavendish struggles to live through his new condition and as his wife, played by Claire Foy, pushes him to adapt and innovate according to his new situation. Breathe also stars Tom Hollander and Hugh Bonneville.
- Serkis explains what the story is about and how it’s a pioneering take on “living near death” while keeping humor and heart.
- Shooting Breathe right after The Jungle Book.
- What it’s like promoting a film as a debut director, and why people might not be expecting this kind of movie from him.
- He jokes about blackmailing cinematographer Robert Richardson to work with him, but also how much in sync they were about the look of the film.
- What camera they used and why, and how Hateful Eight inspired some of the look.
- What he learned from doing second unit directing on The Hobbit and working with Peter Jackson.
- The length of the first cut versus the final cut of the film, and why they chose to condense the opening (by taking inspiration from Up).
- What he learned from the friends and family screening, and whether or not he’s shown it to Peter Jackson yet.
- Why we haven’t seen much from his version of The Jungle Book yet, and when we’ll start to see teases.
- When he found out that J.J. Abrams was returning for Star Wars, and looking at what’s been revealed about his own character versus what he’s not supposed to say, and navigating that.
- Having artistic license while keeping emotional truth when it comes to the real people that his movie characters are based on.
Here’s the official synopsis for Breathe:
For his directorial debut, Andy Serkis brings to life the inspiring true love story between Robin and Diana Cavendish (Academy Award® nominee Andrew Garfield, Golden Globe® winner Claire Foy), an adventurous couple who refuse to give up in the face of a devastating disease. After a fairytale-like courtship, Robin is struck down by polio at the age of 28, confined to a hospital bed and given only a few months to live. With the help of Diana’s twin brothers (Tom Hollander) and the groundbreaking ideas of inventor Teddy Hall (Hugh Bonneville), Robin and Diana dare to escape the hospital ward to seek out a full and passionate life together — raising their young son, traveling and devoting their lives to helping other polio patients. Written by two-time Academy Award nominated writer William Nicholson, and shot by three-time Academy Award winner Robert Richardson, Breathe is a heartwarming celebration of love and human possibility.