'I think — everyone assumes — that at some point those two characters are going to go toe-to-toe'
When he heard Tom Hardy’s voice on the other end of the line several years back, Andy Serkis was hoping he was about to pitch a project the two of them could collaborate on.
“He’s an actor I had wanted to work with for years,” Serkis says in a video call from London, England.
Hardy peppered his fellow Brit with questions about performance capture acting — something Serkis perfected as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films, Caesar in the Planet of the Apes movies and Supreme Leader Snoke in the Star Wars sequel trilogy — but then he didn’t call back.
“We didn’t speak again for a while, and when the movie came out, I realized he was talking about Venom.”
Hardy played the dual role of Venom, an alien symbiote, and Eddie Brock, an investigative reporter, in the 2018 smash adaptation of the Marvel Spider-Man spinoff. Serkis counted himself among the legion of fans that backed the film that helped launch a Spider-Verse of Marvel characters that will include Jared Leto’s Morbius and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Kraven the Hunter.
Fast-forward two years later and, when Hardy rang up again, it was to ask if Serkis would be interested in directing the sequel — Venom: Let There Be Carnage (in theatres today).
“I was super-excited because I loved his performance in Venom, and I loved the world. That kind of darker end of the swimming pool of the Marvel characters,” the actor-turned-director tells the Sun.
With Hardy back — this time squaring off against Woody Harrelson and Naomie Harris’ villainous duo of Carnage and Shriek — it was a dream movie collaboration.
“We have similar sensibilities. We like edgy, marginal characters that are outsiders,” Serkis, 57, says. “It felt very much in my wheelhouse and his. That’s why it felt right … So I was thrilled when Venom came my way and that I got a chance to experience this kind of movie-making.”
The new entry finds Brock struggling to co-exist with the extra-terrestrial space alien that inhabits him as he tries to ascertain the location of the victims of an imprisoned serial killer, Cletus Kasady (Harrelson), who becomes infected by the same symbiote that turns him into the shape-shifting Carnage.
“Eddie and Venom are kind of an odd couple,” Serkis says. “Two years into that relationship, you can see both of them have agendas and want their own ‘me’ time. And then along with that, there’s the introduction of one of the great supervillains in Carnage.”
With rumours now swirling of an eventual crossover storyline involving Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and Hardy’s Venom, Serkis says there’s a never-ending range of possibilities for Sony’s Spider-Verse slate of films.
“There’s a massive roster of complex antiheroes and supervillains, so I’m happy for all Spider-Man fans because of the richness to come,” the filmmaker says.
Speaking via Zoom, Serkis spoke about his foray into the world of comic-book movies and teased more of Venom’s and Spider-Man’s eventual on-screen showdown.
Tom Hardy has a story credit on this movie. How did he pitch his vision for the sequel?
“He wanted it so you always cared about the characters. He and (screenwriter) Kelly Marcel wanted you to empathize with them despite the fact that a lot of them are broken characters. So having that grounding and then letting the comedy fly off and play through (Eddie’s and Venom’s) dysfunctionality and their odd-couple relationship. It all seemed, tonally, to make sense to me.”
Why do you think Venom has endured as a popular Marvel character?
“There are so many rough edges to the character. He’s a truth teller. In the relationship with Eddie, he can’t help but put a mirror up to him. But there’s also an innocence to him in a way. There’s something charming about him despite the fact that he bites people’s heads off. So it’s the bumbling, roiling mix of personalities all wrapped up in this complex creature that has chosen to stay on this planet because he thinks he can do some good.”
Why was Carnage the right villain for the sequel?
“Eddie and Venom are truly symbiotic. They can only exist with each other. Whereas with Cletus and Carnage, they are intrinsically narcissistic, and they can’t truly be in one another’s corner or empathize with each other. Carnage is also a complex and different symbiote to Venom in the way that he fights, moves, thinks, shape-shifts, transforms — and those were exciting possibilities. That’s why I think he’s such a potent supervillain for Venom to fight.”
Does Venom exist in the same MCU world as Tom Holland’s Spider-Man?
“Of course, those characters in the comics spend time together. So eventually those two might come together. But between now and then, there’s room for plenty of other interesting stories which will involve other supervillains and nemesis characters. I think — everyone assumes — that at some point those two characters are going to go toe-to-toe. But when that moment is, who knows?”
How do you imagine that first meeting between Venom and Spider-Man will go?
“It’s hard to say. I can’t imagine that it won’t involve some humour.”
OK, so how many Spider-Verse Easter eggs should people keep their eyes peeled for?
“There’s a fair number, just kind of dropped in all the way along. Little things here and there to excite the tastebuds.”
You played the Marvel villain Ulysses Klaue in Avengers: Age of Ultron and Black Panther. Is he ever going to come back?
“Oh dear old Ulysses. I would love to think that one day, given that we live in a world of going forwards and backwards in time, he might come back. But, who am I to say?”
It’s been 20 years since you appeared as Gollum in Lord of the Rings. What was the key to unlocking that character?
“I always thought of the ring and the power of the ring as something that I could latch on to in a meaningful way. So it was really the notion of it being a powerful drug that not only controls his mind, but depletes his body. He can’t get enough of it. The dual parts of his personality — and the fighting that ensued — was really based on that notion.”
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is in theatres now