Father's pioneering polio work prepared Andy Serkis to direct Breathe

The Lord of the Rings star felt more than qualified to direct pal Jonathan Cavendish's touching film about his late father's battle with polio.

Actor Andy Serkis felt sure he was the right man to direct Robin and Diana Cavendish's biopic Breathe, because he grew up around polio victims.

The sister of the Lord of the Rings star, who made his directorial debut with the film, has also been wheelchair bound with multiple sclerosis for a decade.

"My dad was a doctor and my mum taught special needs kids," Serkis explains. "Because of that, I knew a lot about polio, spina bifida, the side effects of thalidomide and all those other diseases.

"In the film Sex, Drugs & Rock & Roll, I played the singer Ian Dury, a famous polio survivor. My sister, who has multiple sclerosis, has been wheelchair bound for 10 years now. It's hard for her even now, but in 1960, to choose to take yourself out of hospital was to choose to be two minutes away from death at any time."

Robin Cavendish, portrayed by Andrew Garfield in the acclaimed new movie, did just that - and survived for years, living a full life with the help of his wife Diana and their friends.

The Cavendish's son, Jonathan, who produced the film, had no hesitation in trusting his longtime pal Serkis with his parents' life story.

Jonathan and Andy established production company The Imaginarium together. The the firm was behind the pioneering performance-capture segments in the Lord of the Rings and the Planet of the Apes films.

Serkis used the technology to create Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies and ape leader Caesar in the Planet of the Apes franchise.

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