Gollum joins 'Rise of the Apes'

Andy Serkis has been cast in the key role of Caesar in 20th Century Fox's "Rise of the Apes," the studio's "Planet of the Apes" prequel that toplines James Franco.

Chernin Entertainment is producing the film, which also stars Freida Pinto and John Lithgow. Rupert Wyatt begins lensing the origins story next month. Film unspools in theaters June 24, 2011.

Set in present day San Francisco, "Apes" deals with the aftermath of man's experiments with genetic engineering that lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy. Franco is a driven scientist who becomes a crucial figure in the war between humans and apes.

Serkis, who was Gollum in Peter Jackson's "The Lord of the Rings" franchise, plays the chimpanzee who leads the uprising among the apes after having been raised by Franco and Lithgow's characters, who are father and son in the film.

Project reunites Serkis and Jackson's visual effects house WETA digital. WETA is rendering photo-realistic apes, rather than costumed actors, for the first time in the franchise.

Wyatt will direct "Rise of the Apes" from a script by Amanda Silver and Rick Jaffa, who will produce with Chernin Entertainment's Peter Chernin and Dylan Clark.

Serkis' upcoming credits include Steven Spielberg's "The Adventures of Tin-Tin: The Secret of the Unicorn."

Actor is repped by Lou Coulson Associates.

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