By Jeff Labrecque
July 15, 2014 at 03:35 PM EDT
WETA; Marvel

Andy Serkis is the star of Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, the weekend’s top film, and his performance as the first great ape is drawing attention—again—for his unique brand of artistic expression that fuses drama with digital effects. Some even think it deserves to be considered for an Academy Award. Yet in most serious cinematic discussion, his genius is frequently discounted: Yes, he’s amazing as Gollum and Kong and Caesar, but if only he could nab a real-person role that unleashed his gift and let us see the real him.

Folks, Serkis isn’t stuck in some motion-capture ghetto; he’s constructing an empire. Three years ago, he founded Imaginarium Studios, which has become the go-to outfit for mo-cap production and expertise. Not only has the special-effects company attracted attention to Serkis’ plans for Animal Farm and Jungle Book film projects, but Serkis has been recruited for the upcoming Star Wars and The Avengers sequels.

In April, Mark Ruffalo revealed in a tweet that his old 13 Going on 30 co-star was mentoring him on the mo-cap technology to make his Hulk bigger and better in The Age of Ultron, and Serkis parlayed his participation into a mystery role in the billion-dollar franchise. Could it be Thanos, the purple-skinned villain pulling all the strings? “I’d have to deny that character at this point,” Serkis told the Daily Beast last week. “But I am playing a character. I was really thrilled that Joss Whedon asked me to be involved. It’s fantastic. I’ve had a ball working with them, both as performance capture consultant through the Imaginarium, but also being asked to be in it. But I can’t say anything more!”

If not Thanos, than whom? Perhaps the Hulkbuster armor that Iron Man uses against a too-angry Hulk? That might explain the close collaboration between Serkis and Ruffalo.

So, for those of you keeping track at home, Serkis is now an essential part of Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and the Marvel universe, as well as playing King Kong and starring in the Planet of the Apes franchise. With a resume like that, don’t have to feel too bad that he doesn’t show his face in his movies.