Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is generally acknowledged to be one of the greatest cinematic adaptations of all time. In a sea of talented actors and perfect casting choices, Andy Serkis in the role of Gollum/Smeagol was immediately a breakout hit. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Serkis explained how he used to walk around on all fours even when the cameras were not rolling in order to inhabit the mental space of his character.
“I used to walk on all fours off set when we were filming Lord of the Rings. I spent a lot of time in preparation for that [as Gollum]; I would go off for walks on all fours for hours. I did occasionally come into contact with other people, so I just had to pretend I was looking for something. It’s fair to say that’s pretty method.”
In the novels that the movies were based on, Gollum was a former Hobbit who had chanced upon the One Ring of Power and become utterly corrupted by its magic, turning into a wretched, animal-like wreck of his former self obsessed with snatching the ring back from Sam and Frodo.
In a story filled with wild and fantastical creatures, Gollum was the strangest of them all, a being considered weird and twisted even by the other characters. Such a remarkable character needed a truly remarkable performance, and Andy Serkis was happy to oblige.
Despite the fact that Gollum’s appearance was entirely digitized, his every movement was informed by Serkis’ acting via motion capture. The technology was still in its infancy at the time, and Serkis as Gollum is widely credited with bringing motion capture tech into the mainstream in filmmaking. According to Serkis, it was a good thing that the attention he received for his role in The Lord of the Rings came relatively late in his career.
“I don’t think I could have handled the sort of fame Lord of the Rings sparked if I’d been younger. I was in my late 30s when it exploded. I’m grateful it happened when it did. It was an extraordinary time; so many things came out of that experience and whether I like it or not that role lives with me on a daily basis. It will never go away.”
After playing the role of Gollum, for a long time Serkis was viewed as the face of motion capture in Hollywood, landing such notable roles as King Kong in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of the story of the giant ape, and the leading role of Caesar the chimpanzee in The Planet of the Apes trilogy.
With the news that Amazon Studios is rebooting The Lord of the Rings as a television series depicting the early years of the rise of Sauron and the forging of the One Ring, some fans are wondering if they will see Serkis’ Gollum popping up on the show at some point. Even if that does not end up happening, the actor’s legacy in connection with that particular franchise remains secure based on Jackson’s original trilogy alone.
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