When moviegoers slipped on their 3D glasses last weekend to watch The Hobbit, they saw some familiar faces — Gandalf the Grey, Elrond the Elf and, of course, Gollum. The man behind some of the creepy intonations mouthed by characters in the film is actor Andy Serkis. The 48-year-old English actor and director is an outspoken proponent of motion capture (mocap) — a technique now used frequently by animators. Along with his work in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit series, he has to his credit mocap roles in King Kong as Kong himself, Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes and Captain Haddock in The Adventures of Tintin: Rise of the Unicorn.
How is preparing for roles like Gollum, Caesar and King Kong different from each other?
One thing the audience needs to understand is that the characters are real with emotions that we relate to. Some are slightly more anthropomorphised and some are more animal. Caesar was very much a blend because he’s a being who is trapped between the human and animal world. Kong was more gorilla-like. Gollum used to be a humanoid and has become physically wrecked by his addiction to the ring. So they’re all psychologically driven characters.
What difference do the viewers see in Gollum’s character in The Hobbit than that was in The Lord of the Rings (TLOTR)?
Gollum is 600 years old in TLOTR and in The Hobbit he’s 540, so he looks a little bit more handsome. He hasn’t been tortured by Sauron at this point. He also looks incredibly more detailed. So he feels 100% real.
How would you describe the physical side of playing Gollum?
His physicality is borne out of his addiction to the ring. That was always our way to interpret the role. His personality, the involuntary way in which his body spasms when the word Gollum comes out of his mouth, is connected to the guilt that he carries with him in his throat from murdering his cousin.
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that people are always doing their impressions of Gollum for you. Is Gollum something that haunts you?
Gollum will be with me for the rest of my life, and I will grow to look more like him as I get older.