It’s been 12 years since Andy Serkis created, via the motion capture process, the incredible persona of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He’s back in Peter Jackson’s prequel, The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey, where he not only recreated the iconic role, but took on another job of Second Unit Director.
In the movie, Martin Freeman portrays the young Bilbo Baggins, who sets out on a great adventure to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug.
Andy spoke about both of his jobs on The Hobbit An Unexpected Journey at the New York press junket.
Can you talk about your first moments back as Gollum?
He’s 540 years old in this version, he’s not 600, so he’s much hotter and will have a huge fan base with teenage girls. (he laughs)
Returning to the character 12 years later, (performance capture) wasn’t an issue.
Martin and I were able to play our scene out, and performance capture happens at exactly the same time.
When Elijah (Wood, who played Frodo) and I were working together, we were acting scenes together but I’d have to go and repeat the scenes afterwards on the motion capture stage.
Now the technology is on the set, so Martin and I played our scene out as an entire chamber theatre piece, which lasts about 12 minutes. Pete wanted to do that so that we could investigate that scene and allow Martin to experiment with the character.
Any worries about doing the character again?
The only weird thing about getting back into Gollum was these characters have been absorbed into the public’s consciousness to such a high degree, there really was a sense of, ‘Am I doing an impersonation of the character I played 12 years ago?
I feel like Gollum, I’m moving like Gollum, sounding like Gollum, but there are thousands of impersonations, is this really my version or is it a pale imitation?’
But engaging with Martin and playing that scene out was thrilling. It was an honor to watch Martin develop Bilbo in front of my eyes. It was amazing.
Can you talk about being the second unit director on Hobbit An Unexpected Journey?
It was only four weeks before going down to reprise the role of Gollum, which was only supposed to be for two weeks, that Pete invited me to be second unit (director), so it went from being a two week job to a year and a half. I was utterly thrilled, because Pete’s known that I wanted to direct for quite some time.
Basically, Pete said, ‘Look, I want you to come down and do this, and we will have fun. I want you to be bold and I want you to be there for the actors mainly.’ I think the key thing was that because there would be a lot of traffic from the main unit with actors, it wouldn’t just be doing pick up shots of maps and tankers.
It was going to be overseeing the performance level throughout all the aerial shots and battle sequences, as well as scenes.
What Pete is all about in these films is drama comes first. The emotional content of what everyone’s doing is the most important thing, regardless of the big canvass.
I think that he felt that he wanted someone that he trusted, who had been through the Middle-earth experience before, who understood his sensibility and knew how he supports performance with camera.
Andy was asked what he’s learned about himself through making these movies. Click here to listen to his reply
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