The Lord Of The Rings: Return of The King: Andy Serkis, who again plays Gollum in The Return of the King recently talked to Video Ezy about what we can expect for the third and final Lord of the Rings film:
Just going back to where it all began, how did you get the part?
I got a call from my agent and they said, "Look, they're doing this film called Lord of the Rings down in New Zealand and they're looking for someone to do three weeks' voice-over work on an animated character called Gollum." And I kind of thought, look there must be a dozen other decent acting roles and I think I said something like, "Can't you get me up for a decent part?". I'd only read The Hobbit as a kid and I didn't know Lord of the Rings, so I talked to my girlfriend about it and she said, "No, look this is a great role". I quickly read up on it and realised of course what I was dealing with and I went in and it evolved from there. I did this audition tape and it was sent to New Zealand and when Peter Jackson came over to London to audition he basically said that it wasn't going to be an animated character - it was to finally manifest itself as a CG character, but they wanted an actor to actually play the role, be on set, shoot every single scene, be responsible for the acting decisions - who he is. That was the point of departure really.
You have a theatrical background. Did you have any reservations about playing a CG character?
Well, originally I thought Gollum's such a fantastic character, why are you doing him CG? Surely you need to be able to humanise him as much as possible - he's so full of pathos and real emotion. It's just basically there were no forebears or good examples of CG characters really working on the level that I thought you needed for Gollum.
It's easy to forget you're watching a CG creation. When you first saw Gollum in action, did you connect with him in the same way as other characters you've played?
Oh, totally. Basically we did shoot every single scene on set. I say to people I've acted Gollum because I've not approached it any differently to any other role I've ever played in my life. I just found a voice, a physicality, a psychology and a way into the character as I would any role in theatre, film or TV. It's no different other than his want and need is a ring and he's 500 years old.
Speaking of the voice, or rather voices, how did you go about finding the characters' distinctive sound?
A lot of the clues came out of the way Tolkien writes the character, but what I really wanted to do and I suppose where I started from as an actor was trying to find a metaphor for what the ring was. In order to play it, rather than have it as this object of great power, I wanted something real or tangible that I could actually play as an actor. So I came up with the idea of it being like an addiction, which really led to me playing him as an addict. The whole psychology of the role is based on an addict's mentality.
That kind of led into the voice. I wanted to see where his pain was trapped and decided the throat was where he carried his pain. It was almost like Tourette syndrome or a muscle memory of him killing his cousin for the ring. So this constriction in the throat is born out of guilt and his pathological state.
That was psychologically how I got into it. Then on a physical level, the voice came out from [watching] my cats. When they get fur trapped in their throats they basically chuck up this furry sputum. Their whole bodies convulse and they go (makes choking noises) and that became "Gollum, Gollum" (in voice). So it's a combination of these things which were images and then this psychological route into the character which formed the voice.
But the voice couldn't just exist on its own; it had to be part of a physicality. I wanted the audience to see and feel Gollum's pain in his movement, hence making him crawl around on all fours all the time - which is pretty amazing considering I did it for four years, it nearly killed my back doing it - but it works well because he stops being this alien, comic book character and he becomes this tortured, bizarre cross between a heroin junkie with a child's mentality at times. Fran Walsh (one of the screenwriters) and I drew a lot from our children as a way into the role. The Sm