Twelve years ago Andy Serkis introduced us to Gollum, a computer-generated character from the “Lord of the Ring” trilogy. Now, after taking on other roles in films like “King Kong” and “Rise of the Apes,” Serkis is reprising the role in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.”
Serkis spoke with FOX 411 about the iconic character, film technology and his work as a director.
FOX411: How big of a part of your life is Gollum?
Serkis: He's been like a watershed character for me twice in my life now. First of all because not only because he is an amazing character to play the first time around but it was also the beginning of this journey into a performance capture which has enabled me to play so many other amazing roles. By virtue of the fact of him arriving that whole other list of characters has been what I've been working on the last decade. And then coming back full circle to playing him again in “The Hobbit” also has brought me to directing. So both times, he's not only been this amazing creature and great character to explore, but has shifted my life.
FOX 411: Do you have any Gollum memorabilia at home?
Serkis: I've actually got a full sized sculpture of Gollum that was made by WETA, one of the early sculptures of Gollum sitting on a rock with a fish. And that sits in my office at home. It's full size. But I also was given the ring from the Two Towers movie that Elijah carried throughout the whole of the film. And Peter gave that to me at the end of the filming of Lord of the Rings.
FOX 411: How has the technology changed from the first time you did this to this time how much is different?
Serkis: Technologically what's different is the first time around we shot my performance on film. So I was acting with Elijah Wood and Sean Astin and we would all play out the scenes together, so that hasn't changed. But the thing that’s changed is that I had to then go and shoot it again on the motion capture stage. So I had to repeat everything twice. So I shot everything twice in effect. Whereas 12 years later, now we have full performance capture on set so I can just play the scene once – I’ve got a head mounted camera which is capturing all my facial expressions. The suit is able to act in a live action set and we just played the scene like, two conventional actors playing the scene with each other. So it's much, much better.
FOX 411: What do you think about that 48-frames-per-second?
Serkis: Certainly from a directorial point of view I was watching because I was filming for 200 days as second unit director and watching playback every time, was watching that higher frame rate with 3D. So you get used to it. You get used to this new way of telling story.
FOX 411: Where is your directing career going to go from here?
Serkis: Working with and collaborating with and for Peter Jackson was an incredible experience because he is such a phenomenal filmmaker. And one of the things I learned most from him--well two things really-- the first one being, that no matter how big the canvas, no matter how grand the fantasy, it's all going to be based very much in real, emotional truth. So all of these characters, they've got to have hearts. There's no point in creating these incredible worlds if you don't care about the characters. And that's really, really, important. And secondly, witnessing him as a director and what he loves is lots of choice from his actors. So when he's working on a scene, and this is what he encouraged me to do while I was directing, was to… instead of pushing in one direction and sort of just honing that direction is to get the actors to experiment with lots and lots of ways of doing things. So when you get to the edit you've got so much choice.