Andy Serkis

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Interviewed by Neil Davey

British actor Andy Serkis may become the first ever person to win an Oscar for playing a computer-generated character. Initially hired for three weeks to play Gollum in Peter Jackson's "The Two Towers", he ended up spending more time on set than any other actor. Here's why...

Gollum, the character you play in "The Two Towers", is computer-generated. How does that work?

To make the character work with the live action, Peter [Jackson, the director] wanted Gollum to be actor-led, to shoot the part conventionally and then animate.

We'd rehearse the scene, as you would any film, and then shoot two versions. One with me in and then one with me off-screen. So I was acting Gollum wherever we were on location.

What involvement did you have in the development of the character?

Gollum was mainly created using motion capture. I'd go into a studio and put on one of those suits with reflective dots all over it. The dots corresponded to a joint in my body. Twenty-five cameras fed the information into a computer that calibrated the movements of a computer-generated puppet, so I could see Gollum move as I moved. They'd also video my face to help the animators.

As for the performance, it's daunting because everyone has a very clear idea of what Gollum is. Tolkien described the way Gollum speaks, his psychology, and how he moves. This was all very useful for me!

It's the lust for the ring that drives him and I wanted to find a modern connection to that. Gollum's personality is fractured. There's a side that's a victim and a side that's aggressive, but ultimately he's controlled by this powerful thing, this obsession. So I decided to play him like an addict.

And the voice is all yours?

Gollum's pain is trapped in his throat and I wanted the "gollum" to be something muscular, not just a noise. So movement-wise, I based it on our cats when they get a furball! It did put quite a strain on my throat. I had this mix of ginger, honey, lemon, and warm water that we called "Gollum Juice". Over two and a half years I've drunk gallons of it!

"Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" opens in UK cinemas on Wednesday 18th December 2002.