“There’s this bit where a lump of gob comes out of my mouth. They kept it in the shot. It’s not CG saliva!”
Three movies, two personalities, one game-changing character. Andy Serkis revisits Gollum’s defining scenes
“I NEVER APPROACHED him as a villain,” Andy Serkis says of Gollum, the Ring-addicted wretch he portrayed via groundbreaking motion-capture techniques in three Middle-earth movies. “He’s just a weak personality and there’s a sense of ‘there but for the grace of
God go I’ with him.” Perhaps that’s why he is such an effective baddie: he’s relatable, complex, sometimes even likeable. As the following Sméagolscenes surely prove…
“What’s taters, precious?” THE TWO TOWERS (2002)
Gollum kills rabbits for his new master, Frodo (Elijah Wood), and clashes with Samwise (Sean Astin) over the best way to serve them.
“While they’re travelling together, Gollum, Frodo and Sam become a bizarre sort of dysfunctional family. So there’s a lightness and humour here. That was shot on location in the South Island, near Queenstown, and there’s this bit where a lump of gob comes out of my mouth. They kept it in the shot. It’s not CG saliva, it’s actually my own!” Sméagol vs Gollum
THE TWO TOWERS (2002)
The Sméagol and Gollum personalities battle during a fascinating soliloquy -cum-argument, with the former ordering the latter to “leave now and never come back”.
“Having shot the three films back to back, this was a scene we resculpted at the motion-capture stage. It was an extraordinary opportunity to get inside the character. We put more emphasis on the notion of the dominant older sibling and the weaker, abused younger brother. We shot it in a lot of different ways and I got to explore every single angle on that.”
The murder of Déagol
THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003)
In the third film’s prologue, we see how Gollum first obtained the One
Ring — by murdering his dear cousin Déagol (Thomas Robins) during a birthday fishing trip.
“I directed some of that — from Déagol climbing out of the water to Sméagol rugby-tackling him to the ground. Fran [Walsh] was ill, so Pete [Jackson] gave
me the opportunity. I love how Sméagol looks away [as he’s strangling Déagol], which was a collaborative decision with Fran, Phil [Boyens] and Pete. It’s much more frightening, almost like he’s not doing it, in a way. It was like the power of the Ring channelling him to carry out the murder as a way of living on.”
THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003)
The hobbit Sméagol gradually devolves and mutates, via prosthetics and then CGI, into the pallid, cave-dwelling Gollum.
“This is one of my favourite moments — you see him being consumed by the Ring. I had that 19-hour, fully prosthetic make-up and then there’s this shot where he sort of rolls his eyes and there’s an almost imperceptible shift from a fully prosthetic actor into a CG character. That’s a very symbolic moment for me.”
THE RETURN OF THE KING (2003) Seconds after regaining the Ring, Gollum plummets into the fiery heart of Mount Doom, unwittingly bringing about the destruction of Sauron.
“Part of that sequence was the very last work I ever did on Lord Of The Rings.
I’ve still got the clapperboard with my very final shot, which I believe was the moment where he and Frodo are grappling for the Ring, just before falling over the edge. There’s a beautiful symmetry in Gollum being the destroyer of the Ring — albeit in an unwitting way.”
Riddles In the dark
AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY (2012)
Gollum’s introduction — via a game of riddles with Bilbo — was the highpoint of the first Rings prequel, and Serkis’ swan song in the role.
“The whole sequence was just such a joy — it was this chamber-piece of theatre, and I’d always wanted to work with Martin [Freeman]. We had this really intense couple of weeks working on it. The riddles were great fun, but my favourite moment is when Gollum discovers the Ring has gone. He’s devastated. His whole existence falls apart at that point. You feel sadness for him. He’s so tortured. Lost.”