“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

Empire (Australasia) - - Contents - WORDS DAN JOLIN

“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 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


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 trans­for­ma­tion


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.”

Gol­lum’s doom

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


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.”

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