The Lord of the Rings: Andy Serkis Was Nearly Talked Out of Taking Gollum Role by Co-Star

gollum the lord of the rings andy serkis
(Photo: New Line Cinema)

Thanks to Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Andy Serkis has cemented himself as a prolific motion-capture artist, though the actor recently recalled how he was nearly talked out of taking the role in the project when one of his co-stars at the time pointed out how his face wouldn't be seen on camera. Despite those initial apprehensions about the role, Serkis delivered audiences a captivating and memorable performance as the character, leading him to eventually score an on-camera role in The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, before going on to provide motion-capture work on projects like King Kong, Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

"It was an interesting one. Because when I first heard from my agent this was happening, it was just like, ‘Andy, look, they’re doing this amazing kind of film of Lord of the Rings down in New Zealand. They’d like to see you for a voice for a digital character,’" Serkis recalled during Josh Gad's Reunited Apart YouTube series. "I was like, ‘A what?’ I remember I was in Prague working on an adaptation of Oliver Twist actually and I said to this other actor I was working with, ‘I think I may be going down to New Zealand to do this digital character.’ He said, ‘Well, is your face going to be on screen?’ I said, ‘No, it’s not.’ He said, ‘Mate, I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.’"

Back in 1999, George Lucas delivered audiences Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, marking the first completely CGI supporting character created through a motion-capture performance by Ahmed Best. The reactions to Jar Jar as a character might have been mixed, but it served as the proof of concept of what could be accomplished with these methods. Even with the concept proven, Serkis noted that Jackson wasn't entirely certain the project could pull off Gollum as effectively as they had wished.

"Pete did say, ‘I’m not exactly sure how this is going to happen, but we’re trying out this new methodology called motion capture. You know, we want someone to be on set, to be Gollum, but not you know, no actor could be actually how we envision him,'" Serkis recalled.

With Jackson himself in attendance during the reunion, he clarified that he didn't doubt Serkis' talents, but it was merely a high-concept effort that the team had a difficult time actualizing in their minds.

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Amazon Studios is currently developing a Lord of the Rings TV series.

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