Why ''LOTR'''s Gollum seems so real. The voice and movements of actor Andy Serkis bring the creepy computer creation to life

By Adam Duerson
December 31, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST
type
  • Movie
Genre

He sounds like a creep. He moves like a ghoul. So even though Andy Serkis doesn’t actually appear in the ”Lord of the Rings” trilogy, the 38-year-old British actor is still generating buzz as the human model for the CG-eye-popping character Gollum. Here’s how Serkis and director Peter Jackson created the loathsome creature by mixing real-life acting and digital wizardry:

GUIDED BY VOICES The Tolkien trilogy paints Gollum as an inhumanly skinny creature with eyes and teeth that would be nearly impossible to replicate with makeup and prosthetics. That’s why Jackson opted for creating Gollum digitally, rather than attempting a live-action performance. Even so, he started with a human voice. After auditioning many actors, he chose Serkis (”24 Hour Party People”) who had instant command over Gollum’s dialect. (The actor describes the inflection as a cross between an involuntary Tourette’s spasm and a cat coughing up a hairball.) In fact, Gollum’s voice also defined his appearance. To get the right sound, Serkis simultaneously acted out Gollum-like gestures. ”The physicality and the voice were one,” he explains. ”Being hunched over… certainly affected how my voice came out.” Watching Serkis in action, Jackson cast him to provide the movements too.

TOLKIEN FIGURE The WETA Workshop, which did special effects for the movie, took the first steps in creating Gollum by making a plasticene dummy with more than 300 different muscles (a computer scan of which would shape the digital Gollum). ”We studied Andy’s face — which muscles are dominant; where he pulls expressions from and how his cheeks move,” recalls Jackson. ”Then we built computer muscles to do the same thing.” That meant creating upwards of 250 different facial shapes, and alternating between them — hardly a hobbit-sized task.

Advertisement