In a foreword to a new book on 'LOTR,' the actor revisits his life-changing role of Gollum

By David Canfield
October 02, 2018 at 11:00 AM EDT
New Line; Inset: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

The following is an excerpt of Andy Serkis’ foreword to the book Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle-Earth, by Ian Nathan. Pitched as the definitive history of Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, the book goes behind the scenes of the making of the films, as well as the legacy they’ve left behind. In the foreword, Serkis, who played Gollum, reflects on his experiences working with Jackson and in New Zealand. Anything You Can Imagine goes on sale on Oct. 16, and is available for pre-order.

It feels like there was life before and life after.

I can remember the first time I saw Gollum. A finished Gollum. It was the sequence by the Forbidden Pool where he turns around to see Frodo, and he knows that something’s going on. It’s almost like an animal instinct; he can sense it. It was absolutely extraordinary.

You don’t know, you could never know. Here, finally, was the first proof that a level of psychological and emotional detail could be conveyed through ones and noughts. That thought could be conveyed through the combination of my performance and what they were doing at Weta Digital. I could sense that thought. I could feel that was exactly as I played it. That was incredibly gratifying.

Then I remember seeing The Two Towers for the first time. It was in New York, I was with Miranda Otto, Bernard Hill and Karl Urban. It was mind blowing. I knew every single frame.

I sensed that my life was never going to be the same again.

I supposed that was true for everyone who shared in The Lord of the Rings. The actors, the crew, everyone. None of us really knew what we were letting ourselves in for. And we went through so much together. Filmmaking is life. Every day you’re making a film is as important as the end result, because it feeds into the fabric of that film. That counts tenfold for The Lord of the Rings. That’s what attracted me to go back and do so many projects with Peter, Fran and Philippa, and all those guys down there, because it is a way of life. You don’t go to work; you’re living and breathing it.

Harper Collins

Nevertheless, it certainly wasn’t the journey I was expecting for a second. Not for a second. Adding together both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, I have celebrated seven different birthdays in New Zealand. The first one was literally only days after I arrived. We were up at Ruapehu, shooting Mount Doom. That was pretty cool. We were staying at the Powderhorn, which looked like an alpine chalet. It was lovely. They made me a cake. The most memorable one was when Pete gave me the Ring for my birthday and on the same day asked me to be in King Kong. That was on an Easter Sunday. Other ones came and went, in so many beautiful places.

I still feel deeply connected to New Zealand. The beauty there is almost overwhelming. I was very into the outdoor life, walking, hiking and kayaking whenever I could. The whole experience was very spiritual. That country, root and branch, mountain and valley, is the soul of the films.

Moreover, I also can’t express how honest and open the people are. How much they made us part of their community and gave us such a good time. I made so many great friends.

So many people migrated there to take up jobs on The Lord of the Rings, it created a film industry there.

In the end, though, all roads lead back to Pete. And Fran and Philippa, of course. Pete is the most fearless director I’ve ever met. He has shared so much with me, taught me so much. I have said it often, but there is something truly maverick about him, an indie filmmaker working on the biggest scale possible. That’s what it always felt like. We were shooting these personal little indie films. These extraordinary films are an expression of who a person is. Pete is also such a visionary, just breaking barriers all the time with this marriage of technology and artistry.

I remember the glint in his eye when I first met him, so many years ago, in London. I could sense, even then, his vision for Gollum; neither of us really knew what we were letting ourselves in for but it was definitely going to be an unexpected journey. After principal photography on The Lord of the Rings ended, Pete signed a poster for me, which said “Many thanks for all the fun… and the fun to come.” It was then, and for the next decade, and hopefully always will be just that…

—Andy Serkis

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