Charlemagne sends us the transcript from SCIFI’s chat with Andy Serkis.
(SciFi.com) I’m Ben Trumble for SCIFI. Tonight we’re happy to be chatting British actor Andy Serkis, until recently perhaps best known to US audiences for his performance in the Oscar nominated film Topsy-Turvy. All that changed in December with the release of the second installment of Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, for New Line Cinema. In LOTR Andy plays Gollum, or Smeagol if you prefer, a fictional character that’s inspired generations of readers to ask the question “What’s it got in its pocketses?”. The Gollum of LOTR — The Two Towers is an unprecedented combination of actor and CGI, too magical to be real, and too real to be animation. Andy also appears opposite Michael Caine in the upcoming film Shiner. Other credits include major roles in Among Giants, Stella Does Tricks and Julien Temple’s Pandaemonium. He’s played a huge range of parts in theaters in London and across the U.K., including recent acclaimed roles in King Lear and Hush for the Royal Court Theatre.
(SciFi.com) (LegolasBow) to (SciFi.com): My question for Andy: Acting for movies is very different from acting for theater, and playing Gollum, a digital character, must be even more different than being involved in the scenes. Do you think playing a digital character has changed the way you will go about acting in the future?
(AndyS) When you boil it down, the way I approached Gollum is no different than I would any other character. Again, finding a way in is the key. Even if ultimately the character is CGI. The roots of playing Gollum is acting with other actors — which we did What Peter was after was the energy he got between my character and the other. The techincal aspects were the challange I hadn’t come across before. But working in theater before gave me stamina. It was a great marriage of skills.
(SciFi.com) (AndyCircus) to (SciFi.com): Simple question: What was your favourite / most memorable scene as gollum? Or least one of them that comes to mind…if it’s from ROTK, tell us, we won’t tell anyone, muahahaha…
(AndyS) The most complex scene is the internal debate between Gollum and Smeagol, That difines the duality of person for the audience. Frodo pulled out his humanity but its such a struggle to remain outside Gollum
(SciFi.com) (Emilie) to (SciFi.com): I’ve seen extra features to The Lord of the Rings and most of the actors say they are feel privileged to have played in it. Do you feel privileged to have played a part in the the Lord of the Rings Trilogy?
(AndyS) Absolutely, Working with Peter and the cast and especially for me working with all the technical crew. It’s been one of the most iimportant expereinces of my life. So much passion, I’m blessed to have been part of the vision
(SciFi.com) (daphna) to (SciFi.com): most of the actors say, that rotk will be heartbreaking. is that also your opinion?
(AndyS) Oh sure, The outcome is emotional for all of the characters. And its the end of a true epic For me I still have a great deal of post preduction work and motion capture I can’t wait to put the finishing touches to Gollum. I’ve been working on Gollum for almost four years one way or the other, with a slight break during the post production of FOTR
(SciFi.com) (trilluser) to (SciFi.com): How hard was it to speak in Gollum’s voice almost every day?
(AndyS) It was very diificult at first, But the vocal cords are like any muscles Once they get warmed up it helps. In actual fact, it doesn’t hurt anymore, I used to drink what we called Gollum juice. Honey, lemon, and ginger
(SciFi.com) (Arwen) to (SciFi.com): now that you are a celebrity, how does it feel to have so many fans all over the world??
(AndyS) This year for me it was quite a shock really, Obviously people don’t recognise me on the street Still, the response has been great
(SciFi.com) What can you tell us about your movie Snake?
(AndyS) Snake is a story about the national health system in the UK. It’s about 3 characters with desperate needs; A med student, A middle aged man trying to buy a kidney, And a woman who is a hooker who needs ahip replacement. They join in a hotel room and meet their needs in a messy way. I’d always wanted a chance to direct. Snake gave me a chance to return to being a visual artist. More and more I’d like to direct, I’m trying to develop several features right now. And so Snake was a pleasure
(SciFi.com) (jay4632) to (SciFi.com): Did it give you a bigger thrill to film Gollum, or to see the finished product on screen?
(AndyS) I think the process was thrilling and I enjoyed every minute of it I have a great time on set, on the motion capture stage, and with the animators So every stage had its high points. The great thrill was seeing it in front of an audience . Seeing people genuinely moved by the character was a triumph
(SciFi.com) (TankGirl) to (SciFi.com): Just how much input did you get into the final gollum product? obviously the contents, but what about the packaging?
(AndyS) All the acting choices, the psychological choices, the way that he moves and speaks was mine. Who he is. The way he moves on all fours. The notion of addiction. The facial expressions. The core of the being was what I brought to the film The look of the character The dimension, the skin, the visual — that was the animators
(SciFi.com) (Eowyn) to (SciFi.com): Did you ever get completely fed up of the whole CGI process and wish you hadn’t agreed to be in this movie? Or was it just always a lot of fun? Glad you stuck with it though, the results have been amazing!
(AndyS) Never, The difficulty for me was in photography in NZ when I knew that my real work would come in the motion studio That I wouldn’t see the final product for a long long time
(SciFi.com) (Charlemagne) to (SciFi.com): When where you first exposed to LOTR? Did you read the book before you took the job?
(AndyS) I read The Hobbit as a kid, I didn’t read LOTR until I auditioned for the part, I drew from them enormously, Tolkien gave me everything I needed to see how, Gollum moved and his inner core
(SciFi.com) (Elessar-king) to (SciFi.com): Do you remember your thoughts on Gollum from your early reading of The Hobbit?
(AndyS) I remembered an image of him from the illustration of Gollum leaning over the pool from the Hobbit. But that was about it. The conception of Gollum as he was seen in the film influenced me too. Particularl;y as he moved onb all fours
(SciFi.com) (OMGGollumIsSOSexy) to (SciFi.com): What are you opinions on each: Gollum and Smeagol? Which do you prefer?
(AndyS) I like them both, They are both a part of me Both their qualities are direct representations of who I am I have a soft spot for Smeagol because on screen he looks just like my 2 1/2 year old son
(SciFi.com) (syoung08) to (SciFi.com): I have read that you had to perform each scene 4 times. How hard, and how much time was spend perfectly replicating each scene?
(AndyS) Well, it’s actually three times, On set, Motion capture, then vocal studio. I suppose four if you count my work with animators Sometime what we came up with on set Peter wanted replicated exactly in motion capture Other times we switched over to what we discovered in post production But the core of the scenes were always what we’d done on set.
(SciFi.com) (MyPreciousssss) to (SciFi.com): After being the basis for Gollum as well as the voice, did his personality and grammar stick with you?
(AndyS) I probably have more conversations with myself than I did before
(SciFi.com) (Mellis) to (SciFi.com): Mr. Serkis, I was wondering if you thought of Gollum as more of a victim than an evil character.
(AndyS) I see him mostly as a flawed human being, He’s connection for the audience, The one character who represents the light and dark sides of each of us. I didn’t want the audience to prejudge him as evil. So I guess I made choices with Peter to make him more sympathetic. But I do see him as a victim of the Ring Like child who commits murder almost by accident. The Ring and its power did that
(SciFi.com) What’s Peter JAckson like?
(AndyS) His ability to filed thousands of questions is amazing He has such a strong narrative sense. He’s awesome The great thing about Peter is he never cracks under the strain and he always keeps it fun for everybody. He’s the Edmund Hillary of filmmaking. Like a mountain climber
(SciFi.com) (frodosbaggin) to (SciFi.com): how well did you get along with the other actors on set?
(AndyS) There were so many great times on the set. I had so much fun. I can’t think of anything that wasn’t super
(SciFi.com) (MeGgiE) to (SciFi.com): How was it filming the scenes where you struggle with Sam and Frodo in an attempt to try and steal the ring?
(AndyS) We filmed every single frame of that for real on the set. The fight We must have shot that scene about thirty times It was physically demanding
(SciFi.com) (ercirithiel) to (SciFi.com): how did they make the oliphaunts?
(AndyS) That’s an example of the animators best work. The towers were real. They used motion capture to get the movement just right
(SciFi.com) (CrazyHalk) to (SciFi.com): When doing the shot when you are spashing after the fish in the river, during that cold day, did you ever get annoyed with peter having you reshot the shot again and again?
(AndyS) For all my method acting when I hit that cold water I thought I was going to die. My body took over and kept acting, but I was freezing. And there wasn’t much left of my opwn precious after thaT
(SciFi.com) (MyPreciousssss) to (SciFi.com): If you could have chosen what character you would play, do you think you would have chosen Gollum?
(AndyS) I only wanted to play Gollum. He was just right for me
(SciFi.com) (veronica) to (SciFi.com): does the third film sticks to the book for what concerns your character?
(AndyS) Well post production is still going on so I can’t say for sure I’d say in the same way that the first two films are true to the character the third film will be as well
(SciFi.com) (OMGGollumIsSOSexy) to (SciFi.com): Did you like “Gollum’s Song”?
(AndyS) It’s beautiful and haunting and I loved the way it was performed.
(SciFi.com) What will you remember about LOTR 20 years from now when you career has moved on to other great things?
(AndyS) It will have left a deep scar in my memory — those latex suits! Seriously though roles like Gollum only come up once or twice in a career. Its like gold dust It’s been a genuine priviledge Good night now
(SciFi.com) Okay. Andy is STILL in traffic… And now’s he late for his 10PM appearance. We had to let him go. We’ll open the floor now
(SciFi.com) He said he’d love to come back next year after the last film