There is something about being dressed in a ball-covered body suit that made people laugh at Andy Serkis when he played Lord of the Rings’ Gollum,
Just over twenty years ago, Andy Serkis was relatively unknown having mostly only appeared in roles on British TV. Then he played Gollum/Smeagol in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and the rest, as they say, is history. However, despite the role leading Serkis to multiple awards and made him the go-to make for motion capture performances for the following decade, the initial reaction to Serkis’ time in his motion capture suit was one that brought him a great deal of ridicule.
It is almost impossible to think that the incredible amount of work Serkis put into the dual role of Gollum and Smeagol, providing both the creature-like movements and gargling voice for both halves of the character’s personality, could ever be something to be laughed at, but as Serkis told GQ, that is exactly what happened. He said:
“When Lord Of The Rings originally came out, there would be literally people who would say, ‘Who is that character? Is he a dancer? Is he a contortionist?’ Older actors were like, ‘You wouldn’t catch me dead doing motion capture. It’s the end of our profession.’ I literally heard someone saying that. There were lots of jokes about it; you know, Saturday Night Live things with people in suits with ping pong balls attached. It was ripe for ridiculing – and rightly so.”
Perhaps the sight of a grown man lolloping around like an ape, while wearing a skin-tight suit with balls stuck all over it is a bit of a ridiculous sight to see, but end result on screen is still one of the greatest pieces of CGI character creation put on the big screen to date.
Andy Serkis is Not Only A Respected Actor but Also Has Made His Mark as a Director
Having spent endless months portraying Gollum, Andy Serkis continued to play the roles of many CGI characters over the years that followed, including providing the motion capture for Peter Jackson’s King Kong remake, and returning to his apish actions playing Cesar in the Planet of the Apes movies. However, that was only the tip of the iceberg for Serkis and as an actor he has since gone on to appear in many big movies, including playing Ulysses Klaue in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Supreme Leader Snoke in two Star Wars movies, Kino Loy in Star Wars: Andor and Alfred Pennyworth in The Batman.
Serkis has also taken to directing, and took little time in establishing himself with some big movies. He acted as second unit director for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit, took the helm of Sony’s Marvel movie Venom: Let There Be Carnage and is set to direct a new animated version of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.
Despite all of his achievements since, however, Serkis has never left the world of Tolkien too far behind him. During the Covid lockdowns, the actor read The Hobbit in its entirety to raise money for charity, and that subsequently led to him behind hired by HarperCollinsUK to record new Audible versions of The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings and other Tolkien works.
Andy Serkis next appears as the villain in Luther: The Fallen Sun which will hit Netflix in March.