Nowadays it is very normal for an actor to play a ‘digital’ character in a film or game. Thanks to the perfection of motion capture technology, it is possible to convey every minute detail of an actor’s expression or face in the form of a digital character. One of the founders of this style of acting is Andy Serkis in the role of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace was the first blockbuster to feature a character completely brought to life with motion capture in the form of Jar Jar Binks (Ahmed Best). A few years later, this technology made significant progress The Lord of the Rings-trilogy.
The revolutionary CGI character was built around Serkis’ voice, movements and expressions, primarily using a motion capture suit that recorded his movements and applied them to the digital character.
The more laborious process of digitally “painting” Serkis to digitally give him the skeletal appearance of Gollum was also sometimes used.
In The Return of the King Serkis himself appears in a flashback scene as Sméagol before his degeneration into Gollum.
This scene was originally intended for The Two Towersbut was dropped because it was felt that audiences would be able to better identify with the original Sméagol once they were more familiar with who he became.
Serkis returned as Gollum in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. He is shown without the scars he later received from his time in Mordor, and with slightly more hair. Of course, we know how Gollum’s story ends, but Serkis doesn’t rule out a return to Middle Earth now that there’s a new one Lord of the Ringsfilms in the making are:
“I love those guys and they are a second family to me. I’ve made films with them for so many years. I love their sensitivity and their approach; it’s filmmaking on a different kind of level. You live and breathe it. And So, yeah, if an opportunity comes along, that would be great.”