Andy Serkis Interview For ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’
‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum (Andy Serkis). Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities … A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.
From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ is the first of three films based on ‘The Hobbit’ novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. The trilogy of ‘Hobbit’ films are set in Middle-earth 60 years before Jackson’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. The release schedule for the three ‘Hobbit’ films are as follows: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ is set for a December 13th release; ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ arrives in cinemas December 13th, 2013; and ’The Hobbit: There and Back Again’ concludes the trilogy on July 18th, 2014.
With so much time passing between ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films and now, how was it for you rediscovering Gollum? Was that a process performance wise?
Andy Serkis: Gollum had been such an important role for me, and he’d never really went away – I’ve been constantly reminded of him as a character practically everyday of my life since ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (laughs). But to actually really re-engage and go back in there, and actually think, “I’m actually going to play you again.” That was actually quite a strange feeling. When I played him a decade or more ago, I really got under the skin of Gollum in a very deep way. So I had no fear that I would not be able to plumb those depths again. But there were a couple of moments early on when I felt like I was doing a pale imitation. And then, when we were actually on the set doing this iconic scene between Gollum and Bilbo, “Game of Riddles,” I felt I had truly found my way back to him. I could absolutely feel the reality of Gollum’s situation, the tragedy and the great loss of the one thing he holds dear.
With the “Game of Riddles” scene you get a fantastic look at his dueling personalities. That encounter with Bilbo brings them to the fore….
Andy Serkis: Oh yeah. The way that the scene is written is that Sméagol gets….Gollum just wants to kill this thing for meat. He’s fed up of not having anything to eat – just disgusting Goblin bones basically, with no meat on. Suddenly this “meaty mouthful” turns up, that’s the word he uses (laughs), and Sméagol is suddenly very excited about the possibility of food. It’s always about, “When am I going to eat?” But then he gets completely diverted by the riddles, the childlike side of Sméagol, who’s craved conversation with someone else for so long a part from Gollum, suddenly he gets asked to play games and he’s over the moon (laughs). So this battle ensues with Gollum, who’s like, “Get the games over, I don’t care about the games, I want to get onto the killing part, I want the food!” Part of him is enjoying the game, but there comes a point where the riddles backfire on him. This seminal encounter leads Gollum to the one thing he will spend the rest of his life pursuing.
In addition to playing Gollum, you served as Peter Jackson’s second unit director throughout ‘The Hobbit’ shoot. How did that come about?
Andy Serkis: Peter Jackson had known way, way back on ‘The Lord of the Rings’ days that I wanted to direct, he’d seen short films that I’d done. And Peter just said, “Look, this will be a chance for you to expand and really to get to grips with filmmaking on a big scale.” And it has proved to be the most extraordinary, challenging, difficult (laughs), but immensely life-changing experience. I think I understand Peter’s sensibility, and we have a common history of understanding Middle-earth. A lot of the crew from ‘The Lord of the Rings’ was returning to work on ‘The Hobbit’ films. So there was definitely a sense of Peter wanting people around him who totally understand the material and the work ethic.
What “pearls of wisdom” did Peter share with you that stuck?
Andy Serkis: The things that Pete said to me earlier on, before I started, the “pearls of wisdom” he gave to me (laughs), were great. It was just to try to make every take better, try to make every take different, give yourself choices, and find the story in every single beat, in every single shot – because a film is made up of moments. A film is made up of moments, a scene is made up of moments, a shot is made up of moments. That’s what I really carried with me the most. The thing with second unit on a project like this, it’s not just hand shots or picking up little bits and pieces, it’s very much sort of sharing the vision and being Peter’s eyes and ears. It’s an amazing experience.
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