Andy Serkis, the British actor who plays the bulging-eyed, schizophrenic cave-dweller Gollum in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, said Monday he studied his cats to develop his character’s sinister throaty voice.
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"I actually found the voice from watching my cats at home,” he told journalists in Berlin ahead of the European premiere of the last part of the “Rings” trilogy, “The Return of the King.”
“They lick the fur off their bodies, then it gets stuck in the back of their throats. When they get rid of it they get fur balls and they’re sick and that became ‘Gollum’, ‘Gollum’.”
A classically trained stage actor, Serkis said playing the role of a creature obsessed with trying to seize the magic ring he calls “my precious” was challenging both for body and voice.
“I used to drink a lot of... ‘Gollum’ juice which was honey and lemon and ginger and fruit teas and stuff,” he said.
“I had a lot of lower back injuries because I made this decision to make him crawl because he’s an addict and I wanted to reflect that sense of desperation.”
Asked what he would do if he had the all-powerful but corrupting ring that is the focus of the trilogy, Serkis said “I would banish all religions first of all.”
Serkis, 39, auditioned to provide the voice-over for a computer-generated Gollum but director Peter Jackson was so impressed with his physical presence that he built the character on the actor’s own movements using the latest technology.
“He’s such a psychologically complicated character that if you’d had 40 animators doing their separate shots ... there would be no one person taking responsibility for the psychological journey of the character,” Serkis said.
Serkis acted every scene featuring Gollum. He then repeated his actions wearing a special suit marked with dots that were monitored by 25 cameras and used to generate a computer image. Animators then copied his facial movements.
Even though the Gollum character looks sub-human on screen with its translucent skin and huge head, people still recognize Serkis, especially when they see his watery-blue eyes.
“People do come up in the street... If they lock eyes with me, they run up to me with their phones and say ’can you speak to my sister as Gollum’.”
Serkis said there is talk his performance could be nominated for an Oscar for best supporting actor although there is no precedent for a digitally-created character winning the award. The first two films won six Oscars in total, two for effects.
“A huge debate has been opened up about actors’ performances in characters which are not traditionally enhanced but enhanced in a new way,” he said. “One thing is for certain from now on there will be more and more characters done in this way.”