NewsWire: The man behind Gollum - Andy Serkis: Shakespeare, pop music and 'Rings' -

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The man behind Gollum - Andy Serkis: Shakespeare, pop music and 'Rings' - February 3, 2003

LOS ANGELES, California (Reuters) -- For a classically trained British actor, it can be a lot of work to play a shriveled-up, power-mad freak of nature with bulging eyes and a bad comb-over, especially when it's not you on screen but a digitally animated character.

Just ask Andy Serkis. The veteran of some of England's top theatrical stages, who cut his teeth on Shakespeare, has spent the better part of the last three years playing Gollum in the film adaptation J.R.R. Tolkien's literary saga "The Lord of the Rings."

Serkis, in a recent interview at his Los Angeles hotel, said he took the part of Gollum, a hobbit corrupted by the power of an all-powerful Ring, despite never having read the Tolkien books on which the films are based.

"Roles like that don't turn up very often," he said.

Serkis, in town for two weeks to meet with his new agents about prospective film roles, looked the part of the modern actor on the go, decked out in sweatpants and sneakers and with a table covered with gear like a laptop and a digital camera.

But he also bears a striking resemblance to Gollum, as he should: Animators based the movements of the creature's face on the actor's own muscle movements by painting dots on his face and shooting him with three different cameras.

In fact, most people don't realize that the character they see on screen, with his haggard looks and spastic mannerisms, is in essence a live human being with a digital exterior.

The performance has already won some notice; the Broadcast Film Critics Association voted Gollum the "Best Digital Acting Performance" of the year, easily beating out Yoda from "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" and Dobby from "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."
Will it make Oscar's cut?

There was even some talk that Serkis' performance was worthy of a Oscar for best supporting actor. That requires a whole man, not a digital one, and there would be no precedent for his receiving such a nomination. Serkis thinks his performance should be considered like other acting roles.

Serkis said many of his scenes were shot three times -- once with him in a white bodysuit, once with markers in place of where he was supposed to be and then a third time in post-production, where he wore a suit covered with sensors that was used to capture his movements for animators.

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