Digital Acting – Andy Serkis as the epic creature Gollum

by Apr 19, 2003Essays

Digital Acting

A Shakespearian actor named Andy Serkis brilliantly voiced and acted out the creature Gollum from Tolkien’s epic trilogy. Yet surprisingly, he did not receive an Oscar nomination for his extraordinary performance. The Oscar nominators were not yet ready to accept that Serkis was the creator of Gollum since his movements and voice were transferred into a digital creature. Digital characters before The Two Towers were humanly influenced only in the creature’s voices. Then the computer personnel of these characters would create the movement and facial expressions without an actors direct help. But, the Lord of the Rings computer geniuses used a method that captured Serkis’ every facial expression and movement and transferred it to the digital creature.

If the Oscar nominators knew what Andy Serkis went through to create Gollum, they would have thought again about giving him an Oscar. “There were four layers of filming to get the computer enhancement of Gollum correct: Serkis was filmed in the scenes with the other actors, then the actors re-filmed without Serkis, then Serkis re-filmed without other actors, and finally Serkis performed the voice of Gollum. Then the computer geniuses added Middle-earth fabric to Serkis’ performance, in work harder and smarter than a single sentence implies.” Thus, Serkis worked harder than any other film’s supporting actors that year.

If the makers of The Lord of the Rings could have used Andy Serkis without digitally changing him they would never have spent the money, time, and effort it took to create this digital creature. However, it is impossible for a human to look like the Gollum that Tolkein described in his famous books. Gollum was a terribly skinny, possessed-looking creature with skin so thin you could clearly see his veins. Clearly, the only option was to create the creature digitally through Serkis’ performance.

This was the perfect time! Oscar nominators had the chance to “outstrip the confines of the categories.” With the nomination of a digital creature a whole new
world of acting would evolve. Plus the visuals of a digital being, which could not be portrayed directly by a human, would enhance the acting world beyond conception. Digital acting will only become more common and creative. Therefore, Oscar nominators must accept the new acting form sooner or later.

Jason Eberly
April 16, 2003

Baliunas, Sallie. Evolution of Art. Los Angeles: Tech Central Station, 2003.
Osborne, Barrie, and Peter Jackson. Campaigning for Oscar. New Zealand:, 2003.


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