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[Lord Of The Rings] Oscar hopeful Serkis 'Towers' over CGI brethren [Gollum seeks *precious* Oscar]
Variety ^ | Nov. 21, 2002 | MICHAEL FLEMING

Posted on 11/25/2002 1:23:16 PM PST by JameRetief

Oscar hopeful Serkis 'Towers' over CGI brethren
As Gollum in 'Rings' sequel, thesp puts his lifeblood into a central figure


Andy Serkis
Andy Serkis did yeoman cyber-work as Gollum in 'The Lords of the Rings: The Two Towers.'

There was never any Oscar buzz for the performances of Jar Jar Binks or Dobby, but New Line is hoping that Gollum will be up for an acting Academy Award in March.

Andy Serkis is the British actor who performs the centerpiece role of Gollum in Peter Jackson's second installment of the "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Only you might not realize it, because his personage has been painted out and replaced with a CGI creation. Other CGI characters were purely figments of the imagination, like Jar Jar Binks and Dobby.

The 20 minutes of "Two Towers" footage shown recently by New Line indicates a breakthrough with Gollum, who looked as real as a blue-tinted, bent and gnarled creature could look. And Jackson went back and subsequently improved the character, which the media observed.

New Line will push Serkis for a supporting actor nomination. And the actor has just signed with the Gersh Agency, hoping that his cyber-work in "Two Towers" and next year's "Return of the King" finale will propel him into regular Hollywood film work.

"This all started with an offer to do three weeks of voiceover work as Gollum," said Serkis. "I remember thinking, a voiceover? Why can't I get offered a decent acting role in a major movie? I'm known for being chameleon-like as an actor, and I've played a lot of quirky, physical roles in Mike Leigh's movies. This didn't seem that involved."

Serkis soon learned from Jackson and his screenwriting-producing partner Fran Walsh that vocal skills would be only part of the Gollum job. "Peter had the idea to do something unprecedented," Serkis said. "Even though Gollum would be computer-generated, Peter wanted all the emotion and the physicality to come from a single performance." Instead of three weeks, Serkis worked the better part of the last year, logging more hours than any other actor in the "Rings" ensemble.

First, Serkis acted the scenes with Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) as they carried the ring toward Mordor. Serkis repeated the entire performance, clad in a skintight bodysuit, wired to capture his every move and transfer it to the computer. Serkis did the role yet again, both to supply Gollum's slithery rasp of a voice, and to transfer his facial expressions to every enunciation. He spent countless more hours with the 40 animators who refined Gollum. The performance is signature Serkis -- even though the actor was erased from every scene.

"In a way it's a bummer," he said of being excised for his computerized counterpart, "but I honestly feel strongly that the essence of what I've done is up there. Much the way that John Rhys-Davies hardly looks like the dwarf Gimli after being shrunk and wearing heavy prosthetic makeup, I feel like I'm wearing CG prosthetics. There is a satisfaction in playing one of the great literary character creations, being able to play Gollum without being pinned down by him for the rest of my life. Some anonymity is the actor's greatest weapon."

Date in print: Fri., Nov. 22, 2002

TOPICS: TV/Movies; The Hobbit Hole
KEYWORDS: cgi; gollum; lordoftherings; oscar; peterjackson; serkis; tolkien

1 posted on 11/25/2002 1:23:16 PM PST by JameRetief
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To: Ernest_at_the_Beach; rdb3
CGI character goes for Oscar ping!
2 posted on 11/25/2002 1:24:17 PM PST by JameRetief
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To: maquiladora; ecurbh; HairOfTheDog; 2Jedismom
Lord Of The Rings movie ping.
3 posted on 11/25/2002 1:25:18 PM PST by JameRetief
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To: JameRetief
New Line will push Serkis for a supporting actor nomination.

I suspect this is a very clever part of the buzz and rumoring that adds to marketing a movie.

This came up first last week in the Hobbit Hole. Upon reflection, but still handicapped by not having seen it yet, I would hope for a Serkis nomination only if Elijah Wood and Viggo Mortenson are being pushed also, if not in supporting actor, then for Best Actor, on at least one of these works. Maybe I will feel differently when I have seen it, but I doubt it. Tough as these choices are when the work is all good, I hope Elijah and Viggo get their due for great performances in these films.

4 posted on 11/25/2002 1:31:04 PM PST by HairOfTheDog
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To: HairOfTheDog
If the second movie (and third for that matter) follows suit and/or improves on the first, as all reports so far suggest, I think there will be a large number of Oscar nominations. The Gollum character, if it is to get an Oscar (or nomination), will have to get it from The Two Towers since he has a far more diminished screen time in ROTK.
5 posted on 11/25/2002 1:39:27 PM PST by JameRetief
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To: 2Jedismom; Alkhin; Anitius Severinus Boethius; AUsome Joy; austinTparty; Bear_in_RoseBear; ...

Ring Ping!!

6 posted on 11/25/2002 8:33:23 PM PST by ecurbh
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To: JameRetief; HairOfTheDog
Perhaps my movie-making knowledge is not up to snuff...but can either of you enlighten me as to what they mean by "erasing" the actor from the scenes or "painting him out" of the scene. Why, if they had him doing the facial motions and the body motions would he then be gone from the performance? Do they just mean removing his actual face, or do they mean they just used his movements as guides for the animation?

I don't get what they mean by this, exactly.

7 posted on 11/25/2002 8:40:33 PM PST by Scott from the Left Coast
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To: Scott from the Left Coast
They used his on screen movements as a basis for his character. He was filmed with the other actors but when the special effects crew worked on the film later, he was digitally removed and replaced with the computer generated version of Gollum.
8 posted on 11/25/2002 8:53:58 PM PST by JameRetief
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To: Scott from the Left Coast
From an interview with Peter Jackson:

"One of the biggest challenges has been creating Gollum as an actor rather than a CG creature," Jackson continues. "This is really the first case I can think of where a computer-generated creature has had to be a dramatic actor. Jar Jar Binks was a comic-relief sidekick, but Gollum has to deliver a performance that is as complex and compelling as anything Elijah or Sean do. He can't be anything less — he shares scenes with them, he has dialogue with them. He has to have the same emotional impact. One tough aspect is just his physical look. You want a CG character not to look like a CG character, and to have very realistic skin and hair, eyes, movements and everything else. Then it's how you get this computer thing to act in a way that's as good as a human being.
"Andy Serkis, a British actor we used, has really been the key to that. Andy was cast along with the rest of the actors way back in 1999, and he was out in New Zealand for the full 18 months of the shoot. He also appears in Return of the King. He was on set with Elijah and Sean and blocked the scenes with them. He was Gollum; he did the voice. Every time they're looking at Gollum, they're actually looking at Andy. We shot empty plates so we could paint him out. It wasn't quite the Harryhausen technique, in which you have the actors performing to a golf ball or a mark on the wall and pretending the creature is there. We did it the other way around in that we had the actor in the scene with them so that they could act with somebody, and then we removed him entirely and replaced him with a computer version of the character. Even in postproduction, Andy has remained on board to provide the final voice tracks for Gollum.

9 posted on 11/26/2002 7:32:37 AM PST by maquiladora
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To: maquiladora
Fascinating. Thank you.

What does it mean to "shoot empty plates"???

10 posted on 11/26/2002 7:36:34 AM PST by Scott from the Left Coast
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To: Scott from the Left Coast
I think what he means is that they shot the scene with the actor actually there with Frodo and Sam, playing the part and speaking the line, then they shot the exact same scene again, this time without the actor so that there was just nothing in his place, then they introduced the CGI gollum into this scene without the actor, and layered it onto the scene where the actors where acting/speaking to the real actor.
Think about it :-)
11 posted on 11/26/2002 7:40:17 AM PST by maquiladora
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To: maquiladora; Scott from the Left Coast
Do you guys both have the original DVD release?

Watch the ten minute TTT preview that is on that - it shows what they mean on how Serkis acted Gollum

Serkis was in the scene with Frodo and Sam... in a "motion capture suit" that intstantly transformed his movement into a "ghost" or "shadow" of himself, not visible on set, but instantly visible when they looked at it on the monitor. The "Gollum" moved with him and copied his every movement. The blank plates would be the set with no one there, that they can use to digitally cover Serkis, leaving only the Gollum.

Here are the rough original captures of this work. Gollum's final texture was added later...

Again... this is straight from that TTT preview on the original DVD. Check it out!

12 posted on 11/26/2002 7:52:38 AM PST by HairOfTheDog
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To: HairOfTheDog
Freaky stuff Hair!
13 posted on 11/26/2002 7:55:37 AM PST by maquiladora
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To: HairOfTheDog
Alas, still DVD-deprived (I'm rather backwards, you know). I'll probably be DVD-deprived for a while yet (the money only goes so far between skiing, dogs, root canals and crowns).
14 posted on 11/26/2002 8:00:53 AM PST by Scott from the Left Coast
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To: maquiladora
Yeah - If Forrest Gump didn't prove it... This film should prove once and for all that you can't believe anything that looks real in a picture!
15 posted on 11/26/2002 8:01:33 AM PST by HairOfTheDog
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To: maquiladora
It is like a computer generated costume and make-up. Just as much his performance as the other characters in costume and make-up. I would think.
16 posted on 11/26/2002 8:11:05 AM PST by My back yard
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To: JameRetief
Past CGI-only characters have looked cartoony, because their "performance", apart from some very basic motion capture, was entirely computer generated. There was no actor driving their performance. What is different with what Peter Jackson is attempting, is that he is attempting to use a real actor to drive the entire CGI character's performance, right down to facial expressions. Gollum's "performance" will be the performance of a real actor, which has never been done before. Hopefully the end result will be so believable that we will forget that Gollum is a CGI character.
17 posted on 12/01/2002 3:13:18 PM PST by Vast Buffalo Wing Conspiracy
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