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(Credit: Gage Skidmore)

Film

How Andy Serkis created the unique voice of Gollum

@Russellisation

There are few film series quite as influential as Lord of the Rings, helping to pave the way with the contemporary obsession with fantasy stories and medieval warfare, seen most prolifically in television series, Game of Thrones and The Witcher. Upon the release of the first film in the trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring in 2001, audiences would be treated to an extravaganza of fantasy.

Peter Jackson wasn’t exactly known for fantasy though, with a larger background in horror, thanks to his surreal and pulpy trilogy that started in 1987 and included Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles and Braindead. A previous effort to adapt the trilogy of books by J. R. R. Tolkien into a film had been made by master animator Ralph Bakshi in 1978, with Jackson going to see the film and reporting, “I liked the early part – it had some quaint sequences in Hobbiton, a creepy encounter with the Black Rider on the road, and a few quite good battle scenes – but then, about halfway through, the storytelling became very disjointed and disorientating”. Continuing, he added, “what it did do was to make me want to read the book – if only to find out what happened!” a fateful choice for the now decorated filmmaker. 

Citing Braveheart as an inspiration for his own trilogy of films, Peter Jackson wanted realistic designs for the fantasy kingdom, in the vein of historical epics. Speaking to Ain’t It Cool News, the director stated, “It might be clearer if I described it as a historical film. Something very different to Dark Crystal or Labyrinth. Imagine something like Braveheart, but with a little of the visual magic of Legend. […]It should have the historical authority of Braveheart, rather than the meaningless fantasy mumbo-jumbo of Willow”. 

Such a choice would lead The Lord of the Rings trilogy to become one of the most decorated films in cinema history, winning 17 Oscars in total, including Best Picture and Best Director for Return of the King. Whilst the success of the trilogy comes as a result of multiple moving parts, the leading cast members help to make it such a memorable experience, from Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn to Elijah Wood as Frodo. 

John Lennon once asked Stanley Kubrick to direct The Beatles in ‘The Lord of The Rings’

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A fan-favourite throughout the trilogy is Gollum, a hideous, scuttling humanoid who has an obsessive desire for the titular ‘one ring’. Brought to life in CGI, Gollum comes into his own thanks to the excellent voice work of British actor Andy Serkis. Speaking to Wired alongside Tom Hardy, the actor discussed how he came up with the unique voice for the character, noting his surprise at being cast for the role. Recalling his time on the film, he reported, “So I thought, how am I gonna do it? I’m gonna basically impersonate my cat, coughing up furballs and I went [retches], and that became Gollum”.  

“Woah, that’s cool” Tom Hardy, star of Venom: Let There Be Carnage responds, echoing the thoughts of every Lord of the Rings fan that has long desired the answer to such an iconic voice.

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