Lord Of The Rings’ Andy Serkis Recalls Being Mocked For Doing Gollum Motion Capture

Gollum in Lord of the Rings
(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies were wildly successful upon their release, pleasing both hardcore and new fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy world. One of the big technical changes that came with bringing that trilogy to theaters was the inclusion of Gollum, which required extensive visual effects and a motion capture performance by Andy Serkis. And the 58 year-old actor recently recalled being mocked for playing Gollum through this unique way of acting. What’s more, he even understands the push back.

Motion capture has become somewhat commonplace thanks to projects like James Cameron’s Avatar franchise, but it was rather new technology at the time of production on the Lord of the Rings movies. Andy Serkis gave a stellar physical and vocal performance to bring Gollum to life, but there were some naysayers at the time. As he told GQ in the midst of a recent interview:

When Lord Of The Rings originally came out, there would be literally people who would say, ‘Who is that character? Is he a dancer? Is he a contortionist?’ Older actors were like, ‘You wouldn’t catch me dead doing motion capture. It’s the end of our profession.’ I literally heard someone saying that. There were lots of jokes about it; you know, Saturday Night Live things with people in suits with ping pong balls attached. It was ripe for ridiculing – and rightly so.

While Andy Serkis seems to understand why so many people around him were confused about his iconic Lord of the Rings role, it likely wasn’t fun to hear. After all, bringing Gollum to life required a great deal of trust in Peter Jackson and company, and commitment to the role. And sometimes that’s easier said than done when you’re wearing those motion capture pajamas

Of course, hindsight is 20/20. We all know what a huge success the Lord of the Rings trilogy was, and just how iconic the portrayal of Gollum would turn out to be. The movies have a place in film history, and Serkis’ performance has also been immortalized through various memes throughout the years. That has extended to the current age of TikTok. 

Following Lord of the Rings, Andy Serkis has continued to work extensively with motion capture, in a variety of exciting roles. That includes playing protagonist Caesar in the Planet of the Apes movies, Baloo in Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle, and as Supreme Leader Snoke in Star Wars. And in trusting the process and swinging hard with his performance, these larger than life characters were brought to life on the big screen.

Of course, Andy Serkis has given many live-action performances that didn’t use motion capture as well. He recently appeared in The Batman and Andor, in addition to other projects like Black Panther and 13 Going on 30. But given his penchant for mo-cap, it seems like he could play just about any character moving forward.

Andy Serkis can be seen in Luther: The Fallen Sun (opens in new tab), coming March 10th on Netflix. In the meantime, check out the 2023 movie release dates to plan your next movie experience. 

Corey Chichizola
Movies Editor

Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his favorite actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.