Not that Serkis just had to do one character, either. Throughout our conversation he referred to Smeagol, and told me that Smeagol's presence in the scene-- that is, the side of Gollum that isn't vicious and bloodthirsty-- was something he and Jackson added that wasn't in the book. In the film version of the story it's Smeagol's idea to play the game of riddles, not Bilbo's-- as Serkis explains it, he's hungry for the hobbit meat, but he's also lonely. Serkis describes the scene with Bilbo as a "chamber theater piece," which he and Freeman shot in unbroken takes over the course of two weeks, each of them getting to know their characters as they went. It seems a shame that all that work to rediscover Gollum would be used on just one (admittedly spectacular) scene, but Serkis held firm when I pressed him on whether Gollum would return. He wouldn't make any promises, knowing full well they had just decided to expand the series into three films and things could change , but as of right now I wouldn't count on seeing him shoehorned back into the action.

As for Serkis, his duties behind the scenes on The Hobbit are done, and with his production company The Imaginarium is planning a motion-capture version of George Orwell's Animal Farm. He says they are in the early stages of testing the look of the film and how realistic the animals will be; though he's talked about shooting the film in the 48 frames-per-second look that The Hobbit used, he told me that they haven't settled on anything yet. He's also preparing to go back to work as Caesar on Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, which recently hired Matt Reeves to direct and is also in early stages of development.

With the Imaginarium it's clear that Serkis is committed to the future of motion capture, and though he downplayed just how big an impact new motion capture technology had on his performance as Gollum, he's looking forward to one particular step that will make it even better. In photos from behind the scenes of The Hobbit you can see him with the camera rig mounted on his head, capturing his facial expressions (technology that didn't even exist when he played Gollum in Lord of the Rings 10 years ago, when he had to re-enact all his facial expressions in a separate studio). But Serkis predicts in a matter of years that camera will be gone, that facial expressions will be minutely captured with no cumbersome headgear-- and that motion capture will keep moving forward as a fascinating playground for artists like Serkis to explore.

You can Serkis as Gollum and Smeagol in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey everywhere starting December 14.

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