The Lord of the Rings trilogy is packed with iconic moments and characters, and few more well known and technologically impressive than Gollum, who was played by motion capture legend Andy Serkis. The spindly, unsettling monster who was corrupted by the power of Lord Sauron’s One Ring was a highlight of the trilogy – but eagle-eyed fans of the series will notice that his first appearance in 2001’s Fellowship of the Ring was not quite the same as it was in subsequent films.
As the fellowship carefully made their way through the Mines of Moria, Frodo noticed they were being followed by a small, inhuman creature. When he made mention of this to Gandalf the Gray, the wizard offered up an explanation of who Gollum is, which elaborated on his obsession with the ring. This was accompanied by a brief close-up on him spying on the group. Though the character was veiled in shadow, there were clear differences in how his computer-generated model appeared.
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The former Smeagol’s eyes were the most noticeable part of the very quick scene, as they were a completely different color than they were in The Two Towers and Return of the King. In the latter his eyes were a deep blue, whereas his appearance in Moria had them appear closer to a gray/off-white color. There are also clear structural differences to Gollum’s face as well. The snippet we see in Fellowship of the Ring also gives him a different shape to his nose and forehead, which appear more strained and pushed together in subsequent appearances. Though his fingers remained large and elongated, they do appear ever so slightly different proportionally later on.
The reason for the change in Gollum’s look centers around the performance of Andy Serkis in Two Towers and Return of the King. Gollum’s appearance in Fellowship of the Ring was designed as no more than an introduction to the character, and Serkis didn’t get the chance to fully explore the character yet. His role was expanded upon quite a bit later on, allowing Serkis to make the character his own. Due to his provision of the voice and motion capture for Gollum, it seemed fitting that the model should reflect the man behind it. Therefore, the face design was altered in order to vaguely resemble Serkis and all of his over-the-top mannerisms. This evolution of the design gave audiences the Gollum they have all come to know.
The Gollum character is really what launched Serkis’ career, from leading roles to a career as a director. It was also his performance that made Gollum a household name and a standout part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. A redesign was more important than one would think, and yet it was this iconic look coupled with an incredible performance that brought the character to life in a way never before seen. Given that Tolkien’s works only gave a description of Gollum and various mediums had attempted to adapt him based on such writings, it is fair to say that Peter Jackson and company hit the nail right on the head.
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