EXCLUSIVE: Joe Letteri Talks The Evolution of Gollum in 'The Hobbit: There and Back Again'

The senior visual effects supervisor also discusses 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes' sequel, and how the Apes may evolve.

Joe Letteri talks Gollum in The Hobbit: There and Back Again
Joe Letteri talks Gollum in The Hobbit: There and Back Again
Rise of the Planet of the Apes is available on Blu-ray and DVD this week. To celebrate the anticipated release of this smash hit prequel, we caught up with senior visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri to discuss the film's remarkable achievements in creating realistic, life-like apes. Andy Serkis, who brought the film's star Ape Caesar to life, is currently collaborating with Joe Letteri once again for The Hobbit: There and Back Again.

We asked Joe about the evolution of Gollum in The Hobbit: There and Back Again. This is what he had to say.

"Without getting into what he is going to look like on screen, and everything, because we are saving that...Technically, what has been good about this, is that we did Gollum the first time around, and it was the first time that we were doing performance capture in a film. But we couldn't record on the stage. Andy was performing with all of the other actors. But then he would have to come out, and do his performance again on a motion capture stage. We would fit the two together. He would mimic his first performance, and we would put it in with the other actors.

When we did Avatar, we created this whole virtual world. It was completely immersive, and everything was in this virtual world. What we did with Rise of the Planet of the Apes was come full circle with it. We took all of the technology we created for Avatar, and we figured out a way to make that on set. How to make it work within exterior sets. That way, Andy could be in the scene with all of the other actors. So you're not getting a second performance from him, trying to duplicate the first. You are getting the performance that he did with James Franco and Freida Pinto, and everyone else.

It closed the gap for us, to have Andy be right there in the movie, and have that be his performance. That's the thing we finally got to do with Gollum. Just as a way of nicely closing the circle."

We also know that Andy Serkis will once again be working closely with Joe Letteri on the recently announced Rise of the Planet of the Apes 2. We asked him how the Apes might evolve in this sequel.

"We haven't discussed it yet. The film is obviously set up for a sequel, or two. There is so much story that you can tell now. From what we saw in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and what we remember from the original films. To me, that is one of the best parts of this. Reading the script, we realized that not only is this a great story...But, boy, you can see where this will go from here.

I actually don't know (how much the Apes will evolve). For a second film, I don't think you want to jump that far ahead of yourself. You still want to bring people along. Again, I don't know yet. They are still working on that script. You could get away with the look of the Apes on the original film. It was so far into the future. They were more humanoid. You could see that they would be walking upright, and doing all of these things that they did. For our first film, they had to look like modern day chimps. That were just starting to become self-aware. We had to start with something on screen that looked as believable as a real chimp could look."

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was released December 13th, 2013 and stars Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ken Stott, Graham McTavish, William Kircher, James Nesbitt, Stephen Hunter. The film is directed by Peter Jackson.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes was released July 11th, 2014 and stars Andy Serkis, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Toby Kebbell, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Kirk Acevedo, Nick Thurston. The film is directed by Matt Reeves.


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Comments (5)

  1. HelenC

    Could Movieweb check its facts, please? Ron Perlman and Doug Jones are not in the film(s). They were never cast.

    3 years agoby @HelenCFlag

  2. ollie-styrene

    The Hobbit titles are straight from the pen of Tolkien,.. they are very adventurous titles, as they should be.. LOTR is more serious and have a bigger scope, and thus have heavier titles.. Cant wait for these movies...

    3 years agoby @ollie-styreneFlag

  3. ZanyZap

    @narrator: And hopefully win him an Oscar this time!

    3 years agoby @zanyzapFlag

  4. ROFLitschristian

    The only thing I don't like about the Hobbit films so far are the titles. :{

    3 years agoby @ROFLitschristianFlag

  5. the Narrator

    Fantastic. I'm partially aware of the process Andy had to go through, and this is probably a huge relief. The process being cut short definitely allows them more time to change things rather than filming from set to stage to set, and I believe the performance will improve as well, allowing Serkis to do it once over, authentically, thus he'll less worn out. Fantastic news.

    3 years agoby @narratorFlag