Saturday , June 15 2024
Sean Astin, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

Awesome Con: Sean Astin, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis on ‘The Lord of the Rings’

The Lord of the Rings came out 22 years ago and the film series’ popularity is still as robust as ever. That was evident at Awesome Con in Washington, D.C., when stars Sean Astin (Goonies), Elijah Wood (Yellowjackets) and Andy Serkis (The Batman) greeted the many fans at their panel. They shared memories about working on the film adaption of J.R.R. Tolkien’s story of the hobbits and ring quest.

First Thoughts about ‘The Lord of the Rings’

Wood recalled that he was leaving a wig fitting during pre-production when he encountered Astin for the first time. Their gut reaction felt very natural from both sides. Wood said, “We saw each other and we immediately embraced! We had never met. We gave each other a hug.”

Astin remembered asking Wood after the warm greeting, “Are you ready for this?”

As for Serkis, one early memory was his surprise at being considered for a digital character, when CGI was still largely uncharted territory. He envisioned playing any one of 10 to 12 great parts on camera, but certainly not an off-camera part. However, his curiosity and interest returned when he learned Gollum was the role. A friend wasn’t convinced that was a good idea, saying to him, “I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole, mate.”

Serkis added, “I met him years later and he said, ‘That was the worst piece of advice I’ve ever given anyone!'”

Sean Astin, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis laughing during The Lord of the Rings Q&A
Sean Astin, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

On Gollum … and That Voice

Astin interjected with a joke. “AI is the big subject of the moment all over the planet. It’s Andy’s fault! They never would’ve pushed the technology the way they did until you came along.”

Director Peter Jackson cast Serkis in The Lord of the Rings so that Astin and Wood could act off his voice and movements. Wood appreciated those contributions, saying to Serkis, “You came and you were the physical embodiment of the character. You really drove that for us on set, too … for what became the character and drove the animation.”

Serkis had thought for a while about Gollum’s voice until he was inspired by his cat. “Dizz my cat came in and literally coughed up a fur ball in front of me. Gospel truth: I watched his back rippling and I just thought that’s brilliant.”

On the Sam-Frodo-Gollum Dynamics

Astin and Wood’s characters, Sam and Frodo, rely on Gollum as a guide along a segment of their journey. The ensuing conflict illustrates some major differences between Sam and Frodo. Astin loved Sam’s faithfulness to Frodo, while Wood appreciated Frodo’s humanity. For Wood, Frodo has “the ability to see the good in the dark places. The way he deals with Gollum/Sméagol is his true character and I love that.”

Photo of Sean Astin waving to fans at The Lord of the Rings panel
Sean Astin (Credit: Pat Cuadros)

Agreeing with Wood, Astin also highlighted that quality of Frodo. “When he treats Sméagol like Sméagol, Sméagol acts like Sméagol. And when other people crack on Gollum, he acts like Gollum. It’s a good lesson on how we treat each other and the influence you can have on other people.” 

Serkis credited Jackson for creating well-rounded characters throughout The Lord of the Rings trilogy, particularly with the monsters. With Jackson’s vision executed successfully, the films went beyond mere visual effects for show. Serkis said, “You really care about those characters. They’re not just these monsters out there that you don’t relate to.”

About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros is Pop Culture Editor for Blogcritics Magazine. She frequently covers TV, film and theater. Her portfolio includes interviews with Ndaba Mandela and actors Juliette Binoche, Fran Drescher, Derek Jacobi and Brent Spiner. She's also spoken with notable voice actors Petrea Burchard, Garry Chalk, Peter Cullen and Brian Drummond.

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