Andy Serkis says Gollum ‘never far away’ ahead of charity reading of The Hobbit

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor

Andy Serkis has said Gollum is “never too far away” as he prepares to revisit his most famous role for a continuous, live reading of The Hobbit – lasting around 12 hours.

The star, 56, best known for his pioneering performance in The Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit films, will read JRR Tolkien’s 1937 book from start to finish, but said he might need to put up a “back in five minutes” sign when he needs to visit the loo.

Money raised from the performance will be split equally between NHS Charities Together and children’s health charity Best Beginnings.

He told the PA news agency: “I’ve been wanting to do something that really speaks to the idea of being isolated and locked down and what everybody has been going through and what we all crave, which is to be free and to be outside and going off on adventures.

“The idea of holiday, the idea of going up into the hills and things that we have not been able to do, that was really what inspired it.

“I’m a mountaineer, I’m a climber and hillwalker and the idea of not being able to do those things is very hard for people who do love the outdoors so it was the idea of going on some big escape adventure, a real adventure.

“Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who doesn’t actually want to leave home, he wants to stay indoors and the thoughts of going on adventures is quite frankly terrifying for him, but in the process of going on an adventure he discovers a lot about himself and so for me what was really at the core of this is what we are learning about ourselves during this pandemic and how we are surviving it and how we are coping with it mentally and physically.”

Serkis said he was going to “lean in” to doing all the voices of the characters, but added: “I’m not going to be doing impersonations of the great voices like Ian McKellen’s and Martin Freeman’s in our film but I will probably nod to them in some way.

“I will try to find my own version but I will be giving it welly.

“It’s not going to be a dry reading, it’s live, and there will be lots of, I’m sure, fumbles and stumbles and trips and it’s not an audio recording where we go back and correct, it’s happening live, and if the cat walks in and jumps up on the desk, that is what is gong to happen.

“And if I have to take a comfort break, I’m going to have to put a sign up saying ‘back in five minutes’, or I might chew my way through some lunch, we will see.”

Speaking about returning to Gollum, he said: “It’s been many years, it was 2012 that we did the film of The Hobbit and it’s crazy to think that we actually started working on Lord Of The Rings in 1999, 21 years ago, that is insane, I can’t believe where it has all gone.

“As you get older and the vocal cords are a little more taxed, the Riddles In The Dark chapter (in which Gollum is introduced) is going to be a little baby mouth.

“But he’s never really gone away and people do ask me of course to do answerphone messages and birthday greetings and bar mitzvah greetings, he’s never too far away so I can draw on him.

“He manifested himself as Theresa May not too long ago so he has been known to pop up.”

Serkis is calling on fans who watch his reading to donate via the GoFundMe campaign.

Serkis has been an ambassador of Best Beginnings, which works to support babies, toddlers, pregnant families and new parents and aims to reduce inequality, for over six years.

NHS Charities Together is the umbrella organisation bringing together all the official charities of the health service.

Donations can be made at www.gofundme.com/thehobbitathoncovid19appeal.

The livestream will start at 10am on Friday with the link posted on the GoFundMe page on Friday morning.