Gollum actor Andy Serkis is about to embark on a continuous, live reading of The Hobbit – lasting around 12 hours – and he’s promised to do “all the voices”.
Speaking to Sky News ahead of the challenge on Friday, the award-winning actor said he was looking forward to reading the entire book from start to finish as a way to provide entertainment during the coronavirus lockdown.
The live “Hobbitathon” will raise money for two good causes, NHS Charities Together and Best Beginnings, for which Serkis has been an ambassador for several years.
“It’s a marathon or Hobbitathon, if you like,” says Serkis. “So many people have been trapped in lockdown for so long and the thought of going on any kind of adventure is so far away, I wanted to somehow bring this extraordinary story to life for people, in one hit, in one big adventure racing across Middle Earth.
“And at the same time, managing to raise some money for our key workers, NHS Charities Together, and one of my favourite charities, Best Beginnings, which is an amazing cause. So that’s the idea. I really want to bring it to life and make people feel they are going on this massive adventure.”
Serkis says he was inspired by Captain Tom Moore, the centenarian who has raised tens of millions of pounds for the NHS’s COVID-19 efforts by walking laps of his garden.
“Captain Tom and so many people running marathons,” he says. “I just thought, what’s the equivalent? If you can’t actually run a marathon if you’re trapped indoors, an armchair marathon would be good. And what a great story to do it with.”
Best known for starring as Gollum in The Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings films, Serkis also lent his voice acting skills to the roles of Caesar, leader of the apes in the most recent Planet Of The Apes films, and Supreme Leader Snoke in the Star Wars sequel trilogy films The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
But as any parent or teacher experienced in the art of good bedtime storytelling knows, when you’re reading aloud you have to do all the different voices.
“I’m going to be doing all of them,” Serkis promises. “It’s interesting because there are the iconic versions played by so many great actors over the years so I’m going to do my own interpretation.
“Some of them might be closer to the ones I’ve been involved in, but, yes, I’m going to be doing all of the voices of all the great characters, like the trolls and the orcs and all of those.”
I want to take you on one of the greatest fantasy adventures ever written. Join me for a 12-hour armchair marathon reading of “The Hobbit”, in aid of two amazing charities which are doing extraordinary work right now to help those most in need@NHSuk @bestbeginnings #hobbitathon pic.twitter.com/q8qIO3diPT
— Andy Serkis (@andyserkis) May 7, 2020
Serkis says he has had a 60-page practice run in preparation for the main event, but wouldn’t share any of his voices until the big day.
“I had a little test and I have to say, it is quite a test, it’s quite an exhausting thing to do… I think I’d better keep [the voices] secret and safe and let people hear them tomorrow.”
The actor, who earlier this year received the BAFTA Award for outstanding British contribution to cinema, says he will be armed with food and energy drinks to keep breaks to a minimum.
“Sitting in a comfortable chair I have a real tendency to fall asleep very easily, so I hope don’t have a narcoleptic attack and fall asleep,” he says.
“I’ll have food and drink, I’m going to have energy drinks, and then I possibly might have to take a comfort break sort of around the six-hour mark. All part of the fun.”
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If the reading goes well, has he thought about tackling the Lord Of The Rings trilogy next?
“I haven’t thought that far ahead yet. This one came as an idea that really resonated, mainly because Bilbo Baggins is a hobbit who doesn’t want to leave, is a very reluctant traveller… he’s forced to go on an adventure and then he discovered a lot about himself.
“I think the story really resonates with what we’re discovering about ourselves during lockdown and how our desires are now to get out and see the world in a different way. So, I hadn’t thought beyond this one, but I’m very, very excited about reading it. I hope I get through it.”
Serkis says this is his way of saying thank you.
“As we’re coming to this strange moment in time where we’re facing the possibility of easing the lockdown and taking tentative steps out into the world… in a way, I wanted to sort of offer this up as a thank you to everyone who’s been through this and kept indoors, supported the NHS by doing that.”
The Hobbitathon starts at 10am UK time on Friday, and is estimated to take between 10 and 12 hours.
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 more than six years.
NHS Charities Together is the umbrella organisation bringing together all the official charities of the health service.
Donations can be made on the actor’s Go Fund Me page here and the link to the livestream will also be posted there earlier before 10am tomorrow morning.