The Hobbit is rolling now, and if you’ve been keeping an eye out, you’ve probably already seen some non-revealing images of Andy Serkis back in a motion capture suit to play Gollum. But this time out he’ll do more than act in the film; Peter Jackson has also tapped Andy Serkis to work as a second unit director.

Calling the opportunity “a fantastic surprise,” Mr. Serkis told THR,

I think I understand Peter’s sensibility and we have a common history of understanding Middle Earth. A lot of the crew from The Lord of the Rings was returning to work on The Hobbit. There is really  a sense of Peter wanting people around him who totally understand the material and the work ethic.

He won’t just direct motion capture segments, either, saying that “yes, there is some performance capture, but I will be very much on the live action sets and locations helping Peter to tell the story.” This means he’ll get extensive experience shooting in 3D, too. A serious crash course, then. Cool stuff; nice to see that working steadily with a director like Peter Jackson pays off in ways one might never expect. And since Mr. Serkis is an aspiring director himself, this can’t have been simply some whim on Mr. Jackson’s part. Then again, we’ll see how excited he is to do the gig when he’s up to his eyebrows in latex dwarf noses.

Oh, and as THR tells it, the performance for Gollum, which really isn’t a huge part of the film, is already in the can. Now there are months of animating and rendering yet to go before that part of the movie is finished, but still: it’s a significant step in creating The Hobbit.

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