It’s time to head back to Middle Earth again as Peter Jackson brings us the second film in his Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. A darker and more action packed outing than An Unexpected Journey, the plot follows Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) traveling along with Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) and his twelve dwarves as they make their way to where the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch) dwells. During their journey, Bilbo’s relationship with the ring continues to grow, and Thorin wonders if he can ever be the leader many said he was destined to be.
Featuring a number of exciting action sequences, including an attack of giant killer spiders and a barrel ride down a river, the film also introduces old and new characters to the trilogy. Orlando Bloom returns as Legolas, the Elven Prince of Mirkwood (who is still great with a bow and arrow), and Evangeline Lilly joins the franchise as the Elvenking’s Chief of the Guards, Tauriel. Also hopping on board for the outing is Luke Evans, who plays Bard the Bowman, a skilled archer and the heir of Girion, the last king of old Dale.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug left us exhilarated and full of questions, and many of them were answered at the film’s press conference which was held at The Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California last week. In attendance were director Peter Jackson, co-screenwriter Philippa Boyens, Benedict Cumberbatch, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Richard Armitage, and Aidan Turner and Dean O’Gorman, who play Thorin’s nephews Kili and Fili.
Check out what they had to say below!
Benedict, when it came to doing the voiceover for Smaug, did you go to New Zealand and did that help in terms of being with Peter? Also, did you get to mingle with the cast while you were over there?
Benedict Cumberbatch: Yes, I did go to New Zealand and it was hugely, hugely helpful. I started off with Peter and Fran (Walsh) and Philippa, just the three of them and me, which was a privilege in itself as much as everything else on this film. We were in the motion capture stage, so it began as a physicalization and voice, face and body, I worked the whole thing. And then with Peter’s input and our rehearsals and just playing like a kid really in this incredible, freeing volume, which is what they called the motion capture stage, we could kind of go anywhere with it so it was very, very helpful.
Sadly, I hardly met any of the cast. I crossed over with people as they were coming back to do I think their third stint, but that’s about it. I didn’t spend any live time with Martin (Freeman), which was sad, but it’s fine and we know each other quite well so we kind of second guessed our performances to some degree. I had scenes with people I haven’t even met yet, so that is bizarre.
Evangeline Lilly: We just met on this press tour.
Benedict Cumberbatch: Yeah, I met you on the red carpet.
If it’s Andy Serkis as Gollum, it’s easier to understand how you would do a motion capture performance for that. But it’s hard to wrap our brains around how you do motion capture of this gargantuan creature. How did you even approach that?
Benedict Cumberbatch: Well it’s obviously more abstract as it has to be sort of an impression of something that’s a serpentine reptile that can breathe fire and fly. One of the ways I did it was trying to squeeze my legs together, just forgetting the fact that they were legs. I would also crawl on the floor with my elbows and use my hands as claws and sort of over articulate my neck and shoulder to the delight of any physician who was lucky enough to try to heal me afterwards. I was just throwing myself at it with a kind of kid-like imagination and that brilliant expert guidance, and it was a really fun way to work.
And Andy came down to start on second unit and I said, “God I wish you’d been there” because he’s the originator and master of that art form. We just sort of laughed after that because he’s only done biped mammals and no one’s really tried a serpent before, so I don’t think he would’ve been much help at all (laughs).