Hob-bits and pieces on making of 'The Desolation of Smaug'

The Fresno BeeDecember 11, 2013 

The gang's all here in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug."


Making a movie as big as "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" is a long and complicated process. Here are a few of the elements that helped shape the film from director Peter Jackson.

The dragon: It wasn't just enough for Benedict Cumberbatch — who played Khan in "Star Trek Into Darkness" and is Sherlock Holmes in the PBS series "Sherlock" — to provide the voice of the dragon Smaug. His body actions were filmed, too, to create the computer-generated beast.

Cumberbatch explains his movements were only an abstract suggestion of how the dragon would move.

"It's only a representation of a serpentine reptile that can breathe fire and fly because I'm a limited, bi-ped mammal," Cumberbatch says. "One of the ways I tried to do it was squeezing my legs together. Trying to feel like an elongated body, crawling on the floor with my elbows and using my hands as claws."

He threw himself at playing a dragon with a "kid-like imagination" that proved a fun way to work.

Filming: All three films in "The Hobbit" trilogy were filmed over a 266-day block. That didn't include when cast and crew had to get together again to film additional scenes. The production took up all six sound stages at Stone Street Studios. A total of 752 wigs and 263 beards were created. The biggest demand on the wardrobe department were the 400 costumes needed for the Lake-town residents.

Water World: One of the biggest scenes in "Smaug" has the Dwarves and Hobbit escaping in wooden barrels down a cascading river. Some of the footage was shot on a real river — using only the barrels. Computer-generated Dwarves were added later.

Most of the footage was shot during a three-week period on a huge oval water track built in the studio. The water was pushed along using two diesel engines.

"We started very slowly because we didn't know how fast it would run. After a few days, they were all shouting 'faster, faster,' Jackson says. "We turned it up all the way."

The naked truth: As a gift for Jackson, the 12 actors who play the Dwarves posed nude for a "sexy" calendar. They weren't wearing clothes, but because of the hefty fat suits each had to wear there were no naughty bits showing.

Asked about the calendar, Jackson says: "They TRIED to make me a sexy calendar and failed. They thought they were making a sexy calendar."


TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.

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