Tomorrow the world will bask in the golden-hued glory of Peter Jackson's Hobbit. But until then, here are some little-known facts, and a few rumors, about this massive fantasy undertaking. We pulled all the best little-known details from press conferences, exclusive interviews, production blogs, and our own set visit.
Here are 12 things you probably didn't know about Peter Jackson's latest three-hour undertaking.
Gollum Vs. Bilbo Took One Week To Shoot (Almost) Straight Through
The first shot filmed was the riddle off between Gollum and Bilbo. It was Martin Freeman's first attempt at Bilbo and Andy Serkis' long awaited return. At the NYC press conference, Peter Jackson and crew likened the showdown to a stage play. Jackson allowed the two to run through the performance straight through at different angles (with little to no stopping). The whole thing took about a week.
"The Gollum sequence was the first scene we shot. We filmed that in the first 10 days of shooting...That was a great scene to start with in a way because we had a lot of logistical thing on the movie to deal with, with 13 dwarves in heavy prosthetics and costumes, and they had to be in makeup for three hours a day. So starting the shoot, [it felt like] we were at the foot of a mountain that felt like a big climb. But that first week or so of shooting, just having two actors allowed us to find our feet. It was literally the first time in the world [Martin Freeman] ever played that character when we started shooting that scene. It was a great way to start. I felt sorry for Martin — he had Andy Serkis kind of coming at him, full energy. And here was Martin trying to figure out, "Who is this character I'm playing, how would he react to this?" But we were able to work together... It was also a scene that I decided to give Martin and Andy a chance to develop both the scene and the characters by shooting the entire scene (over 12-pages long) the whole way through. It was 9 or 10 minutes worth, and we just let the camera run."
Martin Freeman Almost Lost Bilbo Because of Watson
By the time Jackson was able to offer Freeman the role of Bilbo, the actor had already committed to the Sherlock TV series. And the second season shoot would fall right in the middle of their shoot. But Jackson was so hellbent on getting Freeman, he stopped production and sent half of the staff home on vacation to allow Freeman time to shoot Sherlock.
Jackson elaborated on this at the NYC Hobbit press conference:
We were in trouble, I was really panicking. We all were. We looked at other actors, possibly. But unless we got this bit of casting right we knew we were going to be in enormous trouble... I was having sleepless nights. We were probably at six weeks away from the beginning of the shoot, and still hadn't settled on anyone else. I was tormenting myself by watching Sherlock on an ipad at about 4 o'clock in the morning (the second episode of the first season because I love the show). And I was just sitting there thinking God there is nobody better. When I got up that morning I called Martin's agent in London and I asked if we could find a way to accomodate Martin's schedule in our shoot. And fortunately the answer was yes. So we did something very unusual, we started to shoot for about 4 or 5 months and then Martin had to go and do Sherlock. We literally stopped the shoot for two months, eight weeks.
Peter Jackson's Biggest Fear from The Hobbit? The Dwarves
Jackson has been quoted over and over again stating that the reason he dragged his feet about getting back into the director's chair was due to the dwarves.
"Thirteen dwarves is one of the reasons I dreaded The Hobbit. It's why I really didn't think I would make it for such a long time."
If you look closely at Bifur's hairline, you'll notice he has an axe wedged into his skull. In an interview with Empire Magazine actor William Kircher explained this new addition to the book's character:
"I only speak in Dwarvish — It's because of the axe. But something happens… can't say any more. The backstory for my character is that once he was a reasonable okay guy but unfortunately he's turned into a bit of a maniac. He's a bit mentally challenged — only because of the axe. He's not thick, he's just got mental problems. He's totally unstable and in a fight he just goes insane, especially with the trolls."
And boy howdy does Bifur go insane — in one scene the dwarf actually takes his head and rams it into a troll leg, axe end first. Which is funny as William Kircher also played Good Tom the troll (in a mocap suit).
Baby Dwarf With The Ribbons in His Hair
On the other end of the dwarf personality scale is Ori. The baby-faced dwarf. And his dwarf secret (which we learned on the Hobbit set visit) was that this young dwarf wears little purple ribbons his mother plaited. As this is Ori's first quest.
There Is No Sunscreen in Middle-Earth
If you've seen the fourth production blog from The Hobbit, then you've noticed that the cast kind of looks like they've been hanging around Tan Mom. This is because of the cameras! Apparently shooting 3D at 48 frames, if there's not enough red then the camera would punch up yellow. So the makeup crew had to add a lot of red tones to the cast of The Hobbit, hence the reddish "it burns, it burns" appearance.
Frodo Baggins, Now with Digital Baby Face
Elijah Wood was but 19 years old when he first pranced about in the green meadows of the Shire for Lord of the Rings. Ten years later the actor reprised his role as Frodo Baggins in The Hobbit. But since this was a younger version of Frodo, Wood would have to be de-aged. At the press conference in NYC it was revealed that Jackson digitally softened the wrinkly crags of baby-faced Woods to make him look like a younger hobbit. Thus leaving nothing untouched by the hands of Jackson's FX team.
Bilbo Will Go Through Some Changes
Even though Martin Freeman was directed to treat The Ring with very little regard the trinket will have some sort of power over him, something that was not fleshed out in the original text (as we J.R.R. Tolkien hadn't yet decided what to do with the Ring's awesome power). However Jackson told Collider that Freeman will begin to feel the weight of this object as the Hobbit trilogy moves along.
"So the first time he puts it on it's simply a magic ring, but each time he puts it on the effect of it getsj to him a bit more."
Smaug Stole All Of New Zealand's Gold (Paint)
The greedy dragon's lust for gold could not be quenched even off the set. According to Scotsman The Hobbit crew used up all of the gold paint in New Zealand creating Smaug's lair. They used up so much paint that they actually had to pick more up from Germany.
All of the dwarves' beards and hair were made of real hair — real Yak hair, that is. However Thorin's beard is all natural, grown from the chin of actor Richard Armitage. Some of the wigs and beard combinations cost the makeup department up to $10,000. Illustration by Lauren Davis.
Big Feet = Big Hands
The Hobbit feet had been upgraded substantially from Lord of the Rings — instead of prosthetic feet that were fairly labor intensive to get on and off, the Hobbit crew engineered a slip-on foot. But the feet aren't the only fake things on the actors — the dwarves have fake noses, beards, and fake hands. Hell, they even had protection on the palms of their hands for copious weapon handling. Illustration by Lauren Davis.
One of the Tolkiens Actually Likes Peter Jackson's Movies
It's well known that the Tolkien family is not the biggest fan of Peter Jackson's interpretations of J.R.R. Tolkien's work. However, Royd Tolkien, the great grandson of the author, told the Chronicle that he loves it. In fact he called it "stunningly amazing." Color us surprised.
Guillermo del Toro Punned Up The Dwarves
Okay we didn't include this one in the top number because we couldn't confirm it, but is SOUNDS legit. Over on the One Ring Message Boards there's a fascinating discussion about the names of the dwarves and Guillermo del Toro's contributions to the dwarves personalities. And his love of puns. The commenters are speculating that the axe head decision is a pun on the word bifurcated. And the reason that the dwarf Oin has the hearing aid is because in Spanish, oyen means "they hear", from the infinitive oir. Multilingual pun with! Multilingual pun! Thanks for the tip One Ring.