‘Hobbit’: Peter Jackson talks Smaug cameo, creature design

Nov. 29, 2012 | 12:30 p.m.

There’s no question one of the most eagerly anticipated moments in Peter Jackson’s new “Hobbit” trilogy will be the first appearance of the great dragon Smaug. In an interview earlier this year, Peter Jackson said the creature, played by actor Benedict Cumberbatch, will have a “little cameo” in the first installment, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” and he described the challenges inherent in presenting one of literature’s most famous dragons on-screen.

“The trouble with redesigning dragons I’ve found is… you very quickly can go into science fiction territory, and I don’t want to do that,” the filmmaker said. “I want to present the most venal, scary, decrepit, nasty dragon I possibly can.”

Jackson spoke with Hero Complex contributor John Horn at Comic-Con International in July, just before announcing that the two-film adaptation of “The Hobbit” would become a trilogy. Watch the third part of their conversation above; you can see earlier installments here and here.

PHOTOS: 60 images from ‘The Hobbit’

In this segment of the interview, the filmmaker discussed the digital magic conjured by Richard Taylor and the team at WETA Workshop to invent the host of otherworldly species that populate Middle-earth. Jackson said he relied heavily on computer artistry for the Orcs and goblins, in particular.

“Prosthetic makeup is always frustrating,” Jackson said. “At the end of the day, if you want the character to talk, which a lot of the Orcs and goblins do, you can design the most incredible prosthetics, but you’ve still got eyes where the eyes have to be and the mouth where the mouth has to be. That human triangle, two eyes and a mouth, is very difficult to disguise, no matter what you do with the ears and heads and chins and noses.

He continued: “One of the things we’re doing on ‘The Hobbit’ — which is definitely technology that we have available now that we didn’t have 10 years ago — we often shoot the Orcs as people in suits but they just have a leotard on their head with motion capture dots on it. A lot of the Orcs even though they’re played by performers, the makeup is going to be CG makeup, which allows me to put their eyes further apart. They can open their mouths and scream in a much more dynamic way than they ever could.”

Jackson, of course, has employed a groundbreaking, though controversial, new technology for his latest Tolkien films, shooting the productions in  a revolutionary 48-frames-per-second-format — a new projection technique that’s designed to offer viewers a hyper-realistic “immersive” experience.

Hero Complex will host a free IMAX screening of Jackson’s highly anticipated fantasy epic on Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. at the AMC Burbank 16 & IMAX  — three days before the movie’s official release.

To RSVP for the screening, log on to latimes.com/hobbit starting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 4; RSVPs will close as soon as the screening is full.

– Gina McIntyre

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex

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