‘Hobbit’: See Benedict Cumberbatch writhe and snarl as Smaug

Oct. 21, 2014 | 10:00 a.m.
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Martin Freeman as Bilbo, from left, Jed Brophy as Nori and Richard Armitage as Thorin in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf, left, and Sylvester McCoy as Radagast in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (James Fisher / Warner Bros.)

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Richard Armitage as Thorin, left, and Dean O'Gorman as Fili in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Graham McTavish as Dwalin, left, Ken Stott as Balin, Martin Freeman as Bilbo, Richard Armitage as Thorin and William Kircher as Bifur in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Martin Freeman, left, and John Callen in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Mark Pokorny / Warner Bros.)

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf, left, and Sylvester McCoy as Radagast in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Azog, portrayed by Manu Bennett through motion-capture technology, in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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William Kircher as Bifur, left, John Callen as Oin, Richard Armitage as Thorin and Ken Stott as Balin in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Stephen Fry as the Master of Lake-town, left, and Ryan Gage as Alfrid in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Peggy Nesbitt as Sigrid, Mary Nesbitt as Tilda and John Bell as Bain in a scene from "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Azog, portrayed by Manu Bennett through motion-capture technology, in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Lee Pace as Thranduil in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel and Orlando Bloom as Legolas in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Ian McKellen as Gandalf in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Orlando Bloom as Legolas in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Lee Pace as Thranduil in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Luke Evans as Bard in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

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Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in a poster for "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

The extended edition of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” is available for digital download today and out on Blu-ray Nov. 4, but Hero Complex readers get an exclusive first look at a clip from the bonus features.

The clip showcases actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance as the deadly dragon Smaug, a miserly lizard who guards his hoarded, stolen gold in a mountain lair that was once home to the dwarf king of Erebor.

Like Gollum actor Andy Serkis, Cumberbatch employed performance-capture technology to play the enormous dragon in Peter Jackson’s film trilogy based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novel “The Hobbit.”

Benedict Cumberbatch arrives for the European premiere of "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" in Berlin on Dec. 9, 2013. (Gero Breloer / Associated Press)

Benedict Cumberbatch arrives for the European premiere of “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” in Berlin on Dec. 9, 2013. (Gero Breloer / Associated Press)

“You kind of have to … imagine yourself into a vast creature in a huge space when you’re really crawling about on a gray bit of carpet,” Cumberbatch says in the video.

Serkis — who has pioneered performance-capture acting with his roles as Gollum in Jackson’s “The Lord of the Rings” film trilogy and in “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” and as Caeser in the “Planet of the Apes” films — gave Cumberbatch some advice about his performance.

“I said, treat it like you’re playing the role,” he says in the clip. “Don’t think you’re just providing the voice. Go in there physically, get what you can out of it. There will be head turns, there will be components from that performance that you give that can be pulled out and extrapolated and will become part of Smaug’s being.”

Cumberbatch talked about the elaborate process of portraying the dragon late last year, which included trips to the zoo for research, using a device to lower his voice several octaves and plenty of “rolling around on the carpet.”

“They built a wooden platform on stilts and they had this hard board that they’d padded with some foam and mats and stuff and on top of that they put this sheepskin,” he told Hero Complex’s Gina McIntyre last year. “It was literally like ‘Baum chicka baum baum,’ me up on my Smaug-y platform. I was like, ‘This is cool, I can slink around like a porn star dragon.’ … It was great because that luxuriant sensation I imagine it is for him to feel all that gold around him.”

Benedict Cumberbatch breathes life into J.R.R. Tolkien's dragon in "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug." (Warner Bros.)

Benedict Cumberbatch breathes life into J.R.R. Tolkien’s dragon in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” (Warner Bros.)

Cumberbatch, whose father read him “The Hobbit” when he was a child, praised the story and especially its reptilian villain.

“It was always Smaug for me, always, always,” he said. “He’s just such an extraordinary creature in the book. He’s got a lot of personality. He’s not just a presence of animal — he’s got very wrong human emotions, avarice and venality and cruelty but also charm.”

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition,” available as a five-disc Blu-ray 3D set, a three-disc Blu-ray set or for digital download, is 25 minutes longer than the theatrical version and previous home video releases, extending individual scenes. The extended edition also includes more than nine hours of new bonus features, including audio commentary with Jackson and co-producer and screenwriter Philippa Boyens as well a documentary about New Zealand (where the film was produced) and “The Appendices,” a documentary about the making of the film.

“The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” the final installment in Jackson’s trilogy, is due in theaters Dec. 17.

Go behind the scenes with Cumberbatch in the video above and let us know what you think about his serpentine performance in the comments below.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

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Comments


10 Responses to ‘Hobbit’: See Benedict Cumberbatch writhe and snarl as Smaug

  1. helen says:

    What a tremendous actor Cumberbatch is. In awe of his talent. I love the close friendship he has with Serkis.

  2. Marpoo says:

    Thank you for this. So much thank you.

  3. Evelynn says:

    This is literal acting porn. Look at him in his element; he's got such a great physicality for Smaug, not to mention the voice. One of the best things I've ever seen.

  4. Mania says:

    This is incredible.

  5. Tonya Roberts says:

    You have literally made my week with that bit of video, people! How I love the smoke and mirrors and being able to peek into the process of an incredible actor! THANK YOU!

  6. Anne says:

    Amazing physical actor. He really is moving like a monitor lizard.

  7. sarah says:

    Oh my gosh…that voice work is incredible. Sent chills up my spine!

  8. @imjnn says:

    Acting as a Dragon must be immensely difficult but Benedict had done it beautifully! The brilliancy of his speech, his voice, and his movements put up a dragon success into this movie.

  9. @wrizkya says:

    oh my , oh my, oh my…. this video made my entire week… thank you for the video. THANK YOU

  10. Ann says:

    Benedict, marry me!

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