The first installment in the Hobbit series has been around for some time now, but it will long remain a classic to fans of the original series. Here are some interesting tidbits I learned of during my recent re-watch:
1. The actors cast as the dwarves, as well as their stunt doubles and scale doubles, all went through weeks of rigorous training dubbed “Dwarf Boot Camp.” Their training included movement coaching, horseback riding, vocal training, gymnastics, hand-to-hand-combat training, and weapons training.
2. Peter Jackson was hospitalized with a perforated stomach ulcer before shooting could begin. This delayed filming, which gave the cast extra time to train, and allowed the Shire set more time to weather.
3. Because filming in 3D required different camera tricks than were used in The Lord of the Rings series, Ian McKellen (Gandalf) was required to record in a separate set, with only pictures to represent his fellow actors. This was done so he could be made to appear larger in post production.
4. Recording separately was very challenging for Ian McKellen, who broke down and cried at one point, forgetting his microphone was still on. The crew cheered him up by decorating his makeup tent in Rivendell garb and his on-set tent in 60’s retro.
5. Ian McKellen nearly didn’t return to the series, stating the role didn’t provide anything new or challenging. In a quote to The Hollywood Reporter, McKellen said “Gandalf is still inside me, as it were, so the business of getting to know a new character — I was sort of going to be robbed of that.” The highly-loved actor signed on at the last minute because he didn’t want to disappoint the fans.
6. The film began pre-production with Gulliermo Del Toro before it was greenlit; Del Toro left the project in May 2010.
7. Peter Jackson didn’t like the flow of shooting for the original “Troll Sholl” set, so the stage had to be torn down and rebuilt, so a continuous flow could be used for the shots. Every available crew member, including folks who don’t normally build sets, pitched in to help make the changes.
8. The trolls were played by three of the dwarven actors in motion capture suits. When the dwarves fight the trolls, the actors felt like they were fighting themselves.
9. In addition to portraying Gollum, Andy Serkis acted as a second unit director for the film. In an interview with Reuters, he mentioned that directing was his principal job, over playing Gollum.
10. It took over five hours to attach the six dwarves to the spit that the trolls tried to roast them on. Each actor wore steel-plated vests under their costume prosthetics that were then bolted onto the wood.
11. Fili, played by Dean O’Gorman, started filming several months after the others, as his predecessor had to leave the role for personal reasons.
12. Sylvester McCoy plays Radagast the Brown. He’s well known for playing the 7th doctor in Doctor Who. Several crew members who are fans of the seriess, including Peter Jackson, were very excited to work with McCoy.
13. Fluorescent lights were used to simulate lightning for the thunder battle scene in the mountains.
14. The goblin masks that the extras wore were so stifling, the actors weren’t able to use the movement training they had learned in order to move like goblins. Motion Capture was used instead for the gpblin heads so the actors were free to move.
15. The goblin extras had to spend so much time waiting that they put together a flash mob routine, and performed for the other actors during a meal.
16. One of the extras playing a goblin (Kiran Shah) humped Mark Hadlow’s (Dori) leg during the scene with the goblin king, at Peter Jackson’s encouragement.
17. During the day that children were brought in to film in Hobbiton, a clown was hired to entertain the child actors. Pete Jackson also used the fun atmosphere of the day to drive up in the original Chitty Chitty Bang Bang car, which he owns.
18. To make casting easier, all of the dwarves auditioned for the role of Gloin, and were later cast by the director into their specific roles.
19. Ian Mckellan and Sylvester McCoy worked together in a production of King Lear, filmed by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
20. Two different actors were hired to play Azog, the white Orc. The practical effects didn’t work, so they built the character entirely virtually, using motion capture performed by Manu Bennett.