This is a word-for-word transcription of a press conference held for “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” in a hotel in Los Angeles after the World Premiere of the film. Seated were: Philippa Boyens, Benedict Cumberbatch, Richard Armitage, Peter Jackson, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Aidan Turner and Dean O’Gorman.
Press were given microphones by moderators. Although TheOneRing.net attended, for which we thank Warner Bros., we did not have a chance to ask a question to the assembled group; we apologize for some that did. Transcribed by Twitter staffer @Saoirse_Loachlann
The Desolation of Smaug world premiere press conference
Press: Actually for both of you – for both sexiest men in the world. [Editor’s note: a reference to Benedict Cumberbatch and Richard Armitage.] Can both of you talk about…a little bit about Benedict doing the voice over. Did you go to New Zealand and did that help you in terms of kind of, you know, being with Peter and did you get to mingle with the rest of the cast and so forth?
Benedict: That’s about five questions; I’ll go with the first part of that. Yes, I did go to New Zealand. It was hugely, hugely helpful. I started off with Peter and Fran and Philippa – just the three of them and me, which was a privilege in itself seeing how large everything else is on this film – to have their sole attention – and we were in the MoCap stage so it began as a physicalization and both voice and face and body work – the whole thing. So that’s how I kind of discovered him. Via my Dad who read me the book when I was either 6 or 7 – I’ve really got to ring him, I keep saying this. I’ve said this for two days and not found out. But I was young. I was younger than 8 when I went to school so it was a bedtime (story) at home, so that was my first bit of research.
Then I went to the reptile house at London Zoo. It’s so beautifully written the book and it’s so well illustrated and countless editions of the book and then with Peter’s input and our rehearsals and just playing like a kid really in this incredible freeing environment they call the mocap stage where we can kind of go anywhere with it. So, very, very helpful.
Sadly, I met hardly any of the cast. Richard I met once – I crossed over with people as they were coming back to do, I think their ADR I think, but yeah and Martin, I didn’t spend any sort of live time with Martin which was sad but that was fine. It’s fine. We know each other quite well so we kind of second-guessed it with our performances to some degree I guess but yeah, I didn’t cross over with anyone. I now see two people I haven’t even met yet so that is bizarre.
Press: Anyone over on this side of the table you’d like to meet? Because I could introduce you…
Benedict: [Laughs] Hello! Morning!
Evangeline: Well, we did just meet on this press junket.
Benedict: Yeah, I met you on the red carpet, yeah.
Press: I just want to add one thing to that which is: if it’s Andy Serkis as Gollum, it’s easier to understand how he would do a motion capture performance for that, but it’s hard to wrap at least my brain around how you do motion capture of this gargantuan creature. How did you even approach that?
Benedict: Well, it’s obviously more abstract. It’s only going to be a sort of impression of something that’s a serpentine reptile who can breathe fire and fly and because I’m a limited biped mammal – sorry about that – but Peter knew that when I auditioned so we work with my sort of my negatives and try to turn them into positives.
One of the ways I did it was to try to squeeze my legs together just forgetting the fact that they were legs, trying to feel that as an elongated body, crawling on the floor on my elbows and using my hands as claws and sort of over-articulating my neck and shoulder to the delight of any physio who was unlucky enough to try and heal me afterward and yeah, just throwing myself at it with a kind of kid-like imagination and their brilliant expert guidance and it was a really fun way to work. And Andy came down to start on second unit and I said “God, I wish you’d been there” because he’s the don, he’s the originator and master of that form – art form I should say giving its proper title – and we just sort of laughed afterward. Obviously, you know, he’s only done biped mammals, you know, no one’s really tried a serpent before, so I don’t think he would have been much help at all. (Laughs)
Press: Excellent movie. The special effects were incredible of course. For Peter – I’m just curious as to what were the challenges of filming the film with these special effects and for the actors – what was it like working on a special effects movie where not all the effects were there for you to see?
Peter: Well, I mean the… what I tried to do is anytime we were on a green screen stage with a lot of, you know, just bits of set (and) green screen, I would try to bring in the conceptual art (something) Alan Lee or John Howe, or one of the Weta Workshop guys have done. So that we, you know, at least the guys know what is going to be back on the green screen behind them.
Not all the time because sometimes I didn’t even know myself when we were shooting it. Some of those things you figure out later on. I mean look, its ultimately, I mean, other guys (vision) it but it’s like, it’s the power the imagination. It’s just…it’s a suspension of disbelief really.
You are, just as the audience, we are asking you to believe in a world that elves and dwarves and dragons and orcs exist. When you’re on the stage, you have to also be in that same mind frame. You are in that world, whether it’s green or whatever, if there’s a tennis ball that’s supposed to be Smaug, you’re still, it’s the same thing, really.