Jude Fisher HeadshotFor those of us who have made a habit out of collecting the various tie-in books that have been released alongside Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations – Jude Fisher is a name that springs instantly to mind. She is the author of the Visual Companion books that have come out with each respective film.

Her experience with Tolkien goes back many years, as the UK publisher of the author’s works. I know a great many of us adore all the beautiful artwork by Alan Lee and John Howe that has decorated the books over the years – and Ms. Fisher (working under her
real name of Jane Johnson) was responsible for commissioning that work. This collaboration led directly into her involvement with the films. Her work on the Visual Companions involved coming to New Zealand for the production of the films (being dubbed the “10th member of the Fellowship of the Ring” by Lord of the Rings producer Barrie Osbourne).

This year, we get to sink our teeth into her latest installment – The Desolation of Smaug Visual Companion. The author spoke with Shawn Speakman – of the website Suvudu – about her latest book, and what it’s been like to follow the production of the films.

I went on location all over South Island and can attest to the fishing abilities of Aragorn and his acolytes, Merry and Pippin and Legolas (though rather less to their cooking skills). I saw all sorts of miracles being produced by Richard Taylor and his team at Weta, and by Dan Hennah’s Art Department and all at such an early stage in the evolution of these movies, before anyone really had any idea how immense – both artistically and financially – they were going to be.

I think the greatest revelation of all has been seeing John Howe and Alan Lee bringing their artistic vision to life under Peter’s guidance, or with his indulgence! They are both so brilliant at capturing every aspect of the world, so caught up in the details. To see Lake-town emerging into maquette form from their hundreds
of drawings, and then to a full-sized set complete with lake (!) was incredible. And then to see the already phenomenal landscape of New Zealand given the Art Department’s tweaks simply transported me into the heart of Middle-earth. Still the most magical moment of all for me was driving through wilderness to Mount Potts on a crisp October morning in 2000 to find an almost-deserted Anglo-Saxon settlement on a crag above me, and then climbing up to it to discover Alan Lee putting tiny finishing touches to the Golden Hall of Edoras the day before filming was due to start. That will stay with me till my dying day.

Click here to read the rest of the interview. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Visual Companion is now available in bookstores.