Building a better dragon in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
From the moment that plans were first announced for a live-action adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, fans of the 1937 novel began pondering the ways in which the mighty dragon Smaug could be brought to life on the big screen with all the majesty of his literary counterpart.
Given the massive, fire-breathing creature’s role in the quest that brought diminutive hobbit Bilbo Baggins and a company of dwarves there and back again, it was certainly no small task – and no small amount of pressure – in bringing the creature to life. After all, for many fans of high fantasy, Smaug is the definitive dragon and the standard by which all other winged literary lizards are measured.
The responsibility of doing right by Tolkien’s great dragon, it seems, was not lost on The Desolation of Smaug’s director.
“You keep hearing all this expectation,” Peter Jackson told Hero Complex in December 2013. “’I want to see Smaug, I want to see Smaug.’ . . . Those things are a bit of a pressure.”
Fortunately for fans (and Jackson himself), a bit of inspired casting brought celebrated British actor Benedict Cumberbatch into the fold as the voice of Smaug, reuniting him with his Sherlock castmate Martin Freeman who plays Bilbo in the film. Any doubts regarding Cumberbatch’s ability to channel the iconic dragon were dispelled as the actor – and his voice – became a mainstream commodity thanks to roles in high-profile films like Star Trek Into Darkness and the introduction of Sherlock to American audiences.