Peter Jackson Unveils 20 Minutes of New Footage at 'Hobbit' Fan Event
Tolkienites from L.A. to Sydney were treated to a live Q&A with the director and stars of his upcoming "Desolation of Smaug."
Warner Bros. unveiled a new trailer plus 20 minutes of footage from Peter Jackson's latest J.R.R. Tolkien adaptation, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, to fans around the world Monday. Audiences turned out for special events in Los Angeles, New York, Wellington, London, Madrid, Mexico City, Brussels, Paris, Rome, Miami, Toronto, Hamburg and Sydney.
Crowds lined up early at the Grove in Los Angeles to grab free T-shirts and limited edition photobooks from the film. Warners decorated the lobby of the Pacific Theatre with posters, costumes from the film, and even trees inspired by Middle-earth. Some of the attendees donned their best Tolkien-inspired costumes, including one fellow in a pretty amazing Gandalf outfit (and his imitation of Sir Ian McKellen's voice wasn't too shabby, either). Inside, there were trailers for the film playing on the cinema screen, including a new extended trailer that left fans cheering at their first glimpse of the mighty Smaug. On hand to take questions from the audience was one of the stars of the film, Evangeline Lilly. Lilly portays Tauriel, a woodland elf and head of the Mirkwood elven guard, a character created specifically for the film by Jackson and Fran Walsh.
Jackson himself attended the event in New Zealand (he wasn't wearing shoes -- and before you ask, no, his feet aren't Hobbit-hairy); stars Orlando Bloom and Richard Armitage were on hand in New York with CNN's Anderson Cooper; and stars Andy Serkis, Luke Evans and Lee Pace attended in London. Live feeds connected the events, and audiences were asked to cheer and signal their enthusiasm.
Aware that some hard-core Tolkien fans are unsure or downright hostile to the inclusion of the new character Tauriel in the story, Lilly declared her own longtime love of the Tolkien stories and promised to try and win over any unhappy fans. She appears to have succeeded, as her lighthearted demeanor and jokes about her baggy plaid pants (inspired by her love of the film Annie Hall) charmed the audience pretty quickly.
As the event got underway, Jackson introduced a clip of Martin Freeman -- who portrays lead character Bilbo Baggins in the film -- thanking all of the fans for their support and for turning out to the events. Things then moved to a video blog featurette covering the May-to-July shoot that Jackson described as "the most intense 10 weeks of my life." The video blog itself featured lots of on-set joking and bloopers that pleased the crowd, plus some fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpses into the production.
Jackson was asked whether the expansion of the story to involve so many new characters made his work more difficult, and surprisingly his answer was "Not really." He explained, "The fundamental thing people must understand is that in the novel, the voice of the novelist takes you on the journey. … But as a movie director, you don't want to insert yourself into it like that." The larger cast allowed the filmmaker to rely on the characters to act as that voice.
For an undertaking like this, you might expect Lilly would have reviewed the previous Hobbit film -- or the previous Lord of the Rings trilogy -- to familiarize herself with Jackson's tone and style. But Lilly said, "One of the things I intentionally did in preparation for this role was to not go back and watch those films." She didn't wish to alter her performance or the perception of her character based on what other people had done in the series. Not that she took no inspiration from other sources -- Tinkerbell is a character Lilly looked to for the balance between grace and toughness. "She is a badass little fairy," Lilly remarked.
"One of the most exciting things in a film so male-driven," Lilly said, "is Tauriel is one of the few characters fighting for truth and justice. … As one of the two women in the film, I love that as a woman I'm fighting for truth and justice." She also pointed out that she didn't have to be taught archery, having taught it at a youth camp in the past. So she wasn't totally unprepared for the role, although it had been long enough since her archery days that she had to get somewhat reacquainted with it. Overall, she said, this was her most difficult role to date, what with having to relearned the bow, learning to fight with a knife and move like an elf, losing her "baby weight" from her recent pregnancy, learning to speak Elvish, and so on.
Discussing returning to a character a decade later while playing a younger version of that character, Bloom stated, "60 to an elf is a blink of an eye," before adding, "The first thing I did was to try on my old costume to see if it still fit." It did, he added, eliciting applause from the audience (especially the female fans, from the sounds of it).
Of his motion-capture performance, Serkis discussed some of the difficulties this time around. "Trying to find Smeagol before he became Gollum was difficult," the actor said. He also explained that the passage of time and age changed things as well, saying, "Crawling around was more difficult 10 years later." Of his favorite moments in the production, he singled out the sequence from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in which Bilbo first encounters Gollum, which he particularly appreciated because he and Freeman "got to do that scene in its entirety."