1/19/13 Update with images near the bottom of the page–
The perplexing issue of whether or not Azog will appear in any of the Hobbit films (and in what capacity) has been the topic of rampant discussion on TORn for over a week now, ever since a reportedly official description was posted on a German website implying the nemesis of the Longbeards was not actually killed at the Battle of Azanulbizar like everyone believed (or was killed, but is now returned, most likely via the Necromancer). Translation of the description follows:
It was said that Azog the Desecrator fell many years ago in the great battle between the Orcs and the Dwarves. But now he appears again at the top of a deadly horde of killer orcs. For Gandalf begins a race against time because he has to figure out the connection between the most dangerous orc commander and the growing evil, which takes shape in the ruins of the fortress of Dol Guldur. One thing is totally clear: no one will deter Azog from his intention to destroy Thorin Oakenshield’s companions to the last dwarf.
Azog is mentioned in two other character descriptions, that of Fimbul who is one of “Azog’s master hunters”, and under Wargs, of which Azog is supposed to be riding a “giant white she-wolf”.
To make the matter more confusing, the casting of Azog has changed over the last year. It was originally announced by Peter Jackson that Conan Stevens was going to be Azog, but this year TORn quietly revealed that was no longer the case, and he is actually playing Bolg, whose description from the German site states:
Bolg is the offspring of Azog the Desecarator – like his father, he is huge pale orc. He is the overseer in the dungeons of Dol Guldur – torturing is his hobby. He garnishes his armor with the bones and the blood of his victims. This husky Orc fears nothing and nobody – until he suddenly meets an unexpected opponent.
The idea that the terror of Azog did not end at the Battle of Azanulbizar is a pretty massive deviation from the canon, but one that has some interesting potential for fueling the dwarf/orc feud. By linking Azog and/or Bolg with Dol Guldur/the Necromancer, it keeps Gandalf’s side-trip from moving too far from the story arc of the dwarves.
It was rumored earlier this year that an actor named John Rawls would be playing Azog, but now more or less confirmed that he is playing a character named Yazneg (which was just recently trademarked by Saul Zaentz Co.). So, at the moment, that leaves us without an official Azog cast announcement, which means the German character description may be outdated. The only other piece of evidence for whether or not there will be an “Azog” in some form comes from the merchandizing pre-order list from months ago, which had both Azog and Bolg available. Except that the latest info from TheFwoosh.com forum is that Azog pre-orders were cancelled, while another poster said the figure has been made and packaged, and that Bridge Direct reps at Comic-con seemed to expect it to debut at Comic-con, but did not get the OK from Peter Jackson. This could just be a “waiting longer to reveal it” issue, or something more complicated. LegendsActionFigures.com is still listing Azog here.
And just before I was going to post this, I see that Carne and Captain Salt of TORn discovered that Manu Bennett (of Spartacus fame) is being credited as Azog on IMDB, which seems to be confirmed by tweets from the actor himself, which you can read here and here. “…I’ve been non stop for weeks now – started filming The Hobbit playing King of the Orks – so HAPPY!!” (Aug 6), and yesterday, “yes I’ve been off Orking with Peter Jackson.”
We know they were going to be shooting more after Comic-con, even before the third movie was confirmed, so filming with Azog this late in the day could have been in the plans all along, but it might also have been a new opportunity brought on by the third film. Time will tell!
Update 8/21/12: Manu Bennett posted this picture on his Facebook page on Aug 4, with this caption and comment:
“With Peter Jackson in his 1970’s Aston Martin – still have the motion capture dots on my face from doing filming for The Hobbit.”
“Just stepped off the motion capture studio with Peter Jackson, filming scenes for The Hobbit. The brave person is P.J in his 1970’s Aston Martin DB7”
Update 12/14/12: The short answer to this question is yes Azog is in the film as a fully CGI character. He’s a huge pale orc who rides a white warg just as the description stated. I don’t have any great images of him yet, but there is this one from one of the lower quality TV spots on youtube called “Expect Thorin”. This scene is in a flashback at the gate of Moria.
You can also see part of him more clearly in the 13 minute behind the scenes video. There is another very large pale orc behind him. His bodyguard perhaps?
The biggest surprise is that Bolg (played by Conan Stevens) was not in this film, except for what I and several others think was a split second shot during this same battle sequence. You will have be watching very close to see it.
The LA Times has an article this week on the VFX for the film with a mention about the making of Azog. He was originally not a CGI character at all, but they decided they needed something more impressive than what they had filmed, so they had to very quickly create what we see now as the Pale Orc with help from a motion capture performance by Manu Bennett. Check out the last video on that page for some of the first officially released behind-the-scene images of Azog.
Update 1/19/13: Here are some screencaps from the video mentioned above. You can see that what later became the character Yazneg was originally Azog during filming (with the new CG Azog superimposed over him), which accounts for certain confusing pieces of merchandizing, such as the LEGO version of Yazneg who rides a white warg when facing off with Thorin and Co. in the trees.