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The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
[German article in the October 2014 issue of CINEMA magazine translated by ArchedCory]
On December 10th the last journey to Middle-earth starts. CINEMA was on set and saw destroyed cities and elves covered in blood.
Thick snowflakes silently fall onto Dale’s crumbling city walls. Richly decorated wells and gates were in the meantime grown over by grass and thickets and give evidence of the former wealth of the kingdom in Middle-earth’s North. Houses, muddy paths, a row of decayed trees provide the impression of the disaster that must have taken place here. 171 years ago the dragon Smaug had opened the fire on Dale and laid the city in ruins.
Now the metropolis on Erebor’s mountainside is again becoming the scene for death and destruction. Men from Esgaroth that fled into Dale’s ruins are being chased by gruesome orcs. With drawn axes and swords they fight screaming through the narrow streets of the ruined city. And are finally defeated by the Mirkwood elves.
At the end of the massacre, Thranduil (Lee Pace), king of the wood elves, at the same time angry and sad looks at his fallen companions and the dead bodies of the orcs as he is torn out of thoughts by Gandalf (Ian McKellen). The wizard is clad in grey and pleads to Thranduil for help in the fight against the powers of darkness. He however only replies: “The elves have already shed enough blood in this land.”
“Thanks!”, shouts director Peter Jackson, and makes the orcs jump over elvish blades a few more times this day.
So Middle-earth will become sinister. For the end of his trilogy, covering the fantasy world invented by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1937, Peter Jackson lets hell come down over Middle-earth. Just like in his last “Lord of the Rings” adventure “Return of the King”, he ends his epic with massive battle scenes, tragic losses and emotional chasms. For this the kiwi gathered his actors once more for six weeks in June 2013 in his home, the idyllic Wellington. It was very challenging for the actors. “It was already two and a half years ago when I first played Bilbo”, says Martin Freeman. “Since then I have worked on lots of other projects. So in the beginning I needed some time to empathize with the role of a hobbit again.”
The shiny chain mail (mithril shirt) which he’ll wear in his next scene has probably helped him with this, just like Jackson’s perfectionism. “Peter already knows how to cut a scene before he has even shot it”, explains Ian McKellen who has the number 9 in elvish tattooed on his upper arm as reference to the nine members of the fellowship in the first “Lord of the Rings” film.
When the word “pick up shooting” is uttered in film industry usually alarm bells start to ring. After all, under normal circumstances they are the studio’s reaction to bad test screenings. It’s different here. Due to e.g. bad weather conditions certain scenes couldn’t be finished. Further Peter Jackson is constantly haunted by new ideas on how to end the final chapter in Middle-earth. This means he has written some sequences already two years ago and others as late as last night. “I still don’t believe that we are done”, Ian McKellen jokes. “I have said goodbye to Tolkien’s world already a lot of times.”
Despite Jackson’s passion for the topic, many fans remained skeptical about the director’s intention to expand a book with 300 pages into three films. Many feared an overblown fantasy spectacle. Jackson answered with two emotional 3D-epics for which he used the appendices of “Return of the King” amongst others, invented characters like ninja-elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) or let known characters like Legolas (Orlando Bloom) return despite not appearing in the book. This way Jackson designed his own vision of Tolkien’s world – without raising himself above the mastermind.
Even after all these years in Middle-earth the 54-year-old still doesn’t seem to believe what his team lines up for him. To turn the city of Dale into a ruin it first had to be destroyed. Over the span of six weeks approximately 130 craftsmen prepared statues, pillars and houses out of plaster, cement and wood at Mount Crawford to demonstrate the destructive power of dragon Smaug.
And another set has to suffer from the monster: Esgaroth. Over three months the Venice of Middle-earth was erected in the Stone Tree Studios in Wellington’s district Miramar – including 54 houses, boats and canals. In the end the largest set for this production fell victim to Smaug’s flames.
Next to a series of sets built solely for this production, Peter Jackson also counts on CGI effects, especially in the Battle of Five Armies which make up the core of this film.
“After this battle”, he says, “the idea of shooting a small drama sounds really tempting.”
Text in one of the boxes:
The plot of the film: While Smaug destroys Esgaroth the dwarves under the lead of a slowly going mad Thorin entrench inside Erebor. While the wargs and orcs head for the mountain, elves, men and dwarves form an alliance in the “Battle of Five Armies” against enemies that act under the influence of the Necromancer.
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The trailer for the Extended Edition of DOS features a glimpse of several new scenes including more of Beorn and Thorin’s father Thrain in Dol Guldur.
You can view it on Yahoo movies here, or watch a French version (in English) on Youtube [edit: this video was removed. I’ve replaced it with the WB version released this week]:
Screencaps of the new scenes below (minus the Mirkwood scene which was shown previously):
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High quality screencaps (1920 X 800) from the Battle of Five Armies teaser trailer can be found in this gallery here. Samples below.
(Click to open in full-size)
At HobbitCon (full report here) I had the wonderful honour to interview the great Graham McTavish. He was so nice that I didn’t even have a reason to be starstruck. Enjoy!
ArchedCory: You are the first dwarf to enter Bag End. What would you say is Dwalin’s role in establishing the audience’s expectations for Tolkien’s dwarves?
Graham McTavish: Good question. For me it was certainly the most enjoyable moment in the whole making of the film that I had the privilege to be the first one to enter Bag End. It’s such an iconic building. But I think as far as Tolkien is concerned, and in the way we have done it, is that Dwalin is the most ferocious of all the dwarves, and if you had to choose one that you didn’t want to arrive at your door you’d probably choose Dwalin. And for Bilbo to open the door to such a figure I think really conveys that these are not the dwarves from Snow White. These are dwarves that eat all your food and then go to battle afterwards. So I think that’s why.
Which is your favourite weapon? The axes or the warhammer?
The axes or the warhammer. Well there are a few more weapons to come.
Also the knuckledusters, but the Elves took them away.
Yes, but there are some you haven’t seen yet. But I’d say the ones that you have seen…
Well, you can tell me your favourite of all of them.
No, no, I won’t do that. But the ones that you have seen, I loved the warhammer. I really did. The axes are fantastic but there was something about how you can spin a warhammer.
We also saw you doing archery training.
Yes, in the vlogs. So are we going to see Dwalin use a bow?
Well, you might. You have to wait and see. Yes, I can’t tell you that! (laughs)
We know that Dwalin has an unbending loyalty for Thorin. How far will that loyalty go when he falls under the gold sickness?
Well, again, you know the book. I can’t really say in terms of the film where that leads, but… Let’s put it this way: All the characters go on journeys. And Dwalin is no different. So that’s the best way I can answer to that question.
Let’s say if Thorin was crowned king, what would you say would be Dwalin’s place in his court?
Well, I think he’d be a trusted advisor and also a man that would stand with him in the event of any trouble. And he would probably be the first to meet that trouble. That’s the kind of character Dwalin is. He is this sort of “do things first and ask questions later” guy.
We all know that Thorin and Dwalin almost grew up like brothers. Do you think that Dwalin had some kind of role to teach Fili and Kili to fight?
Sure, I do! I think they’d have a very close relationship as they were growing up.
Like a father?
Yeah, he would have been a mentor to some degree. I think he would have seen a great deal of himself, particularly in Kili. I think he sees something of himself there.
Cause looking back to his youth I think that there is sort of… not an irresponsibility about Kili, but there is a sort of… He wants to do more than he is perhaps capable of at a certain point in his story. And I think that that’s the kind of thing that Dwalin would have remembered from his own youth.
We read in an earlier interview that maybe you were going to do a haka at the premiere of the third film. Do you have any news on that?
No news. We are definitely trying to get it done. We are talking to Philippa and Peter and Fran… The only difficulty is getting all this together for rehearsals. Cause you don’t want to do it half-cocked. So it may end up not all of us but just some of us that can do it. Particularly the Kiwi based actors I think would be able to come together and do something. But I think it would be wonderful.
Can you tell us anything about your upcoming movie “Plastic”?
Plastic? Oh, it’s completely different! It’s based on a true story. It’s based on a con that was perpetrated against a jeweller, an L.A. based jeweller. And they changed that to a Florida based jeweller. And I play that character. But he is conned out of a great deal of money with jewels. There are gunfights and running around, jets, so it couldn’t be any more different from the Hobbit.
So you are going to have an American accent in it?
(mocking, in American accent) Yeah, yeah, I’m an American as well.
That’s too bad actually. I love the Scottish.
Well thank you!
Thank you very much for the interview, Graham McTavish!
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HobbitCon Report by ArchedCory
HobbitCon 2014 took place at the Maritim Hotel in Bonn during the Easter weekend. This Con is very special in the sense that it really covers only ONE fandom, which means all the stars know each other and every visitor also knows the work of every star! Also, the list of stars on HobbitCon 2014 was long: 10 dwarves, Richard Taylor, Mark Atkin, Royd Tolkien and Jed Brophy brought his son as a last minute surprise guest.
Once again the stars were totally down to earth, roamed the con area themselves, and on the other side, the fans stayed decent and never annoyed anyone! We were all the same for a couple of days it seemed. Partying every evening with the dwarves (like dwarves…) was legendary as well.
Being at the con area meant stepping into Middle-earth. The decoration was amazing! But not only that, the visitors brought it to life as well. There was a lot more cosplay than last year. Also, while last year there were few costumes besides the three Heirs of Durin, this year had a larger variety. Nearly all dwarves were covered and there were Tauriels, Thranduils, hobbits, Gandalfs, even Smaugs! And just when I complained that nobody came as Bard, I found one! The reason might be that there was a Costume Contest, which was judged by none other than Sir Richard Taylor. He even mentioned that after all these years visiting ComicCon he has never seen such great cosplay as here at HobbitCon.
There were various shops with merchandise, and spending more money than expected was easy there. Sadly though the truck from the biggest fantasy merchandise shop in Germany – Elbenwald – was destroyed on the way to the con, so they couldn’t sell anything.
The signing sessions and photo sessions were extremely well organized again. Everybody got their picture or signature, even when it came to such popular stars like Richard Taylor or Dean O’Gorman. This year I actually decided to get the group picture – myself on a photo with ten dwarf actors. When would you ever get that chance again? Oh, but better not ask what that photo cost.
I did something funny at the signing session this year. I brought the DVD of a children’s movie from 1996 called “Return to Treasure Island”, which features Dean O’Gorman, Jed Brophy and William Kircher. I gave it to all three of them to sign. And the reaction of all three was exactly the same: Surprise that I brought that there and that I even had it, and a bit of shame to have played in it. I may quote William Kircher: “I was awful in it, Dean was awful in it, but at least Jed was great.” In fact, 18 years later, Jed Brophy spontaneously quoted one of his lines from that film! Wow!
Once again there were panels, where you could ask your stars questions. There were workshops, lectures and also some special events. One was a panel with five actors at the same time, which was a brilliant idea since they could make fun of each other while answering the questions (and of Aidan Turner for some reason).
The best part however was the Comedy Hour. Just like last year it was Jed Brophy, Mark Hadlow, Stephen Hunter and Dean O’Gorman playing ridiculous games to win… I have no idea if there actually WAS anything to win!
First round was a Tolkien quiz, and hardly surprising they didn’t do too well in it. Then they had a game in which two actors had to play one person – Jed Brophy and Mark Hadlow being one, Dean O’Gorman and Stephen Hunter being the other – and these two merged persons then had to go on a date together. Sounds a bit complicated, but don’t worry, Mark Hadlow and Jed Brophy didn’t get it either.
In another game each actor had to be an animal and then had to go to an audition as that animal to get a job. Jed Brophy was an ostrich, Mark Hadlow a kangaroo, Stephen Hunter a unicorn (really, what else?) and Dean O’Gorman a giraffe. He needed to be carried by Jed Brophy to be tall enough though.
The last game was the best by far! Mark Ferguson (who happens to be the moderator of all those shows) wrote his own fanfiction, and at the same time the four actors had to play it as their dwarves. Stephen Hunter however demanded to play Kili. So it ended up being a Nori, Dori, Fili, Kili fanfiction in which somehow everybody ended up being paired up with everybody else. And all of them were “suddenly aroused” at the least likely situations. I really can’t wait for the DVD to see this again!
I know everybody is waiting for the Dean fangirling part… Yes, I talked to him again a couple of times, I hugged him, and since he happened to appear at the con with a gorgeous beard, and me being a beard fanatic… I couldn’t help but ask him kindly if I could maybe touch it. But luckily he didn’t mind. Anyway, he is still my favourite, but at least now he doesn’t make me nervous anymore. He’s a great guy!
And about the other stars:
Peter Hambleton and John Callen are such a great duo! They are totally fun to listen to. Loved their panels! Too bad their planned Oin/Gloin spin-off will never happen.
Ken Stott was on his first EVER convention and he definitely seemed as if he enjoyed himself. I really hope we changed his mind about conventions.
Graham McTavish was as brilliant as last year, I could definitely listen to him for hours as well. I was lucky enough to get an interview with him. Be sure to check it out here!
Jed Brophy was hyperactive and funny as always. He brought his son Sadwyn who played Aragorn’s and Arwen’s son in Return of the King. He is 17 now and definitely enjoyed the party.
Mark Hadlow also brought a lot of fun into the panels and the Gameshow. He was often seen in the audience when other actors gave their panels.
Adam Brown was a bit braver than last year. The story how his left testicle fell out during a theatrical play will probably go down in history. It definitely became a running gag during the con!
William Kircher was on HobbitCon the first time and I have no idea why they didn’t invite him last year. He was great in his panels, asked people to come on stage to ask their questions from there and was generally very active. And you have no idea how much Khuzdul that man still speaks!
Stephen Hunter made me really happy this year. He appeared quite shy last year, but you could definitely see that he enjoyed himself to the maximum this time around. Please come again!
Royd Tolkien is the great-grandson of J.R.R., and he seems to be a really nice guy.
Mark Atkin was a huge surprise! He’s the stunt/scale double of Thorin Oakenshield, so we didn’t really know what to expect. But he turned out to be such a sweet and charming guy! What I didn’t know: This was his first work for a film, he was an English policeman before. Interesting career!
Richard Taylor…what can I say, the man is a legend. I was surprised what a calm and down-to-earth person he is. He took so much time for everybody at the signing sessions, wrote a personal dedication to everybody, and what probably was the best part: He took pictures of the cosplayers with his own phone! I think he was really overwhelmed by the amount of details in some of these costumes. Needless to say he got several minutes of standing ovations at the closing ceremony.
Speaking of Opening/Closing ceremonies means talking about songs. During the Opening ceremony they played “Blunt the Knives”, while during the Closing ceremony they played “I see Fire”, the choir sang “Song of the Lonely Mountain” and at the very end the dwarves had the stage to themselves again to sing “Misty Mountains”. That was a goosebump moment, just like last year.
After last year’s HobbitCon we were sure it was a once in a lifetime experience. There weren’t too many visitors, and as we expected, the event made no profit. I was surprised, but of course happy they took the risk to organize a second one. And the number of visitors this year showed that they were right to do so! Everybody sounded completely convinced there will be a HobbitCon 2015 – three films, three cons. I will definitely be back a third time if it happens again, there is no way I would ever miss this. And if you have the chance to attend, neither should you!
Check out the full gallery of photos from the convention here!
In the January/February issue of the German version of GEEK magazine there is a funny “interview” with Dean O’Gorman in which he is asked five simple questions and was asked to silently act out the answers.
1) How did you react when you heard you really got the role in “The Hobbit?
2) What is the favourite activity of dwarves?
3) How would a Tolkien dwarf react when he gets confused with a Disney/Snow White dwarf?
4) What is Fili’s most striking characteristic?
5) How brave would you be if you would really be a dwarf?
Several video clips have appeared on Youku (and have been uploaded to Youtube) highlighting various aspects of making Desolation of Smaug. They feature new behind the scenes footage and interviews with Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens, as well as makeup and costume designers, special effects artists, editors, and other cast and crew including Lee Pace.
Makeup and Hairstyling