And Five More Minor ‘Hobbit’ Revelations From The New Issue Of Empire
Comic-Con 2011 is descending upon us like a dark cloud of Sauron forces, but instead of rushing out early to appease the insatiable nerds, studios are wisely taking an approach of caution. Andrew Stanton realizes he’ll “gain nothing” from showing unfinished footage of “John Carter” (though, what they couldn’t have held that recently unveiled trailer for a few days?), Warner Bros. is not hocking “The Dark Knight Rises” or “Man Of Steel,” and Marvel is seemingly saving everything for Disney‘s D3 since the studio is now under the corporate Mickey Mouse umbrella.
While it was no shocker considering nothing was announced and the cast and crew are on the other side of the globe, but director Peter Jackson confirmed to anyone holding out wishful hope yesterday that “The Hobbit” would not be in attendance. Again, no surprise.
But the full issue of Empire is out — the one that unveiled the first look photos of Martin Freeman as Bilbo and Ian McKellen as a slightly younger version of Gandalf The Grey (notice the blonde-brown in the hair rather then full on grey). And inside Jackson talks “The Hobbit” in details we haven’t really heard yet. Here’s five little nuggets we thought were interesting FYIs.
1. Jackson originally did not want to direct “The Hobbit.”
This is not entirely new information, hence the idea of handing off the two films to Guillermo del Toro; Jackson had to discover his own enthusiasm for the tale. “We were happy to put it in someone else’s hands,” he admitted to Empire of his original take on the books. “The tone worried me,” he said, noting that the book flirted with the juvenile and was originally intended as a bedside tale for Tolkien’s kids and therefore much more whimsical and comic without the world-was-ending dread of the ‘LOTR’ novels (though arguably he inserted a lot of that tone himself). “It isn’t just the characters or the dialogue; its the actual narrative. You get a whole sense of The Hobbit being a children’s book,” he said of his initial concerns of not wanting to direct the films.
2. That said, Jackson is embracing tone and says “The Hobbit” will be more comical than “The Lord Of The Rings” films.
After Guillermo del Toro left, Jackson had to find his way back into the novel. He soon learned to stop battling the narrative and decided to trust and embrace the book and all its childlike quirks. “The tone is actually the part of it I’m enjoying the most now,” he laughed. “We are being more humorous than ‘Lord Of The Rings,’ but that is the characters. I’m dealing with a whole bunch of extenuate and forthright dwarves who are not afraid to say what they think. They have a healthy disregard for the icons of Middle Earth.” Jackson says these 13 cantakerous characters are now his favorite part and what brought him around to want to make “The Hobbit.”
3. After Guillermo del Toro left, Jackson had to rethink the picture, but not reinvent it.
“I wanted Guillermo to have the freedom to do whatever he wanted,” Jackson insisted claiming he purposely avoided to even glimpse at what the Mexican director was doing, conscious of giving him his space. But when Del Toro vacated the project, he still wasn’t sure what kind of film he was making. “I just thought, ‘Am I having to inherit everything he did?’,” he said. “I hadn’t gotten my head into that film.” Eventually he realized he needed to start over and find his own way into the picture, giving himself the same kind of freedom he gave Del Toro. “I steered it in the direction I thought it should go, he said, but also added, “There’s definitely [Del Toro’s] DNA in the mix. And so there should be. I love some of his designs.”
4. Jackson did lose Martin Freeman at one point to the BBC series “Sherlock Holmes” and even had to consider different actors for the lead.
This you probably already know if you’ve been following “The Hobbit” gestation closely, but it’s interesting to hear how downcast Jackson was and how much the film was delayed until it could find another actor. Or rather, keep waiting for the right one in Martin Freeman. “We couldn’t tell Martin our dates until after the MGM situation was sorted out, which was the reason Guillermo ultimately left,” Jackson said of the project’s uncertainty at the time. As a greenlight approached, Freeman had to officially decline the role to get ready for the second season of “Sherlock Holmes.” Jackson scoured audition tapes for a backup (Matthew Goode is one of the few actors who admits he auditioned), but nobody stuck like Freeman. Jackson would watch the first season of ‘Holmes’ to torture himself and was completely “miserable.” Eventually he took matters into his own hands. “I called Martin’s agent myself: could he ask Martin if we could make Bilbo work around ‘Sherlock’? Freeman quickly agreed and the production began mapping out a reconfigured shoot which would allow the new Bilbo Baggins to return to the U.K. for his scheduled BBC shoot.
5. The Dwarves in the film are much different than what we’ve seen in the ‘LOTR’ films an obstinate bunch that doesn’t respect anyone in their fellowship outside themselves.
Aside from their “healthy disregard” for the icons of Middle Earth, “They don’t know what to make of Gandalf, they think Bilbo is a wuss, and Elrond a prissy headmaster type,” Jackson said. Surely these dynamics could be the richest character parts of the film if they’re pitched just right.
6. Unlike the original trilogy, much of ‘The Hobbit’ is not being shot on location.
While yes, there will be lots of location shooting eventually for key and irreplaceable exotic locals, Jackson says unpredictable weather on the first films has made him “learn to trust the studio,” he laughed. Evidently advancements in digital technology (made by WETA during the making of “Avatar“) have made recreation of Middle Earth much easier digitally. “We’re ironing out the bugs out of the system for James Cameron,” Jackson joked about his new 3D RED Epic cameras that whizz away at an amazing 48 frames per second frame rate. Also aside from the occasional Orc arrow flying at you, Jackson says don’t worry about the 3D, they’re not going to overdo it. “People just want to see more of Middle Earth,” he said. “All this technology is about greater texture, immersion, a chance to delve even deeper into WETA’s baroque marvels.”
“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” will land on December 14, 2012, it’s sequel, “The Hobbit: There And Back Again” will arrive on December 13, 2013.