To say the Comic-Con crowd is a little excited about the long-awaited release of the first “The Hobbit” movie this holiday season would be the understatement of the century. Saturday morning’s Hall H line was quite possibly the longest in the convention’s history, which could be attributed partially to other big guns such as “Django Unchained” and “Man of Steel,” but it’s hard to imagine the legendarily loyal Tolkien faithful didn’t play the biggest part in the mob scene.
When Peter Jackson took the stage, the reaction of the Hall H crowd was palpable. He was soon joined by co-writer Philippa Boyens and cast members Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellan and, in a surprise appearance, Frodo himself Elijah Wood. Below is a rundown of some of the topics covered by the panel, and what you can expect from the two the films over the next couple of years.
1. The Women Of “The Hobbit”
There aren’t a lot of women in the Tolkien universe. A female fan who admitted her father used to change some of the characters to women, including Gandalf, during bedtime readings of Tolkien, asked whether the gender might be any better represented in “The Hobbit.” “Galadriel is the most powerful being in Middle Earth and we wanted to go out there and tell that story,” said Boyens. “Cate Blanchett did a phenomenal job. I had my total geek-out moment when she stepped up. And, the battle of Dol Guldur. She immediately brings a very powerful energy to the film. We did feel the weight of it being a boy-driven story so we did create a character named Tauriel. She’s an elf and she’s played magnificently by Evangeline Lily. We didn’t want it to be a ploy. We wanted her to fit in the world and I think you guys are going to fall in love with her.”
2. Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” Cameo
Rumors have recently circulated that Jackson himself will be making an appearance in “The Hobbit,” and the director teased you might want to keep your eyes peeled. “I haven’t shot my cameo yet,” said Jackson. “But I’m due to shoot it tomorrow when I get back to New Zealand. Seriously. I’m not going to tell you where I am. I’m the handsome one. You’ll recognize me.”
3. The Extended Editions
Having released Extended Editions of all three “The Lord of the Rings” films, it stands to reason that Jackson will ultimately do the same with the “The Hobbit” movies. “People often assume we earmark scenes for the Extended Edition, which is not true. It may be that we write a scene halfway through the shoot we think we need to tell the story. It’s not until you assemble the film that you start to decide,” Jackson explained about the process of putting together the longer cuts. “You end up with a film that’s too long that you need to trim down in order to distribute it. When we cut scenes out that have nice character moments or add to the story, then we put it into the extended cut. It’s a very organic process. We don’t really know until we get to the end what’s going to be in the extended cut. There will certainly be extended cuts of these I’m sure.”
4. Prosthetics & Hobbit Feet
“They’re good,” said Freeman of the challenges of his large, unwieldy looking prosthetic feet. “For the first few days it’s a lot like a fledgling duck, but after that they’re surprisingly easy. You can just forget about them and go on playing your character. Whenever I was having a hard or tiring day, I had a bunch of other people to look at and see I was having a rather easy time of it physically because everyone with huge prosthetics and costume rigs were being far more heroic than I was.”
“We went through quite an evolution with the look for Thorin,” says Armitage. “And of course, all of the dwarves, who are very clearly defined by their features. Working in a prosthetic like that was one of the biggest challenges because you really have to work your face harder to portray what you’re trying to express inside, and on day one I really didn’t think I was going to make it anywhere close to two or three weeks into the shoot. But by the end of the journey, I couldn’t work without it, and I didn’t recognize the person underneath it. But managing the heat and the stench of sweaty dwarf was a challenge in itself.”
5. Frodo Likes The Footage
Jackson and co. debuted an extensive bit of footage from “The Hobbit” to the delight of the 6,500 attendees in Hall H. Wood spoke about his own reaction to the footage: “I was blown away! Extraordinary. I mean, the footage is incredible, but it has these amazingly emotional moments. And that’s, I think, at the heart of what Peter does in his storytelling. And what Philippa and Fran [Walsh] write. And to see that presence in this footage because I’m so distant from this, truly. I was made to feel emotional watching that footage. And to see everyone here. It’s wonderful.”
6. Gollum Directs Second Unit
Seeing Andy Serkis return to the role of Gollum is reason enough for most to see “The Hobbit.” But this time around, Serkis was given an unexpected opportunity during the production. “I was only supposed to be coming back for two weeks to play Gollum again,” says Serkis. “Which I was very much looking forward to, of course. And then about a month before I was about to come down to New Zealand I got an e-mail from Fran who says. ‘Andy, I know you’ve probably got something on, but we’d like you to come and direct the second unit. And so, would you mind coming down for a year and a half instead of two weeks?’ It’s not unusual to do that sort of thing in this company. And of course, once I picked myself up off the floor I was on that plane. I mean, it was a remarkable and extraordinary experience. Obviously working with Martin, who I’d wanted to work with for a long time, and to get the chance to play opposite him for that scene, which was a great experience, and one of the first things to be shot in the movie actually. We spent two weeks shooting the entire scene a number of times. Pete wanted to let it feel like a theatre piece where we really play off each other and Martin could find the character of Bilbo. And it was a really really amazing way of working. It was a huge film education for me. And I was enabled by the greatest mentor possible. Peter’s been an immense part of my life for the last 12 years, and Fran and Philippa, they’ve given me such incredible opportunities, and I will eternally be grateful to them.”
The fans couldn’t let Serkis off the hook without a plea for him to do a quick moment of the Gollum voice. Serkis paused, smiled and, without hesitation, offered up the following in the iconic character’s garble. “For fuck’s sake,” says Gollum. “Do I have to do this? You said you weren’t going to whore yourself. You say it. But you get in front of six thousand five hundred fucking people, what you gonna do, Precious?”
‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” opens December 14, 2012.