Ohakune was our destination and was to serve as two locations within Middle Earth. One of these locations was up on Mount Ruapehu, which is the tallest mountain in the North Island and very sacred lands to the local Maori Iwi (tribes). They filmed quite a lot of the Mount Doom scenes in Lord of the Rings, such as Sam carrying Frodo up the cliffs, on other parts of the mountain, but this particular area was new ground for the production. That’s not to say that Ruapehu is Mt. Doom, which is a common misunderstanding amongst touring LOTR geeks. (…)
Ian McKellen was the last person from the crew to speak and he gave a great speech talking about the journey this crew was undertaking and thanking them for letting us share their beautiful lands with the people of the world. “You could have easily told Gandalf the Grey ‘You shall not pass’ but you did not,” he said before reiterating his thanks for their cooperation and letting the filmmakers pass onto their property. Remember I mentioned that each speech was followed by a song? After Sir Ian gave his speech all the actors playing dwarves stood up and sang one of the songs from The Hobbit, a particularly haunting baritone ballad called Misty Mountains (the very one from the newly released trailer). (…)
This wooded area was to represent the outskirts of The Shire and featured Bilbo catching up to Gandalf and the dwarves. They’re riding on horseback so you can imagine the circus that day. Thirteen dwarves and a Wizard and horses for them all! The dwarves’ horses were wearing sort of shaggy jackets since they were supposed to be ponies, but the guys playing the dwarves would look silly in all their gear on tiny ponies. In order to sell the stature they had to make the regular horses look more pony-like. (…)
The day was spent mostly getting wider shots of troop on horseback riding through the woods as Bilbo catches up to the party, but there was one shot in particular that you can actually glimpse in the trailer that had Fili and Kili picking up Mr. Baggins (from horseback) and putting him up onto his pony. (…)
As you can see, the camera went where Peter’s hands are framing that shot, so Martin didn’t have to be fully lifted out of shot, just pulled up enough to sell the motion. I imagine they’ll grab another angle with Martin’s stunt double actually being pulled up and put on a pony. For this shot they just needed to sell him moving up so they have some motion to cut on. That also explains the apple box Freeman has a furry hobbit foot up on. The action has him walking towards camera and stepping up on that apple box right when Kili and Fili get up to him so he can push up with his foot as they grab his backpack and hoist him up. (…)
I talked with Peter a bit before he made his way down to the set and he pointed out that they shot a lot of the opening prologue battle from Fellowship about 5 minutes drive from this spot, on the opposite slope. And down the mountain, the stream from this waterfall was where they shot Gollum catching his fish after joining up with Sam and Frodo. Peter also tried to convince me that the surrounding area was all built by Weta Workshop, that all the rocks were really foam and the waterfalls were just salt being poured in slow motion, but he can’t trick me! No sir, not this time!
Quint on the set of The Hobbit Part 5 – Thorin’s Dilemma
The scene shot this day was a hefty bit of character work as Thorin and Gandalf’s friendly consultation turns heated.(…)
It’s late in the day and the idea is that this is a suitable place to make camp, but Gandalf wants to push on and seek Elrond’s council at Rivendell. This scene is all about Thorin and my first real chance at seeing Richard Armitage craft a layered performance with the character. Thorin’s a stubborn dwarf, very much a leader, but is smart enough to heed the council of Gandalf. He is a man torn in this scene. His deep resentment at the elves (he believes they have betrayed his ancestors by not stepping in when they needed their help) pulls him one way, but his respect for Gandalf pulls him the other.(…)
Armitage does a great job with Thorin’s inner struggle. The look on his face isn’t someone locked into a decision. Gandalf urges him to seek Elrond’s help, for the good of the quest. Instead of playing it like a stone-faced general, Armitage does weigh his options and mostly in reaction to Gandalf’s words, not in his own dialogue. In other words he conveys the struggle with his face, giving Thorin a depth I was anticipating. I’m sure the inclination would be for Armitage to play it stubborn and he does, but he layers it with some real emotion. (…)
In this instance Gandalf’s departure is an emotionally driven one. The dwarves and Bilbo stay behind, Bilbo especially concerned about losing their Wizard. Will he come back? Nobody knows.
This location served as Peter’s Birthday spot. The man came to work on his birthday without much fanfare until the dwarves surprised him with their present… a calendar that featured each dwarf in some inappropriate position. Think of it as a Hunky Firemen calendar but instead of hunky firemen it was all hunky dwarves in the most ridiculous romance book cover positions imaginable. (…)
So, what’s Eric doing in that picture above? That’s the inside of an abandoned farmhouse which will feature in the next report and what Saindon and his super hip team (comprised of Seb Abante, Kevin Sherwood, Brian McMillin and Adam Harriman) do is essentially get as much detail and info about a location/set/prop as possible.
Above, Eric is taking photos of the entire set, piece by piece, area by area, so he can build a digital replica of the environment if he needs to. Sometimes he knows he has to recreate a prop or section of a wall or rock or whatever, sometimes he doesn’t, but wants to keep the info anyway. (…)
Quint on the set of The Hobbit Part 4 – A Palaver of Istari
Upon departing Hobbiton I made my way to a small town called Te Kuiti. (…)
This new location was on remote lands, so the production had to house the sizeable cast and crew in the small towns surrounding the location. (…)
You know where on Earth that spot is now, but where on Middle Earth is it? This was to represent Trollshaw, where Bilbo and the Dwarves run into the Stone Trolls. That scene has already been shot on stage, but they needed some real, beautiful jungle for a few scenes afterwards. (…)
Gandalf (affectionately referred to as “Gandy” by the crew) is essentially shouting orders to the dwarves to search the area, in a way acting like a parent chaperoning a school field trip, trying to keep everybody on task. Sir Ian came in for the next set up, which was closer. With the incline of the slope and various dips and valleys to the landscape they were able to get Sir Ian and the dwarves into the same shot without using doubles. It is Bilbo who finds the entrance to the troll cave, which was a giant rock set out at a sharp angle over the forest floor. A set had been constructed a good 100 feet away, but Peter didn’t like it, so they used this natural spot for the mouth of the cave. There was talk that there might be a new interior set constructed back in Wellington for reverse shots. (…)
Unless I’m misremembering Fellowship, Peter Jackson filmed Gandalf handing Sting over to Bilbo to mirror Bilbo giving Frodo the sword in LOTR. In other words, he makes a moment out of it. With the beautiful green forest in the background (cave entrance), Martin reluctantly receives the sword, pulling it slowly out of its sheath.
Thorin gets Orcrist here as well, which you can see him wield in his promo picture by the way. Orcrist is a long, flat blade and they filmed a scene of Richard Armitage swinging it down in a wide arc striking down a leaping evil thing to be added in digitally before all is said and done.
Kili uses a bow and arrow and the rest of the team have their own different weapons, like Graham McTavish’s Dwalin wields two axes and William Kircher’s Bifur more often than not uses stabbing weapons like spears. There’s also single axes, clubs and even cooking spoons as in the case of the fattest of the dwarves, Bombur (Stephen Hunter), who I’m convinced was modeled after Harry. (…)
That’s right, Gandalf and Radagast share a scene as well. Sylvester McCoy plays Radagast the Brown, a somewhat kooky wizard who is more at home with animals, insects and flora than he is with people. Based on what I’ve seen over the last few weeks I think it’s going to be a toss up between Bombur and Radagast on who will steal the movie. Bombur is just so loveable and funny and Radagast is ridiculously endearing, an absent-minded St. Francis of Assisi. (…)
As Radagast arrives and talks with Gandalf the dwarves look on, distrusting this newly arrived individual. Bilbo is there as well and is obviously taken aback by this weird man (…)
Many LOTR fans should recognize Paul from the appendices on the Rings DVDs. This Kiwi native stands over seven feet tall and has been crucial in the success of selling the size differences between the races in Middle Earth. As you can see in the picture above he’s mostly being used as Gandalf’s stand in and it’s pretty eerie just how much he looks like Sir Ian when in full Gandalf getup.
Quint on the set of The Hobbit Part 3 – Beginnings and Endings
In true movie magic form we ended our second to last day with a big shot of Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins hauling ass out of Hobbiton, chasing down the dwarves, and began our final day with Mr. Baggins returning to The Shire as his grand adventure comes to a close. (…)
I set up camp with Leith McPherson, one of the dialect coaches, next to the sound guys on top of a hobbit hole, overlooking The Shire. We were down the hill from Bag End and as such the shot had Bilbo running full out towards me and his contract with the dwarves trailing out from his right hand. He passes Worrywort, the hobbit he talks with during my big fishmonger moment, who asks where he’s running off to. There’s an excitement in his voice as he shouts out that he’s going on an adventure, which is a slight change from the Bilbo in the book who is more chuffed about being forced out of his hobbit hole. That Bilbo is still in the film, especially in the first scene where Gandalf asks him to join up on the quest. (…)
Returning to Hobbiton is a little more melancholy, of course. The quest is done, friends have died and Bilbo’s exhausted, not to mention a bit shell-shocked. And he finally gets home to find all his shit’s on the lawn! How’s that for a welcome back? Having been gone for 13 months Bilbo was presumed dead and there’s an auction for his possessions, which the Sackville-Bagginses are very happy about.
I talked briefly with Martin about this section and he mentioned that he wanted to play it a bit harder than Peter was probably expecting. He’s not happy to see people making off with his possessions and after a hard journey he’s not the same laid back hobbit as the one who left. That was Freeman’s thought, anyway, and from what I could see being filmed Jackson agreed that when he stands up for himself it should be done with more force than you’d expect.
The man’s not screaming and knocking fools out, but he’s noticeably stronger and more confident than he was before.
Quint on the set of The Hobbit! (Part 2)
They Call Me Mr. Chubb My name is Fredegar Chubb and I am a Hobbit. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself. Let’s back up a bit, shall we? My alarm went off at 5am and I once again took the gorgeous 40 minute drive from my Hamilton, NZ hotel up through the rolling farmland hills towards Hobbiton. At base camp I barely had a moment to scarf down a quick breakfast before being whisked to the wardrobe tent to shed my human clothes and gain my new Hobbit skin. I gotta say, the actual wardrobe was incredibly comfortable. Loose, suedey, just warm enough to cut down on the morning chill and covering enough to save my delicate “living-life-in-a-movie-theater-and-in-front-of-a-computer-screen” pasty white skin from the burning rays of the sun.(…)
Fully Hobbited up, I was shuttled to Hobbiton and slowly made my way to The Green Dragon where a market place was set up outside. I spent the walk trying to get used to my floppy, furry feet and had a decent handle on them by the time I made it to the outdoor market. It was nuts there. The giant Technocrane was set up near the famous bridge and mill overlooking the front of The Green Dragon which was decked out in dozens of rickety stalls selling everything from cheese to toys to books to fowl.(…)
“How do you feel about fish?” he asked. I don’t eat ‘em, never could stomach the taste of seafood for whatever reason, but I don’t have any phobias about handling them, so I told him I was up for it. “Good. You’re going to be selling a fish to Bilbo,” he said and I was pointed to the fish stall. An older extra was already placed there and the A.D.s pulled him out and put him in another part of the scene, placing me behind the counter which was flanked by baskets of realistic looking giant fake fish and eels. (…)
Peter was blocking the scene with Martin Freeman, which begins with Bilbo buying a fish and looking around nervously. At this point he has already been propositioned by Gandalf for the big adventure and expects the wizard to pop up and bug him about it some more, I guess. After buying the fish from me he bumps into another Hobbit named Worrywort pushing a wheelbarrow of vegetables and Bilbo asks if he has seen the wizard wandering about.
Over some stalls Bilbo sees what appears to be Gandalf’s pointy grey hat and he tries to hide, usually behind other Hobbits including a confused Worrywort and an oblivious Hobbit couple on a romantic stroll through the market. This couple ended up being my friends Aaron and Kaela Morgan, who have joined me on many New Zealand adventures in the past and wasn’t about to pass up the chance at another. They were almost obnoxiously cute here, stealing kisses as they shopped, unknowingly hiding a Baggins. It’s also of some note that Otho and Lobelia Sackville-Baggins are in this scene, Lobelia turning her nose down on Bilbo’s erratic behavior as he hides behind Worrywort. Her outfit is outrageously pomp, with the most ridiculous bright hat I’ve ever seen. The actress, whose name fails me at the moment, seems right for the character. Fans of the original films may remember Elizabeth Moody (the mum from Braindead) played the part in the Extended Edition. (…)
I handed the packaged fish to Mr. Freeman, who thanked me and put it in his basket, filled with tomatoes and other veggies, and walked off to have his run-in with Worrywort.
GUYS. IT’S KIRAN!
An Unexpected Journey: Quint on the set of The Hobbit! Part 1 - Concerning Hobbiton
Martin Freeman stood in for Ian Holm, who shot all of his scenes and close-ups in London. They would sometimes play footage they’ve already shot to remind themselves of what they had done previously and to help them match up shots. Peter and crew did that for these reverse shots on Elijah and I got to see Ian as Bilbo once again. It was quite extraordinary, actually. Seeing Ian in close up, wearing the wig, the vest and the pointy ears just put a smile on my face.
While I didn’t talk to Elijah about it, I bet it meant the world to him to have Martin there actually giving a performance for him to act off of. Freeman even adopted a little bit of Ian Holm’s speech patterns for these scenes and was so good at impersonating Ian Holm that more than once I wondered if the voice I was hearing over the coms was Ian’s on playback or Martin’s in real life. Usually in these situations they’ll have the script girl or one of the dialect coaches read the lines and while that works a charm, there’s something extra special about a performer giving a performance. Like I said, I didn’t talk to Elijah about it, but I bet he appreciated Martin doing that for him.”
“In The Hobbit, (Kiran) Shah is up to his usual shenanigans, making the crew (and visiting movie geek reporters) crack up in-between takes and doubling hobbits. In the above picture he’s waiting to double Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, which is why his eyes are reverse raccooned in his picture. There’s an eerie silicone mask of Bilbo’s face that he’ll put on when Bilbo is needed to be seen in a close to correct proportion.”
“More soon! This is going to be a crazy couple of months! Oh, and Happy Birthday to Peter Jackson! Thanks for letting me join the circus for a spell, sir!”
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Full article (which is much longer) and more photos may be found HERE.