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Costumes, Hair and Prosthetics: Creating Cultures

A vital collaborator in the creation of the physical world of THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY is Weta Workshop, New Zealand's premier physical effects house, under the direction of its creative director and co-founder Richard Taylor.

With THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY, that job began with creating distinct physicalities and accoutrements for the Dwarves. "Quite apart from the fact that, obviously, the Dwarves are played by different actors who bring their own personalities," Jackson says, "Weta Workshop and all of our costume and make-up designers focused on creating thirteen distinctive, memorable silhouettes for the Dwarves that the audience can identify, even from a distance."

For Weta Workshop, each new day on set meant an entirely new facial prosthetic for the Dwarves, though, fortunately, hand and arm pieces lasted longer. "With the exception of Bombur, who wore a full-face prosthetic, most of the others wore a T-piece, which just covered the forehead and nose and blended in with the surrounding skin," Taylor explains.

The actors wore foam cowls that dramatically built out the backs of their heads, with ears moved outward to add width. This was all concealed under handmade wigs, which also added bulk. "For each Dwarf, we made seven wigs-two for the hero, two for the scale doubles, one for the riding double, one for the stunt double, and one for the stunt double masks-that is 91 wigs total for the Dwarves," hair and makeup designer Peter Swords King notes. "Most of them were yak hair, but Thorin had a human hair wig to suggest his royal status and Fili and Kili's were a combination."

Thanks to innovation in makeup effects and the ability to pre-paint the prosthetics, the application process was reduced to about one-and-a-half hours. "Because the prosthetic T-pieces covered the actor's eyebrows, we also hand-punched eyebrows into each T-piece," explains prosthetics supervisor Tami Lane. "Similarly, we hand-punched hair into the Dwarves' big hands and arms, because everything has to look totally realistic on camera."

Each piece had flocking mixed in, which gives the illusion of blood under the skin, as well as freckles, wrinkles, blemishes, veins and scars to add realism.

Proportion was a major factor. The actors, being standard human height, had a head-to-body ratio of roughly 8:1, but Dwarf proportions are 5:1. Making each actor look shorter and stockier also involved some innovations in wardrobe in the form of articulated foam fat suits, which re-proportioned the Dwarves' bodies. Because they were hot and weighty to wear in combination with costumes, a cooling vest like those used by racing drivers was worn underneath and, when needed, the actors were able to plug themselves into a hand-held device that pumped cold water through the vest to cool them down.

The costume design team, led by Ann Maskrey, used color and texture to suggest the Dwarves' status. "For those of high status -- Thorin, Fili and Kili, as well as Balin and Dwalin -- there is a richness in the fabrics we used, like velvets, brocades and padded leathers," Maskrey describes. "Their colors are more regal too: midnight blue, claret, teal green. We went down the scale for the more working-class Dwarves, where you have browns and grayish shades and less sophisticated fabrics, such as hessian. The filmmakers wanted Ori to be softer and more innocent, so he's in pale lavender hand knits -- a waistcoat, a sort of scarf-hoodie and gloves."

And then there are the painstakingly detailed and extremely large leather boots, each of which was fitted with a lightweight inner ankle boot to support the actors' feet. Maskrey notes, "Some of the cast really felt they discovered what it was like to be a Dwarf the moment they put those boots on and walked in them."

Designing costumes for Bilbo represented more familiar territory -- brightly clad in timeless clothes that suggest a bygone rural idyll. Maskrey says, "It's brighter and cheerier than last time, with more color and print and maybe a slightly more sophisticated cut."

As reflects his station in life, Bilbo is a well-dressed Hobbit -- corduroy jackets, waistcoats and mid-length trousers. With a wardrobe inspired by the color palette and patterns of 19th century designer William Morris, Bilbo's wardrobe was largely made up of gold, sandy brown, burgundy and green, and very much in agreement with Ian Holm's previous incarnation of Bilbo.

The final touch of Freeman's transformation into the Hobbit was a pair of Hobbit feet. For this, Weta Workshop created innovative reusable, slip-on, above-the-knee silicone Hobbit feet socks built around sports shoes with individual toes. They then added urethane toe extensions to allow him to wiggle the prosthetic "Hobbit toes."

The ageless figures of Gandalf, Saruman, Elrond and Galadriel remain much as we have seen them before. Gandalf's battered hat and grey robes have the addition of a silver scarf. And Elrond and Galadriel, complete with their gelatin ears, are resplendent in their finely woven costumes.

Recreating the White Lady of Lothlorien was a joy for the costume department. Maskrey notes, "There was a particular iridescent fabric that just draped so wonderfully on Cate. We used that to make her a dress with a long train for The White Council scene. Peter even asked the art department to build a set of steps just to showcase it. She initially looks like a statue in the scene and then, suddenly, she comes to life and turns. It all looked beautiful."

Radagast the Brown is the antithesis of sartorial elegance. His robes must once have been beautiful, but now the rich brown chenille coat is frayed and tattered, his beautifully hand-embroidered waistcoat is distressed, and he wears odd shoes and a battered hat. "Peter believed that Radagast should be asymmetrical and also wanted his hat to in no way resemble Gandalf's," Maskrey explains. "Instead, it should have a suggestion of ears. It was and remains very much one of my favorite costumes to design."

Peter Swords King adds, "He has bird droppings all down his face and birds' nest in his hair -- the birds just pop in and out under his hat! He hasn't combed his hair for years either. It's so matted that on top of his head it's in the shape of his hat. He has a big prosthetic nose and snaggle teeth too and you just know he smells very bad, but he has this wonderful bumbling, endearing quality that I think people will just fall in love with."

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