THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG
"More Dangerous and Less Wise" - The Wood-Eyes
While out patrolling Mirkwood, the Elves of the Woodland Realm come upon a
and swiftly dispatch the Spiders, but not for any love of Dwarves. Described by
Tolkien as "more
dangerous and less wise" than other Elves of Middle-earth, the Wood-elves under
the rule of King
Thranduil attack with ferocity, skill and rapid-fire bows. Leading this band of
warriors are Legolas,
once again embodied by Orlando Bloom, and Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly.
Though neither character appears in The Hobbit, the filmmakers felt that
including them was
a natural fit for the expanded narrative being brought to life in the film.
Legolas Greenleaf is a
Mirkwood Elf, the son of the Elvenking Thranduil, overseer of the Woodland Realm
in the novel.
"When Legolas shows up in The Lord of the Rings, we learn that he's Thranduil's
explains. "So when we visit the Woodland Realm in this film, it seemed like a
great opportunity to
bring back Legolas, as we now have a full picture of Thranduil's family tree.
Elves are immortal, so
the 60 years between the two stories doesn't matter at all, and fortunately,
Orlando doesn't look as if
he has aged a day in the last ten years," the director adds with a smile.
Bloom was delighted to once again take up Legolas's bow more than a decade
after his work
in "The Lord of the Rings" Trilogy. "It's amazing to be back," the actor states.
"'The Lord of the
Rings' films were such a treasured experience for me, and I'm so happy to have
the opportunity to
return to this world and this character. And, better yet, I got into my old
costume when I came
back, and it still fit!"
When Bloom appeared on set styled in the hair, makeup and redesigned costume
Legolas, "It was like meeting a favorite character," Walsh recalls. "It really
is a most wonderful thing
to have Orlando come back all these years later and be Legolas again. Seeing
this character that we
all loved back in Middle-earth gave us the strangest sense of deja vu."
Though initially concerned about Legolas' place in the tale, the character's
relationship to the
Woodland Realm, along with the presence of the 13 Dwarves--one of whom, Gloin, is
the father of
his future Fellowship mate Gimli--set Bloom's mind at ease. "We're all conscious
and respectful of
fans of the book, and so I knew that Peter, Fran and Philippa wouldn't stray too
far," he says.
"What's great about the story they've devised is that you see how he will go on
to become the
Legolas in 'The Lord of the Rings.' We also get an idea of where Legolas's
antipathy for Dwarves
originates in this film. It creates a dynamic sense of history for the
Jackson and his collaborators wanted to infuse the action with the kinds of
moments that became an audience favorite in the earlier Trilogy, which
translated into intense
training and stunt work for the actor. "He's got some pretty cool moments,"
Bloom says. "And I
think that's part of who 'Leggy' is. He comes in and doesn't say much, pulls
some moves and takes
care of business. It's a simple but effective plan."
Comments stunt coordinator Glenn Boswell, "Orlando picks up on fight
really quickly, which was great since we often had only a short time to bring
him up to speed before
cameras rolled. He and Evangeline as partners were fantastic in terms of
fighting. Each character
has a different style, which is brilliant visually."
Evangeline Lilly's Elf warrior Tauriel is the Captain of Thranduil's Guard
and an entirely
new addition to the story. "We have always felt that you have to try to be true
to the book but also
be true to the film that you would like to see," Walsh notes. "They are always
going to have their
differences because films have other dramatic requirements. One thing we wanted
to address was
the lack of female characters, and Tauriel accomplished that in a beautiful way.
And Evangeline has
been fantastic. She understood Middle-earth, and wanted to ensure that though
Tauriel is an
original character, she would be created in the spirit of the book."
Though new to the films, Lilly has been a fan of The Hobbit since childhood
overwhelmed to be approached to play a role in the Trilogy. But the offer came
just two months
after she had given birth to her first child. "I thought I was going to ease
into an obscure life of
being a mother and a writer, but this was an opportunity I just couldn't say no
to," Lilly says. "The
Hobbit was my favorite book as a kid, and all I ever wanted to be was an Elf,
and then to be offered
the role of a Mirkwood (Greenwood) Elf specifically was a dream come true. It
was the most
challenging thing I've ever done as an actress, but it was a challenge I loved."
Tauriel, Lilly says, grew up defending the borders of the Woodland Realm and
is therefore a
very different kind of Elf than we've seen in previous films. "The Wood-elves
are more deadly, and
Tauriel is a warrior and an expert with daggers and a bow and arrow," she
describes. "She's the
head of the Silvan Guard, so she's a pretty badass Elf, and is perhaps less wise
than a lot of the older
Elves. Even though she has a warmth and depth that comes from being so connected
to the earth,
she also happens to be very skilled at her craft. And her craft is killing."
As with other actors playing Elves in "The Hobbit" Trilogy, Lilly worked with
choreographer Terry Notary to perfect their graceful, agile gait. She also
trained extensively in
martial arts and worked with the stunt team on her complex fight sequences.
"Evangeline had a
very good aptitude for stunts," praises Boswell. "She had a very strong vision
for how Tauriel
would fight, partly influenced by old Chinese fighting she had seen with double
From the tip of her arrow to the color of the feathers, Tauriel's bow has an
that reflects the forest, with thorn shapes defining her slender,
damascene-patterned dagger. Her
personalized weapons were made from a collaboration of artists including
conceptual designer John
Howe and Weta Workshop. Weta's Richard Taylor comments, "As an Elven ninja,
everything is at
one with the world in which she lives so that she can disappear into the
Her costume too reflects the Woodland Realm and bears a more masculine look
flowing silks that drape from other Female Elves seen in Jackson's Middle-earth.
department created a wardrobe of forest-toned leather, suede and silk, and
boots. Her fierce aesthetic also infused her hair and makeup design, with King
creating large ears
and a wig of copious red locks.
These Elves are not friendly to the Dwarves. Jackson says, "The Elves of the
Realm, Legolas included, are nothing less than a very mysterious and slightly
threatening force for
them; they're not there to help with their Quest."
Being brought to the Elvenking's throne room is a difficult and demeaning
Thorin, given his history with Thranduil, as seen in the prologue of the first
film. "When Erebor
fell, Thorin couldn't understand why the Elves wouldn't act," Armitage explains.
by and did nothing, and that, for Thorin, is an unforgivable act. They let the
Dwarves burn, which
Thorin will never forget."
Lee Pace, who joins the cast as the regal Elvenking Thranduil, feels that his
of sympathy for the Dwarves' plight has its roots in this long ago encounter.
"My theory is that
when Thranduil saw the halls of gold in Erebor, that was the turning point for
him," Pace offers.
"He saw all that gold these Dwarves had amassed and thought, 'You Dwarves are
going to burn.
This greed is not going to go unpunished.' And when the Dragon came, the Elves
had the power to
make a difference and chose not to."
Jackson and his collaborators had seen Pace in the 2006 film "The Fall," and
made a special
trip to New York solely to read him for this critical role. "Elves are difficult
to cast because they
possess a quality that's almost impossible to define," Jackson reveals. "It's an
elegance, a beauty and
an agelessness. You have to do a bit of a mental leap with an actor. You need to
have a sense that
he could be immortal, but also that he had been through a lot in his long life,
and Lee really brought
all of those qualities and more."
In the film, Pace, as well as Lilly and Bloom, converse in the ancient
language of Elvish.
Tolkien created two Elvish languages for Middle-earth: the common,
conversational Sindarin, and
the formal Quenyan. As with Jackson's other films set in Middle-earth, the
Tolkien scholar David Salo, who has dedicated his life to expanding the grammar
and vocabulary of
these languages, to translate those portions of the script, with dialect coach
McPherson helping the
actors to become fluent in Elvish. "They all took to the language beautifully,"
comments. "Evangeline speaks French, and has a great facility for languages and
a very good ear.
Orlando has had experience with Elvish, and his passion for the work, insatiable
infectious good humor made him a joy to work with. And Lee was able to
Thranduil's command of the language and deep, powerful vocal presence."
Designing armor for a whole new race of Elves was a joy for Taylor and his
Wood-elves possess an incredible presence, power and vitality," he describes.
"But while they're very
beautiful and artistic, it's important to remember that, at the end of the day,
they are trained killers.
You don't ever want them to fall into appearing apathetic or weak as a race by
making their armor
too floral or delicate."
For the Elvenking, Weta Workshop and the costume designers collaborated on a
long, sweeping gowns and cloaks that reflect his status as King of the Woodland
Realm. One of the
crowns Thranduil wears was modeled by Weta Workshop's Daniel Falconer directly
in the book to a crown of leaves, thorns and berries. His strong, elegant metal
sword was milled
down from a solid block of metal. "There was something puritanical about having
unsympathetic metal blade that suited Thranduil's intractability and arrogance,"
For Pace, the key to understanding Thranduil is the idea that Elves are not
wrote, 'He was the King of the Elves on the other side of the Wild,'" the actor
dangerous, not because he's evil. He's exquisite, but hard and cold at heart,
like a diamond. He is
also sensitive, but I don't mean emotionally sensitive. I believe that not a
leaf moves in that forest
that he doesn't feel. And he's looking at these Dwarves, thinking, 'You don't
wake up a Dragon
unless you know you can kill it. And you can't kill it. So I'm just going to
keep you in my dungeons
until you get that idea out of your head.'"
Stripping the Dwarves of their armor and weapons, he locks them deep within
underground dungeons. But Thranduil's resolve is thwarted by the resourceful
Bilbo, who slips
unnoticed into the Realm with a plan to spring his friends--by hiding them inside
from the Elves' wine cellar, which he will release down a chute into the river.
Even risking the wrath of the Elves, the Hobbit's allegiance is to the
Dwarves. "Amidst the
potential positives of the other beings with whom he comes in contact, the
Dwarves show up quite
well, really," Freeman relates. "The Elves are ostensibly more civilized and
cultured. But what he
sees in the Dwarves, I think, ultimately means more than that, and the fact that
Bilbo does decide to
help them is perhaps even more interesting and brave, because he doesn't have
to. It's not like all of
Middle-earth is going to be encompassed in Hellfire if he doesn't, but he sees
they've got a job to do
that seems to be worth doing. And I think once you've decided to leave home, the
left home with become your home and your family, however different they are from
Thranduil's own view is the opposite. He senses that Thorin's Quest is a
harbinger of a
darker, more dangerous struggle--one in which he believes Elves have no role. "Thranduil
the decision many years ago to isolate his people from the rise and fall of the
fortunes of other races
outside his borders," Boyens remarks. "And his rule is law."
In defiance of her King, Tauriel tracks the Company's escape down the river,
follows, torn between his father's edict and Tauriel's belief in what's right.
"There's a sort of
madness around the Dwarves' idea of trying to reach the Lonely Mountain," Bloom
"They're definitely striving for greatness, but it can lead to a chaotic state,
which is Thranduil's
perspective. Legolas knows Tauriel is reckless and is concerned for her. He
wants to protect her,
though he knows it puts him at odds with his father. There's a lot of complexity
in that dynamic.
Legolas is the son growing into the man who will go off to be a part of The
Fellowship of the Ring."
Tauriel has not experienced Thranduil's history with the Dwarves, and feels
compassion towards them and their plight. "But I think even more so, she wants
to stop the Orc
invaders, who have come into their Realm to kill and destroy," Lilly comments.
"She can't stand by
and let that happen; she has to go and do something about it."
The two Elven warriors come face-to-face with Orcs that appear on the shores
of the Forest
River, where the Dwarves become easy targets. Bloom calls what ensues "a
fantastic amount of Orc
Thought to have been destroyed in the great battle between Orcs and Dwarves
fought many years ago, the Pale Orc Azog the Defiler has dispatched his vicious
spawn and a lethal
pack of killer-Orcs to hunt down and destroy every last member of the Company of
"Azog has his own reasons for wanting to stop Thorin from ever reaching the
Mountain," Boyens suggests. "Gandalf fears that his pursuit of Thorin has to do
with an alliance he
has made and the power he now serves. He also has a psychopathic hatred of all
Dwarves in particular, and especially Thorin and his Company."
For Azog and Bolg to exude the sheer menace that Jackson envisioned, he
decided to create
them using the same performance capture techniques that brought Gollum to life.
"Azog was tricky
because he is a principal villain, as we've adapted the story, and we wanted him
to be mobile,
expressive, and as terrifying as possible," Jackson explains. "The idea of doing
a digital Orc was
exciting, and this freed us up in terms of his size and shape because we were no
longer locked into
basic human proportions."
Playing the Orc chieftain, Azog the Defiler, is actor Manu Bennett, with
a veteran who played the Uruk Hai character Lurtz from "The Lord of the Rings"
films, taking on
the role of his son, Bolg. The actors performed their roles on the performance
capture stage, where
Bennett quickly learned how to move like a massive Orc. "If I moved at my own
pace, Azog looked
too small and human," Bennett describes. "I had to bring out the lung capacity
and the body mass
of this foul creature. You can't move like an ant; you have to move like a
Though Azog was established in the first film, his spawn Bolg comes to the
fore in "The
Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," and Letteri and his team at Weta Digital
opportunity to hatch a new Orc villain. "Peter wanted him to be a kind of
freakish warrior," Letteri
relates. "He is so battle-scarred that we decided to take that concept even
further, and have his
body armor essentially embedded into his skin. He needed to look like he can
take a blow, but still
have freedom of movement because he's fighting all the time. It was an
interesting series of
characteristics for us to blend in his character design."
Azog's army of killer-Orcs is comprised of a nearly indistinguishable
combination of actors
in prosthetics and digital creations. Taylor concludes, "The Orc Scouts, as we
call them, are fleet-footed,
lightly armored and archery-based, so they are pretty mean buggers."
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