Movies

A dragon named Smaug and the writer who stalked him

Cumberbatch breathes more than just life into a fiery beast. Photo: Warner Bros
Cumberbatch breathes more than just life into a fiery beast. Photo: Reuters
Evangeline Lilly as fighter elf Tauriel. Photo: Warner Bros
Luke Evans as Bard The Bowman. Photo: Warner Bros
Filming for the majority of the cast was a barrel of fun. Photo: Warner Bros
Peter Jackson and the cast of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug on near-death experiences and pee-pee breaks
Published: 4:02 AM, December 11, 2013
Updated: 6:30 PM, December 11, 2013
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The sequence was completed using footage shot at both a studio where two V8 jet engines powered a raging water channel, and an actual location, the Pelorus River in Malborough — a spot Jackson vacationed at with his family when he was a child. “Richard would say it’s fast, but it’s a slow moving river,” said the director.

“We were in a river with a current having great fun overtaking each other and seeing who would get to the end first,” said Armitage of the shoot’s pleasant beginnings. “But in the same sequence, I was dragged under by that current when I got out of the barrel.”

“Never get out of a barrel dressed in a very porous, spongy costume in water that will drag you underneath,” he said, laughing.

“We had to send a couple of stunt guys up to drag him out,” said Jackson. “I’m serious! Don’t laugh — it wasn’t funny. Gosh, it wasn’t funny at all. I thought I’d have to play Thorin from that point on!”

 

TOLKIEN, WHO?

Near-fatal incidents aside, it seems the key to surviving an epic action-adventure film on this scale is Jackson himself. As Evans told TODAY: “He trusts us and we trust him.”

For Evangeline Lilly, who plays elf warrior Tauriel — a completely new addition to the series — it was Jackson’s sense of humour that did the trick. “Peter is one of the funniest people I know. He has zero respect for the craft of acting,” she said, laughing. “It’s wonderful! There’s no pressure!”

“For me, when people treat acting like a secret art, what it says is what you’re about to do is magic. And I’m like, ‘I don’t know how to do magic! That’s terrifying!’ But Peter and I would just make fun of each other and just goof around, sometimes right till the point he would say, ‘action’. I feel like he was able to bring out some of my best performances,” said the former Lost actress. (Lilly, by the way, also suffered an on-set mishap — “There was one time I got really whacked over the head. Like, hard to the point that I almost passed out … I was seeing stars and the little birdies!”).

“It’s feeling comfortable to take risks,” said Cumberbatch — post-pee-pee-break, a day after our hand-washing encounter — of the Jackson Experience.

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