From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is the third in a trilogy of films that bring the masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien, to life. It is an epic conclusion to the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and the Company of Dwarves, who have reclaimed their homeland from the Dragon Smaug, but have unwittingly unleashed a deadly force into the world. And there are even greater dangers ahead, as darkness converges on their escalating conflict, and the races of Dwarves, Elves and Men must either unite or be destroyed while the future of Middle-earth hangs in the balance.
While at Comic-Con for a presentation in Hall H, Peter Jackson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Andy Serkis, Evangeline Lilly, Cate Blanchett and Orlando Bloom spoke to press at a conference, in which they talked about why the title of the third film changed, the progression of the tone, from the first film to this one, perfecting the voices of Smaug and Gollum, the creation of Tauriel, the experience of revisiting characters from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and how long it might be before any of the films get remade. Peter Jackson also talked about why The Silmarillion will probably never get adapted for film, and how he feels about a new King Kong film. Check out what they had to say after the jump.
PETER JACKSON: No, not really. The title change came about when we did an assembly of the third movie, last year. As we were cutting the second movie, we also put a version of the third movie together, just so that we could watch a rough thing of it. And I watched it last year and knew it had to be called The Battle of the Five Armies. That was just the right title for it. So, when we were at the junket for The Desolation of Smaug in Berlin, I pulled the Warner Bros. people aside and said, “Listen, we don’t have to discuss it now, but when you see the movie, which we’ll show you when we’ve got a proper cut in a few months time, just be warned that I’m going to change the name to The Battle of the Five Armies.” And they saw the movie and agreed. There was no debate about it. The There and Back Again title worked when there was two movies, but now there’s three.
Were there any posters made with the old title?
JACKSON: One, and I’m keeping it. It’s going to be so valuable. No, there were no posters made. That’s the reason why we had to make that decision when we did. Things were starting to get there. It would be nice to have one, though.
Peter, can you talk about the progression of the tone, from the first film to this one?
JACKSON: The progression of the tone from the first Hobbit to this one is what you would expect it to be. It is what you would anticipate from seeing the first two. It starts at a certain point of innocence and naivete, and things are starting to get darker and darker, and the screws are getting tighter. By the time we are done with this film, which is going to be the most emotional and tense of the three, I think it’s my favorite of the three, to be honest. I’m not just saying that. It’s got a nice thriller pace to it. When you get to the end of it, I think it’s going to feel like the right time to hand it over to The Fellowship of the Ring. It will feel like it’s gone on that journey. I’ve always been aware of it being a six-film set. One day, long after all of this is all over, all that’s ever going to exist in the world is these movies, as a six-film series. That’s how future generations are going to think of them.
BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH: Quite a bit of practice because I was forcing the register down so much. I always had a lot of honey and gingers at the ready. Where we began, with motion capture and the first sessions, through post-production and ADR, I was doing it without any modulation. It really took a lot out of it, and it just meant that there was a lifespan to it. There was a lot of warming up and a lot of warming down, and silent rest in between.
ANDY SERKIS: One of the tools that we discovered, along the way, was to create the size of a character by putting it through speakers and being able to pitch shift and drop the tone of a character. It was particularly useful for Smaug and Kong, to generate the sense of scale and power and the lung capacity. If you’re playing a 150-feet long dragon or a 25-foot long gorilla, it’s very hard to convey the power of the character, if you’re just using the power of your own voice. Breath is a really important part of making the character believable, and it’s an ongoing thing.
CUMBERBATCH: With the Necromancer, I decided to do that speech backwards, and then loop it forwards.
JACKSON: As you do. That’s perfectly normal. Most people do that.
CATE BLANCHETT: Show off! Unbelievable!
Benedict, if you were only getting warmed up in The Desolation of Smaug, do you get completely unleashed The Battle of the Five Armies?
CUMBERBATCH: I do. I swoop down and what I do is freely available on bookshelves around the world, but I won’t say what happens. It was great to have the next part of that journey. It’s a stunningly chilling end to the last film.
Peter, how are you going to top the battle in The Return of the King in The Battle of the Five Armies? Was it hard to go about that?
JACKSON: It carries the storyline. I don’t really think of it as a battle. A battle is a self-contained thing. But with this, the storyline of all of our characters is developing, all the way through. When they get into combat, the storyline is still evolving. Things happen in the middle of the battle that changes the storyline of certain characters, and there’s a lot to follow it. Whether they’re sitting around having dinner or they’re fighting a battle, it’s still part of the storytelling of the film. The whole movie is gonna be quite tense. It’s got a thriller feel to it. It’s going to go into the battle with lot of tension. The thing with battles is that you can kill off one or two people, and god knows, there’s a few of them that need to get killed off. So, we could possibly have characters dying in this film. We can afford to have some emotion that we haven’t seen in The Hobbit yet. We certainly crank it up in this one.
JACKSON: The creation of Tauriel came about in a very scientific way. It wasn’t very exciting. In the book of The Hobbit, the story passes through the Woodland Realm and they escape in the battles. Tolkien wrote about the Woodland king, but he doesn’t even name him. Because there’s no actual story in there, and it’s just an event that happens, along the way, as we developed our script treatments, we wanted to develop and elvish storyline. Any storyline has to have three characters. You can’t really create a storyline with two. You need to have three. So, we had Thranduil, as the Woodland king was subsequently named, and we also knew that he had a son, named Legolas, and then we needed a third. It was a very deliberate decision to cast a female character because there’s a lot of strength in the women within the elvish ranks. We just wanted to have a really kick-ass chick, basically. That’s how it came about. We wanted to develop a storyline that emanated from the Woodland Realm and was able to carry on through the film, all the way through to the end.
Evangeline, what was it like to play a character that had no reference in the books?
EVANGELINE LILLY: Aside from the fact that the fans were probably going to eat me for lunch, I thought that I had struck gold. Nobody had a preconceived idea in their head of how I was supposed to look and behave, so I had carte blanche. Nobody could tell me how Tauriel should be, except for Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. I just pitied Martin [Freeman], when I found out that he had been cast. He was such perfect casting, but how would he survive playing Bilbo. But what we really wanted to create was a clear distinction between Tauriel, who was a low caste Woodland elf, and the high elves that you see in The Lord of the Rings. So, I intentionally made sure that I didn’t re-watch The Lord of the Rings. If I had, because I’m so completely enthralled by Cate Blanchett’s performance in the trilogy, I would have just tried to copy her. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself. So, I made sure not to watch it, so that whatever we did create would be completely unique to a Woodland female warrior elf.
Cate, what are you going to miss most about playing your character and being a part of these films?
BLANCHETT: I’m just going to miss the chance to do it again. I’m such a small part of the film, but the four weeks I spent, the first time around, were game-changing for me. I’m such a long-time fan of Peter’s work, so to work with him and to work on the stories, that have such a broad reach and impact, not only as films but also just creatively, and then to go back 10 years later, you sometimes get to do that in Russian theater, but you rarely get to do that in film. I know that will never happen again, so that makes me slightly sad and old.
Cate and Orlando, what was your experience working backwards with your characters from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and what challenges you faced?
ORLANDO BLOOM: One of the conversations that I had with Peter and Fran was about how it made sense for Legolas to be in The Hobbit, but what would the arc be and what would the story be? Actually, it was very liberating. Because Legolas doesn’t feature in the story of The Hobbit in the books, in a way, we were able to go back and create a backstory for Legolas, who then pops up in The Fellowship of the Ring. They really thought that through, so you’ll see, at the end, the throughline of all six movies.
BLANCHETT: You’ve got the confidence and the fan base of the films, some of whom were originally fans of the books, but some were fans of what the team has done. And what I think is really great about what The Hobbit has achieved is that there are many, many great works of literature, but you’ve got to make them into movies and have them exist, in their own right. There’s so much invention in The Hobbit, and they really have embraced the fact that they are, first and foremost, the film’s story around those characters and around that world. The creative rift that Fran and Philippa and Peter have had, has been incredibly exciting, as an audience member.
BLOOM: Outside of Stephen Colbert, who’s shown everyone up, Peter, Fran and Philippa are the authority on this world, since J.R.R. Tolkien. They’re the ones who have brought that vision to life on the screen.
JACKSON: The thing about the returning characters is the iconography of the characters. Since we so Legolas, Galadriel and Gandalf last, there have been toys, action figures, dolls and lunch boxes. They walk onto the set and it’s suddenly like something out of pop culture. The returning characters are not just returning from a movie 10 years ago, but they’re bringing all this pop culture with them. I never thought I’d see them on set again, in my life, ever.
JACKSON: How about you do it? J.R.R. Tolkien sold the film rights to The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings in the late ‘60s, but The Silmarillion wasn’t even finished. It was written partly by him, and his son finished it after his death and published it. So, the film rights to The Silmarillion have never been sold, and the estate doesn’t have any interest in discussing film rights with anybody. That’s the situation on that.
What do you think about Legendary doing another King Kong with Guillermo del Toro?
JACKSON: I don’t know anything about it. I’m hearing it from you, for the first time. I would look forward to it. If Guillermo did King Kong, that would be great. That would be fantastic. I’ll be there on the first day, and will help him with anything he needs. I’ve always wondered, if in my lifetime, whether we’re going to see The Lord of the Rings film remade, or The Hobbit remade. How long will it actually last or survive until someone remakes it? It will be interesting to see. But with Kong, we were the ones who remade it for the third time.
SERKIS: I didn’t even realize there was another version being made. Guillermo is a great director, so I’m sure he’ll make an extraordinary film.