Twenty Five Things You Might Not Know About The Hobbit
By now, we’ll wager you know all there is to know about the original ‘Lord Of The Rings’ trilogy, with every minute of the Extended Editions along with the entire Elvish dictionary committed to memory. But what of the Hobbit trilogy?
Due to be completed upon the release of the defining chapter, ‘The Battle Of The Five Armies’, Peter Jackson’s Tolkien prequel trilogy is at once new and exciting while remaining resolutely familiar. Here’s our pick of the best bits of trivia from the story so far…
1: Alternate Hobbits
Actors in the frame to play the young Bilbo Baggins included James McAvoy, Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe (who is often mistaken for Elijah Wood by excited fans) and Shia LaBeouf, which you have to think is a bullet dodged.
Martin Freeman originally turned down the chance to play Bilbo due to scheduling conflicts with ‘Sherlock’ until a compromise was reached.
2: The Non-Human Touch
‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ was the first of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien adaptations not to feature any human characters with speaking roles. Sure, there were wizards and elves and hobbits a-plenty, and there were glimpses of characters from the race of men in flashbacks, but you hear not a single word from a human’s mouth.
3: Elementary, My Dear Baggins
The cast of ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy shares a bizarre connection with the world of Sherlock Holmes, in that FIVE of Peter Jackson’s actors have had connecting roles in three different iterations of the Baker Street detective. Bilbo actor Martin Freeman plays John Watson opposite voice of Smaug Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Fry played Mycroft opposite Robert Downey Jr in ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows’, Christopher Lee played Sherlock in 1991 movie ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Leading Lady’ and Ian McKellen will play an ageing Sherlock in Bill Condon’s 2015 drama, ‘Mr Holmes’.
4: PJ’s Hitchcock Moments
As he did in the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ movies, director Peter Jackson has continued to make cameos across ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy. He can be seen early in ‘An Unexpected Journey’ as a dwarf running past Thorin as Smaug attacks Erebor, and plays a drunk eating a carrot in ‘The Desolation Of Smaug’.
5: Alternate Cameos
Not content with his portrayal as ‘drunk man eating carrot’, Jackson filmed another cameo for ‘The Desolation Of Smaug’ as one of Laketown’s spies, who signals to his comrades with wild bird calls. The second cameo was apparently vetoed by Jackson’s co-producer and co-writer Phillipa Boyens and didn’t make the final cut.
6: Poor Bombur
Dwarf Bombur hasn’t spoken a single word throughout the entire trilogy to date. However, this didn’t stop actor Stephen Hunter from learning a Northern Irish dialect along with his castmates to better blend in with co-dwarf James Nesbitt. Which doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense.
7: Figwit, Present
‘Flight Of The Conchords’ star Bret McKenzie played an unnamed elven character in ‘The Fellowship Of The Ring’, whom fans quickly dubbed Figwit, which stands for “Frodo is great… who is that?”). Jackson liked this so much, Figwit was added to ‘Lord Of The Rings canon’ and appeared in trading card packs. Wellington native MacKenzie was recast as a different elf, Lindir, in ‘An Unexpected Journey’. It doesn’t stand for anything – Lindir was actually a character in the original Tolkien text.
8: End Of The Line
Worried that ‘The Battle Of The Five Armies’ tagline refers to the movie as the ‘defining’ chapter rather than the final chapter? Fret not: Peter Jackson doesn’t have the rights to adapt any of Tolkien’s lesser works of Middle-Earth. That’s why, in ‘An Unexpected Journey’, Saruman refers to the remaining two wizards as “the two blues” instead of calling them by their names: Alatar and Pallando. These characters are explored in ‘Unfinished Tales’, a collection of Tolkien titbits edited into book form by JRR’s son – Jackson couldn’t adapt it or even reference it, even if he wanted to.
9: Part Troll
Comedian Bill Bailey – he of the diminuitive stature and mad, otherworldly hair – auditioned to play dwarf Gloin. The role was eventually played by Peter Hambleton, which is strange, because as far as we can make out, Bill Bailey is actually a mythical creature and lives in a hole in the ground.
10: A Family Affair
Gloin is one of many connections between ‘The Hobbit’ and the ‘Lord Of The Rings’ movies – he’s the father of Gimli, the angry battle dwarf played by Jonathan Rhys-Davies in the original trilogy. If you look closely, they both wield the same axe. Gloin even shows displeasure that his bearded wife is mistaken for a man, which Gimli later claims is commonplace with dwarven women.
11: Terrible Lizard
Benedict Cumberbatch didn’t just provide the deep, booming voice for dragon-to-end-all-dragons Smaug – he provided the motion-capture too. If you’re wondering how that’s possible, given that Benedict Cumberbatch is essentially a biped and Smaug is a winged beast, and if actually they just filmed him scurrying around the carpeted floor of a WETA back room with dots all over his face, you’d be exactly right.
12: David Tennant Was Nearly An Elf
Pouting elf king Thranduil is played by Lee Pace, but it’s thought that David Tennant originally came close to landing the part. Tennant’s then girlfriend (now wife) Georgia Moffett fell unexpectedly pregnant, which allegedly put the kibosh on him shooting the best part of a year on location in New Zealand. Original director Guillermo del Toro wanted Doug Jones (Abe Sapien in ‘Hellboy’) to play the part of Thranduil but Pace got the gig when Jackson took over and Tennant dropped out.
Back when Guillermo del Toro was calling the shots – pre-MGM meltdown – the Mexican director also pursued a different actor to provide the wicked voice of Smaug. Rumour has it del Toro wanted to cast lucky charm Ron Perlman as his dragon, which makes sense because Ron Perlman already looks how Smaug sounds.
14: There’s a Moose Loose
The elk that Thranduil rides so majestically is actually a horse – a horse, confusingly, named Moose.
15: A Close Shave
Lengthy filming with Bilbo and the dwarves became problematic when the actors’ stubble started becoming visible towards the end of long shooting days. Martin Freeman’s five o’clock shadow would appear blueish on screen, so his – and his dwarf co-stars’ – stubble was altered in post-production, where an orange tint was added to balance the colour. Presumably this was cheaper than having a runner stashing some cheap razors on set.
16: Blinking Trivia
Throughout the entire ‘Lord Of The Rings’ trilogy, Legolas blinks only once – when surprised to see Gandalf’s horse, Shadowfax. In ‘The Hobbit’ movies, Legolas only blinks once – when he’s wounded. They’re not ones to show emotions, the elves.
17: Weapons With Names
Dwarf Dwalin’s axes tell a story if you ever live long enough to hear it. Actor Graham McTavish wanted a backstory for his weapons and came up with the idea of calling his twin blades ‘Grasper’ and ‘Keeper’ after Emily Brontë’s dogs. McTavish also dubbed Dwalin’s knuckledusters ‘Insult’ and ‘Injury’ – pray he never adds one to the other in your company.
18: Never Cross A Dwarf
Dwarves were never ones to hold their tongues, but if you speak their native language, you’ll find they can be foul-mouthed fellows. The insult that Thorin hurls at Thranduil in ‘The Desolation Of Smaug’ roughly translates from Dwarvish into: “I dump my faeces on your head!”
19: Is That A Ferret In Your Pocket?
Wizard Radagast the Brown hides animals on his person inside various items of clothing (hence the bird poo in his hair). In a bizarre coincidence, actor Sylvester McCoy used to perform an early comedy act in which he took to the stage with live ferrets stuffed down his trousers.
20: Computer Power
Just one of Smaug’s dragon scales would take an average desktop PC a whole week to render fully – and there are hundreds of thousands of them on the final model. Luckily New Zealand effects house WETA had a few bob to spend on some high-end machinery to get Smaug looking ship-shape in time for his cinematic debut.
21: Ladies Touch
Evangeline Lilly’s elven character Tauriel – fairly transparent but very welcome stand-in for the absent elvish warrior Arwen, played by Liv Tyler – was created solely for Peter Jackson’s movies. Lilly went to great lengths to secure the role, including becoming familiar with the elvish tongue. She beat out Eva Green to land the part.
22: Every Witch Way
The freaky looking ghost who assaults Radagast in Dol Guldur is the Witch-King of Angmar. If the name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s the same dude who stabs Frodo in ‘The Fellowship Of The Ring’ while he’s wearing the One Ring.
23: CGI Magic
Vicious Orc commander Azog is a CG creation, but the character wasn’t intended to be purely digital. Practical make-up was applied to an actor and Azog was shot in camera, but Peter Jackson decided he didn’t like the look, later deciding to paint over the footage with a CG creature. The Orc that was Azog then became Yazneg, the lieutenant to the Azog you see in ‘An Unexpected Journey’.
24: Pippin Returns
Missing that pesky Hobbit Peregrin “fool of a” Took? Pippin may not appear in ‘The Hobbit’ trilogy, but he’s there in spirit at least. The last voice you’ll hear in Peter Jackson’s final Tolkien adaptation will be that of Billy Boyd, who wrote and also sings the official tie-in track “The Last Goodbye”, which will play over the closing credits.
25: The Appendices
A few additional ‘LOTR’/’Hobbit’ crossovers you may have missed: the trolls that turn to stone in ‘An Unexpected Journey’ later appear in ‘Fellowship’; Thranduil is Legolas’ father and imprisons Gloin, perhaps stoking the mistrust between Legolas and Gloin’s son Gimli some years later; Balin’s tomb in Moria is visited by the Fellowship; the Orcs and Azog meet in Weathertop, where 77 years on Frodo and the Fellowship are attacked by Nazgul. It’s almost like Peter Jackson wanted you to think the trilogies are connected…