Enthusiastic and barefoot, director Peter Jackson gave a little masterclass in Middle-earth filmmaking and showed fans their first look atThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaugin a live online event Sunday.
With actor Jed Brophy, who plays the dwarf Nori, Jackson gave a tour of key spots in his New Zealand post-production studio and introduced footage from the follow-up to The Hobbit: The Unexpected Journey to those who bought the recent Blu-ray and DVD this past week.
Although the first trailer is still being prepped for this summer, Jackson showcased a sequence featuring the wizard Gandalf (Ian McKellen) searching tombs for a missing mystical blade, and several scenes of actors working with a green screen were showcased during the hour-long live event.
With live-streaming cameras, he also dropped by the motion-capture room where Manu Bennett was working on a scene playing the chief orc Azog, looking "more friendly than he is in the movie," Jackson said.
Jackson and his team gave glimpses of many of the characters making their first appearance in The Desolation of Smaug, which continues the journey of hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and Gandalf as they help the group of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to steal back their treasure and home from the evil dragon Smaug. Their mission continues into the final movie of Jackson's Hobbit trilogy, next year's There and Back Again.
Lee Pace's elvish king Thrandall was seen in a cameo in An Unexpected Journey but plays a large role in the new Hobbit film, which also sees the return of Thrandall's son Legolas from the Lord of the Rings movies - and the actor playing him, Orlando Bloom.
"He's much more relaxed and a really fun guy," Jackson said of Bloom, "whereas Legolas is more uptight, shall we say."
The director promised that fans will see more of Middle-earth than ever before, including the world of men. Laketown is such a place, which is ruled by the greedy and corrupt political figure The Master, played by Stephen Fry.
Luke Evans' Bard the Bowman is in Desolation of Smaug as well, plus the elvish bodyguard Tauriel, an all-new character played by Evangeline Lilly created just for Jackson's Hobbit movies who never appeared in the original J.R.R. Tolkien source material. "She's not an elf guard to be messed with," the director said.
Jackson showed concept art for a few of the new locales, including the "heart of darkness" of Mirkwood, a sick and diseased forest, and Thrandall's woodland realm. "We wanted to make it seem very defensive and impregnable," with a bridge and raging river at its entrance, Jackson said. "Inside, we tried to make a cavernous realm look elvish, in that it looks grand and cathedral."
During the live event, Jackson answered video and Twitter questions from fans as well as from Hobbit cast members Evans, Pace, Bloom, Lilly and Fry, Lord of the Rings stars Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan, and even Middle-earth aficionado Stephen Colbert, who rattled off a very nerdy question about elves. In turn, Jackson revealed that he stole a guest mug when he appeared on the comedian's Colbert Report.
He also admitted that, while he does wear shoes while filming, Jackson prefers to go barefoot these days as he's editing The Desolation of Smaug for its Dec. 13 release date. "I can put my feet up on the table and it's wonderful."
One aspect that Jackson didn't show was the massive Smaug, the dragon performed via motion capture by Benedict Cumberbatch whose eye was teasingly glimpsed at the end of An Unexpected Journey. Some idea of the beast was seen on computers in Jackson's previsualization department, though, and he teased that he sees Smaug as "a T. Rex with wings."
Jackson offered fans a look at how he edits a scene on a 103-inch TV for a sense of how it will look on a big cinema screen - "It's not just an indulgence," he said. He also showed off many of the movie posters throughout the rooms and corridors of his studio, including a host of James Bond films, the World War II movie The Dam Busters ("Someone should remake it," he said with a wink) and One Million Years B.C. in his editing station.
"The dinosaurs were cool and Raquel Welch was cool," Jackson said. "When you're a teenage boy, that's a very good poster to have on the wall."