A couple of years ago, the staff over at IGN paid a visit to the New Zealand shoot of the first installment of 's Hobbit trilogy, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. At the time, the film saga was still a two-part duology, and there's a specific scene the reporters witnessed back then in 2011 that was at the time intended for the first movie, but subsequently bumped to the second (the upcoming The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug). With only about a month to go until we see the sequel hit the big screens, here's a first-hand account of the 'making of' of the iconic barrel escape scene:
The sequence we saw being filmed was the great barrel escape where Bilbo Baggins and the dwarves flee from Thranduil the Elvenking (Lee Pace) in empty wine barrels downriver. They are attacked from the river banks by pursuing goblins, whom they fight off with swords as they rush past. Director Peter Jackson and his crew constructed what looked like a water park on a sound stage at the Stone Street studio backlot in Wellington.
Using wine barrels and a trap door that drops into an underground river, Bilbo and the dwarves make their escape.
Adapted from the ninth chapter ("Barrels Out of Bond") in J.R.R. Tolkien's novel, the set-piece begins with Bilbo, using the Ring to make him invisible, freeing Thorin and his fellow dwarves from their cells while the Elves have a feast. Using wine barrels and a trap door that drops into an underground river, Bilbo and the dwarves make their escape. As bad luck would have it, they are spotted in the river by scouts for the villainous Azog the Goblin who then engage in a chase-battle as the barrels speed downriver.
With water tanks creating an artificial river and big fans adding to the effect of river rapids, the actors (including Martin Freeman and Richard Armitage) spent several hours essentially on an amusement park ride as they circled round and round the track "fighting" goblins who will later be added digitally. The actors, though tired and soaked, seemed to be having a grand time shooting the sequence.
During the IGN visit, the reporters were also able to score interviews with two of the film's actors, and , who will portray Legolas and Tauriel, respectively. Both actors (who coincidentally sport flower-related names), talked about their experiences embodying those complex creatures that are Tolkien's elves. Bloom, of course, already has ample experience in recreating Tolkien's Universe, as you'll no doubt remember him from the Lord of the Rings trilogy, where he played the same role (which has greatly contributed to his present fame). Some of the highlights of his interview include:
It was amazing that Pete was back at the helm of this movie, and it was amazing that I got a call to say we would love you to be a part of the film. I was just full of excitement. I was obviously like, 'Ooh! This is going to be interesting to make the transition as an Elf being ten years older as myself;' as an actor, going in to playing a character that would be younger, but as Elves are kind of ageless anyway we've managed to bridge the gap.
"The experience of making the movie is completely different [from LOTR]. It could never be the same, because there was no expectation."
The experience of making the movie is completely different [from LOTR]. It could never be the same, because there was no expectation. That was a unique thing. This obviously, there is a heap of expectation. Actually the way that the movie is being filmed and shot it's really very similar to what the experience was on The Lord Of The Rings, outside of the key cast and stuff. There's a sort of creative chaos that breeds, I hope something really special that we saw on Lord Of The Rings. There's something about the way that the chaos that is created to make the movies that can lead, and we've seen it with Rings, and we hope to see it again. Something quite special and unique. It's unlike any other movie experience for sure. The way that it works, but I think it plays out very well to the advantage of the film and hopefully the audiences when they get to enjoy it.
Knowing that Legolas goes on to be a bridge, like an architect for peace between the Elves and the rest of the world, you might be able to guess there might be a little bit of me trying to understand more of what the plight of the rest of the world is and therefore somewhat coming up against odds with my father.
Evangeline Lily, widely known for her performance on Lost, is Peter Jackson's choice to play Tauriel, a character created expressly for the movies (and thus never appeared in Tolkien's books). Tauriel is a Woodlands Elf who is strikingly younger to most elves, comparatively little more than a child with her youthful 600 years of age. Some of the most interesting parts of the interview are:
When I got called I was told, 'We'd like you to do The Hobbit,' which was my favorite of all of them when I was a kid. 'And we want you to play a character that's not in the books.' I gulped and hesitated, but then I went, 'These guys know this world, and they represent this world so well, that I actually think they've earned the right to have a little play.'
"My character is different from all of the Elves you've met before, in that she's really young."
My character is different from all of the Elves you've met before, in that she's really young. And I keep telling journalists this because I've really focused on that in my performance. I'm trying to distinguish her from all of these incredibly sage and wise Elves that have lived for thousands of years. She's only 600-years-old, she's just a baby. So she's a bit more impulsive, and she's a bit more immature. She's more easily romanticized by a lot of things.
"She's only 600-years-old, she's just a baby. So she's a bit more impulsive, and she's a bit more immature."
I have these huge, pointed ears. They’re like three times the size of Orlando Bloom's ears. And I think he has ear envy, I love my ears. And how I can get away with that is I have this wig that's down to my knees. It's a massive head of hair, and it's almost shocking red.
They have taken elements of different female Elven characters throughout Tolkien's work, and they have amalgamated those things into one character, which is Tauriel.
I work primarily with a group of four Dwarves and three humans. And for the most part-- I have never, and never will do a scene with Bilbo. I've not worked with Martin Freeman. I've hung out with him, but I've not worked with him. And the movie is about him.
You can read the whole IGN report, including much more material from the interviews, right here.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug premieres on December 13th.