Considering the unadulterated enthusiasm and sheer joy expressed by Peter Jackson and the members of his creative team on The Hobbit in previously-released production diary videos, it's easy to forget about all the lawsuits, studio financial collapses, directorial change-ups, union conflicts, and personal health issues that have afflicted this project for the past three years (or so).
In a new interview, Jackson touches (very) briefly on the difficulties he and his his crew have encountered, in their efforts to realize J.R.R. Tolkien's famous predecessor to the Lord of the Rings trilogy on the big screen. We also have some cool new Hobbit images and thoughts from one of its co-writers (Philippa Boyens) and costar (Richard Armitage) to boot.
The first of two Hobbit-based movies (subtitled An Unexpected Journey) picks up with a young Bilbo Baggins, as brought to life by Martin Freeman (the UK version of The Office) who gets swept up in a quest to reclaim a lost Dwarf Kingdom from the treasure-hoarding dragon known as Smaug (voiced by Freeman's Sherlock co-star, Benedict Cumberbatch). Joining the mild-mannered Hobbit are the likes of the shabby wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) and thirteen dwarves from different regions of Middle-Earth, led by the battle-ready Thorin Oakenshield (Armitage).
Check out a new image of Freeman as a grungy-looking Bilbo covered in cobwebs, with his mystical sword Sting in hand - along with a new behind-the-scenes pic of Jackson and Freeman on the set for Bilbo's hobbit hole, below:
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Jackson (diplomatically) told Hero Complex that he felt that ultimately "fate has actually been kind to us... but I don't know that we know that we knew that along the way," as far as pre-production on The Hobbit is concerned. Considering all the strife that Jackson and Co. had to endure in order to finance and get moving ahead with the $500 million venture (to say nothing of the director's brief health scare) that's definitely the most polite way Jackson could have put it.
On a different note: here is what Boyens, who also co-wrote all three Rings flicks, as well as Jackson's King Kong remake and The Lovely Bones adaptation, had to say about adapting The Hobbit:
“The story is very much a children’s story so deciding how to tell this was one of the first things we had to do. Who is the audience? It is very distinctly different, tonally, to ‘Lord of the Rings’ until the very end and then you begin to see the world of Middle-earth opening up… but, having said that, we felt that it is the same audience [who will come to see the films] and then you start to worry because it is easy to repeat yourself. It is quite a similar journey, you’re going from the Shire to a large, dangerous mountain.”
Boyens' words very much reflect what Jackson and Fran Walsh previously said about The Hobbit, with regards to the original novel's gentler fairy tale atmosphere - and how the plan is for the second film (subtitled There and Back Again) to be more of a dark epic along the lines of the Rings trilogy that will help to better bridge the gap between the two interrelated, but distinct stories being told over the course of Jackson's Middle-Earth pentalogy.
Lastly, in an interview with MTV, Armitage had the following thoughts to offer about the original Hobbit novel and how he's approaching the task of portraying Thorin Oakenshield in cinematic form:
"I read ['The Hobbit'] quite a few times when I was young. I think going back to it as an adult is really interesting because it is a book that was, I think, was written for Tolkien's children, but when you're creating a piece on this scale, you have to really visualize it for a much broader audience. I think that's the beauty of Tolkien. He does create very well-rounded, quite dangerous characters to play his protagonists. He risks scaring kids. He's the original fantasy creator, and I think you have to invest those characters with the same gravity as if you were making a piece for adults. It was interesting coming back to it as an adult, re-reading it again, because it did have a simplicity to it, which I really like. I felt we could take those characters and really develop them beyond the book."
Armitage has appeared in many a BBC TV series in recent years (including Strike Back, MI-5, and Robin Hood) but to U.S. moviegoers, he's essentially a newcomer who briefly played a German secret agent/saboteur in Captain America.
It'll be interesting to see what Armitage's post-Hobbit career is like, for that reason. Could he suddenly become as ubiquitous as, say, Michael Fassbender or Idris Elba? Or will he keep a lower profile, a la Rings' star Viggo Mortensen? Only time will tell...
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey arrives in theaters around the U.S. on December 14th, 2012.
The Hobbit: There and Back Again will be released a year later on December 13th, 2013.