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Old 11-02-2011, 07:37 AM  
bevischief bevischief is offline
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The Hobbit

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An Unexpected Journey: Quint on the set of The Hobbit! Part 1 - Concerning Hobbiton

Published at: Oct 31, 2011 6:13:46 AM CDT

SPOILER ALERT !!

Ahoy, squirts! Quint here currently writing from the overgrown wilds of New Zealand’s North Island. I’ve been rather secretive about my trip to the southern hemisphere and for that I apologize, but it had to be done.

Here’s the deal. I’m kicking off a new, temporary, regular column that I’m calling An Unexpected Journey because that’s exactly what it is. A little over a month ago an email arrived asking of my interest in embedding myself on the set of The Hobbit for the entirety of their location shoot, spending over 2 months in New Zealand rolled in with the crew and writing up their adventures, hassles, triumphs and tribulations as they traveled all over the country shooting bits and pieces from the upcoming two-parter prequel to Lord of the Rings. As Winston Zeddemore taught us all, the answer to this kind of question is always YES!

Calling The Hobbit a prequel doesn’t exactly feel right, though. This isn’t a film cooked up to cash in on an absurdly successful franchise. As most Tolkien readers and human beings over the age of 7 know, The Hobbit burst forth from the pen of JRR Tolkien first. There are many Middle Earth stories, but The Hobbit is the natural choice. It’s high adventure and lets us revisit some of our favorite locations and characters within its own, unique story.

Case in point, the very first location visited on this trip: Matamata, Waikato, New Zealand – North Island, also known as Hobbiton.









Gorgeous, isn’t it? As amazing as it looks in those pictures or in the movies there’s something incredibly surreal and humbling to stand ON TOP of Bag End and overlook The Shire. I love (good) CGI, I have a lot of respect for the digital artists that toil away for hours and days and weeks and months in a dark room so we can go to Ancient Greece or Pandora or spend some time with Jurassic Park dinosaurs or Gollum or Caesar or those fookin’ prawns, but if there was ever a shred of doubt that real wins it was obliterated as the sheep bayed, horses neighed, wind blew and smoke started pouring out of hobbit hole chimneys dotting the lush green landscape in the valley below me.





And when I say green I mean GREEN. The grass in this North Island New Zealand farmland is like Wizard of Oz Technicolor. It’s so bright it almost hurts the eyes.

But we all know New Zealand is beautiful. That’s a given at this point. By the end of December you’ll be given your fill of unbelievable scenery images as I travel from location to location (especially when I hit the South Island). Let’s get into what was actually happening in Hobbiton.

Wake up time was 5:15am, which barely gave me enough time to get showered and presentable before making the 40+ minute drive from my Hamilton hotel to the location deep in the rolling green hills of Matamata.

Once past security I found myself driving along a small dirt and gravel road following signs to crew parking. Sure enough, the countryside was beautiful and Tolkeinesque, but it wasn’t until I made a turn and saw the incredibly iconic stone bridge leading to The Green Dragon that it really struck me where I was.

That feeling intensified standing at base camp, perched on top of Bag End, looking over Hobbiton with dozens of Hobbit holes laid out over acres of green hills and the massive party tree anchored in the middle of everything.

The crew was setting up a crane out on the narrow walkway in front of Bag End for their first shot actually in Hobbiton in over 10 years. Because of the narrow and steep path down, the crew had to bring crane parts down and assemble much of it there. It took a little while, but before too long the familiar circular green front door of Bag End cracked open and out stepped an even more familiar face.

Munching on jellied toast, Frodo Baggins sauntered out and hopped down the steps leading to the mailbox, grabbed some mail and headed back inside.





What’s Frodo doing in The Hobbit? I don’t want to spoil too much, but I can say that Frodo is part of the connecting tissue between The Hobbit and Fellowship of the Ring.

In fact, the next shot was an over the shoulder on Elijah Wood hammering a sign up on Bag End’s front gate: “No Admittance Except On Party Business.” You guys should have an idea where that puts this moment in the timeline.

Martin Freeman stood in for Ian Holm, who shot all of his scenes and close-ups in London. They would sometimes play footage they’ve already shot to remind themselves of what they had done previously and to help them match up shots. Peter and crew did that for these reverse shots on Elijah and I got to see Ian as Bilbo once again. It was quite extraordinary, actually. Seeing Ian in close up, wearing the wig, the vest and the pointy ears just put a smile on my face.

While I didn’t talk to Elijah about it, I bet it meant the world to him to have Martin there actually giving a performance for him to act off of. Freeman even adopted a little bit of Ian Holm’s speech patterns for these scenes and was so good at impersonating Ian Holm that more than once I wondered if the voice I was hearing over the coms was Ian’s on playback or Martin’s in real life. Usually in these situations they’ll have the script girl or one of the dialect coaches read the lines and while that works a charm, there’s something extra special about a performer giving a performance. Like I said, I didn’t talk to Elijah about it, but I bet he appreciated Martin doing that for him.

Their conversation is about Gandalf and if Bilbo thinks Gandalf will show up. Bilbo says “He wouldn’t miss a chance to let off his whiz-poppers. He’ll put on quite a show, you’ll see,” and Frodo grins, saying he’s going to go surprise him and bounds off down the path like a kid at Christmas. When I say he bounds down the path that’s not an exaggeration for illustrative purposes. He was damn near skipping, a glimpse of that pre-ring Frodo we meet in Fellowship.

After Frodo leaves the frame is very wide featuring The Shire in all its glory; The Green Dragon and mill smack dab in the middle.





It’s my understanding this shot will transition to “60 Years Earlier” with Young Bilbo sitting in front of Bag End contently smoking a pipe and casually blowing smoke rings as Gandalf comes along and presents him with his adventure.

At lunch I caught up with Elijah who was wide-eyed and smiling, obviously enjoying being back in Hobbiton with the furry feet on. He ran off and I said, “Where do you think you’re going?” His reply: “Back to Bag End, my friend!”

I had to run over to wardrobe to get fitted for my cameo the next day, but soon made my way back to set. We had the same scene going and this time they had the camera tight on Frodo. While it was a tighter shot than before, it still captured the landscape behind him. I mean, that’s the whole reason we were out there in the first place, so I wasn’t going to see a whole lot of close-ups and insert shots being filmed. In this case, it was a full on front shot of Frodo, the massive Party Tree behind him.

Seeing the footage of Ian as Old Bilbo was crazy, but nothing compared to seeing Elijah as Frodo in the furry-footed flesh. I’ve gotten to know Elijah pretty well over the last 13 years and it was the very definition of surreal talking to Frodo. Not Elijah. Frodo. I was literally not talking to a friend, but a fictional character, not to mention the magnifier of actually seeing him in Hobbiton.





I have to talk about the livestock. This will be the first time I’ve traveled internationally where I will have to check off the Yes box when asked if I’ve been near livestock on the arrival card. All forms of livestock were on set. There was even a runaway cow who decided she didn’t like the film business on the first take and bolted right the hell out of Hobbiton.

It was quite funny, actually. I feel bad for the production having to pause, but from my high-up point of view (remember I was standing on top of the hill overlooking Hobbiton this whole day) it was very entertaining watching this cow haul ass along the path between the hobbit holes with a poor A.D. running about 20 feet behind her, desperately trying to catch up.

There were all manner of animals on the set ranging from goats to roosters, pigs, oxen, horses and all of them had handlers there to make sure they were fed, watered and safely munching on the lush green grass of Matamata. They would quickly duck out of frame whenever shots would go up.

Shortly after getting the shot on Frodo the unmistakable sound of chopper blades hit our ears. It was circling us. Obviously someone had hired it to fly above and take photos of the set.

An hour or two later a small, single-engine prop plane did the same thing, flying low and circling. Photos hit the net shortly after, I noticed. The crew was quite annoyed, not because Hobbiton was being exposed to the world, but because the choppers and planes were constantly getting in the shot and the sound of the engines was either ruining takes or making the production halt until they got out of earshot… which could be a long while if they are circling.

So, it was an unwanted intrusion, especially frustrating when you consider they were already waiting for the light to be right, to get behind a cloud or peak out from behind a cloud depending on the previous shot.

It got to the point that producer Zane Weiner asked me to take a photo of the plane so we can try to get its tail number. I had the 18mm-55mm lens on my camera (which means it’s a shorter lens and doesn’t zoom in too far), so I ran back to my bag, grabbed my 200mm lens and popped it on, but I was too late. The plane had already gone. Zane wanted me to let you guys know I failed at that particular task. And on my first day of location reporting, too.

That was one day of location shooting on The Hobbit. One day down, two months to go! Before I conclude this article, I’d like to set up a little space where I’ll be featuring a member of the crew. God willing I’ll be able to do this with each of my pieces, introducing you to the fine folks who I spend my days with. These guys are the unsung heroes of filmmaking, so I feel they should be represented.

Kicking things off will be Kiran Shah.





If you’ve watched the appendices on the Extended Editions of the Lord of the Rings films you should recognize Kiran’s name. He’s a much loved character around the set. He’s an actor, stunt man and scale double. On Rings he doubled Elijah Wood, but before Lord of the Rings he had a massive career.

For instance, he’s in Raiders of the Lost Ark… he’s the guy who brings the poisoned dates into Indy and Sallah. He doubled Short Round in Temple of Doom, he was a character in Ridley Scott’s Legend (Blunder) and even knew Stanley Kubrick.

The story he told me was that he got to know Kubrick a little bit, but even being on friendly terms with the maestro didn’t save him when he popped in for a visit on the set of Eyes Wide Shut. Stanley spotted him and said, “Kiran, out!” We all know the stories about how Kubrick didn’t like a lot of crew around and that was Kiran’s little tale about it.

He also mentioned that LOTR and Hobbit illustrator/designer Alan Lee did the character designs for Legend and even drew the character that Shah ended up playing to look just like him. Shah attributes getting the role to Lee because he remembered auditioning for it and seeing Ridley Scott do a double take when Shah entered the room, looking back at the character design and up at him again.

In The Hobbit, Shah is up to his usual shenanigans, making the crew (and visiting movie geek reporters) crack up in-between takes and doubling hobbits. In the above picture he’s waiting to double Martin Freeman’s Bilbo, which is why his eyes are reverse raccooned in his picture. There’s an eerie silicone mask of Bilbo’s face that he’ll put on when Bilbo is needed to be seen in a close to correct proportion.

Shah will also be a Goblin in the film and is just an overall joy to be around and as such he is this column’s inaugural featured crew member.

The next report will cover my cameo appearance during a Hobbit market in front of The Green Dragon. There is a particular actor in this scene named Leroy that I’m especially excited to tell you about. He has huge talents and that’s even an understatement. I expect that report to land in a few days, but taking my own pictures means a bit of a clearance process.

I know the watermarks are annoying. I hate them, you hate them, so I made them as unintrusive as possible. If I see a bunch of sites take these images without credit and a linkback future pictures will have bigger watermarks. So, don’t be a dick. I don’t care if you use the image, just give a link back here, will ya’? Don’t ruin it for everybody.





More soon! This is going to be a crazy couple of months! Oh, and Happy Birthday to Peter Jackson! Thanks for letting me join the circus for a spell, sir!

-Eric Vespe
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Old 12-04-2012, 11:56 AM   #166
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Originally Posted by keg in kc View Post
Scrolling through some more of that blog, the guy reads like your stereotypical self-aggrandizing film snot, who'll be naturally predisposed against anything that might be popular amongst the unwashed masses.

I meant "film snob", but "film snot" kind of works for me.
Oh i agree....hes a film snob of the highest order. I should have stated that up front. Actually, he was the one defending the 48FPS against other critics who have complained.
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:26 PM   #167
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People that love the book won't have a problem with pacing. Imo.
This.

I don't go to movies because I consider myself a film snob. I go because the story interests me. I'm either going to like the movie or I won't. I'm not going to leave the movie breaking down what the director did or didn't do.

I'll go see The Hobbit because I loved the books and I love Tolkien as an author.
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Old 12-04-2012, 12:38 PM   #168
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I can see why a short book stretched into a three-movie trilogy with each movie running nearly 3 hours could potentially have pacing problems. I'm psyched about seeing it and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the expanded parts add to the overall story.
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Old 12-04-2012, 02:14 PM   #169
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Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
I can see why a short book stretched into a three-movie trilogy with each movie running nearly 3 hours could potentially have pacing problems. I'm psyched about seeing it and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the expanded parts add to the overall story.
User reviews on rotten were 95% earlier. So if they actually saw it. That is encouraging.
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Old 12-04-2012, 02:27 PM   #170
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Originally Posted by patteeu View Post
I can see why a short book stretched into a three-movie trilogy with each movie running nearly 3 hours could potentially have pacing problems. I'm psyched about seeing it and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the expanded parts add to the overall story.
That is my biggest fear, especially with the Hobbit being one of my favorite books.
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Old 12-04-2012, 03:17 PM   #171
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User reviews on rotten were 95% earlier. So if they actually saw it. That is encouraging.
Yea, fans will always be more excited about fantasy/genre stuff than uppity critics.
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Old 12-04-2012, 04:36 PM   #172
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MrCere reviews ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’

DECEMBER 4, 2012 at 12:01 AM BY MRCERE -
At the first public showing of a movie picture depicting a train coming toward the viewers, people scattered in alarm trying to get out of the way. Or so the story goes. Some will do the same with director Peter Jackson’s new film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The irony is that The Hobbit’s titular character, Bilbo Baggins, doesn’t like to take risks in a film that revels in them.

It’s visionary stuff, and Jackson is alone on the frontier with only James Cameron visible on the horizon. The first installment of The Hobbit trilogy is new cinema.

Instead of playing safe and comfortable in lower-risk financial zones, Jackson has pushed the boundaries with 3D, with 48 frames of film per second -– or the digital equivalent — flashing past viewers’ eyes instead of the traditional 24fps. It is definitely different.

The filter of the traditional look of cinema, what we are used to seeing in the dark, is gone. Forever? Consumers will ultimately decide but studios continue to churn out films in 3D despite anything but universal acclaim.

Here, Jackson has gone to such lengths to make the fantastic look real that for many the film will look unreal -– but only if viewers choose to see it in the director’s preferred way. Of the approximately 24,000 theaters that will display The Hobbit: AUJ, around 1,000 will have the technology to display it as it was shot — HFR 3D. But, for those 1,000, hang onto your arm rests, cinema has just leapt forward.

Bilbo Baggins (masterfully portrayed by Martin Freeman in a performance that will be lost amidst the eye-popping action sequences), as many readers will know, relishes his comfortable life in the cinematically familiar Bag End. He is interrupted by a gaggle of dwarves and a meddlesome wizard who for reasons he cannot himself explain, thinks Bilbo needs to travel with the dwarves.

All of this is familiar ground for readers of Tolkien’s original tale. And, as expected, the screenwriters (Fran Walsh, Phillipa Boyens, Guillermo del Toro and Peter Jackson) make great effort to up the stakes and ramp-up the tension.

People who haven’t been paying attention to the promotional lead-in campaign may be surprised to find that joining Freeman and Ian McKellen’s Gandalf as lead characters in the film is Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield. It’s a role likely to launch Armitage, blessed with an already-fervent fanbase, masculine good looks, and ample ability, into the stratosphere. The character is deeply scarred and tragic. Thorin gives the children’s tale a Shakespearean disaster angle and the film makes the most of it in in ways that may not surprise viewers but will nevertheless delight them.

Andy Serkis returns to work his performance-capture magic as Gollum, and Jackson and his actors reach the peak of performance and technical … well … wizardry in a scene that is the film’s best. Despite being dialog-heavy, it is cinematic magic.

So Bilbo, content to play it safe in a movie that most definitely isn’t, is joined by all these dwarves who despite excellent design and characterization, just don’t have enough room in the movie. Considering Jackson’s Middle-earth legacy, many viewers will immediately begin pondering extended editions and hope for more from these characters.

Then -– especially if they see it in 48 fps -– they’ll want to schedule another viewing. This writer’s initial reaction to the film was wanting to see it again immediately. As of this writing, that has been impossible. Fans, and those who care about film as an art form (and perhaps as a science) will want to view The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in both its incredibly clear new format and as a traditional film.

Others, the Bilbo Baggins of the world, are perhaps better advised to simply see the film as they saw The Lord of the Rings. They will be thrilled with adventure and the interplay of now-familiar movie characters playing again inside the incredible landscapes of Middle-earth. Peering deeper into dwarven culture will come with a (pun-intended) deep satisfaction and they will be thrilled, despite some dark days for fans, back in a delightful rendition of Jackson’s Middle-earth..

It goes without saying that not everybody will like everything. Setting aside technology for a moment, sections of the film that delight some will frustrate others.

In one place Gandalf reuses a familiar story-telling device. For some that will hearken back to the familiar. For others it will seem like a rehash. There are a handful of such moments. The 100% CGI orc Azog may feel cartoon despite (or because of) his technical perfection; he is no Gollum. But putting aside the quibbles, Jackson has delivered a tightly paced action flick that is rollicking fun. He has captured again the magic of Tolkien’s world with his own stylistic, cinematic stamp.

Radagast the Brown is a delight and injects some of the fringe legends of Tolkien’s own hand and some of the lighter tone of the source material into the sometimes dangerously heavy Middle-earth. There is the expanded Goblin Town with its madcap action – more jolly than peilous – which takes license with underground kingdoms. But amidst all this fun we are tossed a dozen decapitations as well creating a puzzle for some parents and sensitive younger viewers. Cate Blanchett casts her graceful spell along with the most welcome Christopher Lee and appropriate the slightly less stressed Elrond from Hugo Weaving, iconic in his own right.

The dead-on casting with exemplary performances from the leads as well as those in small roles make the fantasy feel real more than any technician can -– and the technicians on this film are world-class here. And yes, fantasy films can have exemplary performances and actors selling the fantastic as the everyday, have achieved high-craft in their art. Technically masterful, this adaptation of a classic children’s tale is grand and glorious cinema that is indeed lighter than its Rings cousin but also with nasty battle elements.

What’s more, any discussion about the need for three films or the making the decision to do so based on anything but storytelling merits couldn’t be more incinerated if Smaug himself engulfed the conversation in dragon’s fire. The case for three films is settled.

But being first is difficult. Like Ebay selling its first item in 1995 (a laser pointer if you must know) new things can take a while to catch on. The lion’s share of reviews are going to address the step forward in display technology (including this one!) but the story will sink or swim because of the characters, their situations and the craft with which they are brought to life.

Viewers need to evaluate: Are they Bilbos? Do they want safe, familiar cinema or do they want to go on an adventure at the theater? The comparison isn’t mine originally but I like best the thought that somebody has taken the window out and now we are not looking through the filter of film but looking at the real world. It will take some adjusting.

Will you like it? Well, do you embrace change? Can your entertainment tastes evolve? This is like nothing you have ever seen and it will jar not just your eyes but your brain. The dragon slayers will revel in the new and the adventure. Not every note will ring true for every viewer but whatever else, this movie is about fun and adventure.

And (something that will obviously delight the studio) the real answer to this riddle is that this is a film that cries out to be seen in both formats and compared by the viewer. It is entertaining entertainment but it is also a landmark of technology and a test of crowd behavior. I agree with Jackson and Cameron; this is the future.

Whatever the public and critics conclude, Jackson and his team must be admired for operating on wires high above the crowd with no net or safety line with fearlessness and passion. As for me, I will take that at my cinema experience every time over another action film content to play it safe.

NOTE: Larry D. Curtis spent five weeks on the set during film of The Hobbit and freely acknowledges his opinion of this film is compromised. Further, he is dying to see the film again to have a more informed opinion.
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Old 12-04-2012, 04:38 PM   #173
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Staffer Garfemaio reviews The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

DECEMBER 4, 2012 at 12:01 AM BY GARFEIMAO -
TheOneRing.net staffer Garfeimao and long-time TORn friend Nancy Steinman were able to secure tickets to the World Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Here are Garfeimao’s largely spoiler-free thoughts on what she saw.

I am not here to review the technology, this is just going to be a short and sweet commentary on the movie. Martin Freeman is a joy to watch inhabit the role of Bilbo Baggins: you feel everything he feels, and that is all those emotions you read about in the book. Fear, curiosity, courage, homesickness and that sense that he has bitten off more than he can chew.

There are whole chunks of dialogue lifted directly from the book, you will recognize it throughout the film, I had to restrain myself from cheering during at least one of these lines, won’t say which one just yet.

Gandalf is Gandalf, the slightly grumpy, sometimes playful Gandalf the Grey we met 11 years ago is back.

And Richard Armitage as Thorin and Ken Stott as Balin, in particular, shine in their respective roles. You will feel you are in the presence of a King without a Throne. But the kudos really have to go to Andy Serkis as Gollum and Martin’s Bilbo.

The Riddles in the Dark will have you on the edge of you seat, even though you know exactly what happens. It is masterfully delivered, you may even cry (yes, one of many spots I teared up at).

To be honest, yes there are other bits that are a bit confusing and may feel misplaced, but I will want to watch it a second time before I pass final judgement on this film. I loved the ending, it is rather awesome.
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Old 12-04-2012, 04:41 PM   #174
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Jackson: Persbrandt to gain larger role in The Hobbit

DECEMBER 3, 2012 at 9:43 AM BY DEMOSTHENES -
Thanks to Ringer Lissuin on the TORn message boards we have the following translation of the article in Swedish paper Nöjesbladet talking about Mikael Persbrandt and his role as Beorn in The Hobbit. Warning: some film and book spoilers!

Peter Jackson tells Nöjesbladet: We’ll bring him in [for] more scenes

On 12 December, “The Hobbit” premieres in Sweden. But Mikael Persbrandt’s character Beorn won’t appear till next year.

“You’ll have to wait for film two to see him”, says Peter Jackson. “I look forward to it in the second film.”

Already the director, Peter Jackson, is looking forward to the sequel — and working more with Mikael Persbrandt. “He has created an extremely strong character,” he says.

For those who read “The Hobbit” it’s no surprise. Bilbo, Gandalf and 13 dwarves embark on a journey where they encounter many adventures in different places. About halfway into the book, they come to Beorn and his house. There are a few important scenes before the party moves on. At the end of the story, Beorn has a large and very important role.

As long as it was two movies, the meeting with Beorn was in the first. Now it’s moving to The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

What can we expect?

“The story definitely has a lot of Beorn in the second and third movie. Mikael is a fantastic actor, absolutely wonderful. We will bring him back here for us to record more scenes for the third film next year. He is so good. Beorn’s the kind of character you want to write more material for”, says Peter Jackson.

The actors talk about Mikael Persbrandt:

Martin Freeman (Bilbo): “He is very good. I wish I had more scenes with him. He was popular among us actors. He is very funny. It would have been fun to play more against him. We hung out a lot. He went back and forth a lot to New Zealand.”

Ian McKellen (Gandalf): “God bless him! Micke was fantastic. I enjoyed being with him. Because his heart is in the theater, like mine, we had a lot to talk about. I hope to see him again soon. I admire him as an actor working in a language other than their mother tongue. Not easy. But Micke speaks English very well. It must be hard to travel back and forth as much as he had do.”

Andy Serkis (Gollum): “He is amazing. The scenes I directed him in, he was extremely bold. He is a very brave actor. He jumped right into it. Technically very interesting things, that he can shift between humans and bears.”
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Old 12-04-2012, 04:44 PM   #175
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Old 12-04-2012, 07:53 PM   #176
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I have the ultimate setup for the Hobbit. On one side of the hall, I have one of the biggest IMAX Digitals; the image won't be superclear but it'll be superlarge and have amazing sound. On the other side of the hall, I have one of the 48FPS digitals in a midsize theater with good sound, that should provide the clearest picture I've ever seen in my life. I've already recommended to customers that they see the film twice, as I will.

(The only thing I don't like about the 48FPS is that it's going to be physically huge. A 2D film usually takes up between 80GB and 200GB, although longer films like "The Dark Knight Rises" pushed 400GB. This beast, being 3D and 48FPS and long, will probably take around a Terabyte... and, despite the advances in computer storage, it's going to hog up all the space in the drive for that projector.)
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Old 12-04-2012, 08:41 PM   #177
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User reviews on rotten were 95% earlier. So if they actually saw it. That is encouraging.
The 95% is for Users that want to see the movie not reviews.
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:28 PM   #178
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:33 PM   #179
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Old 12-05-2012, 09:39 PM   #180
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