18 December 2011

Joe Letteri on the Evolution of Gollum

In a recent interview with MovieWeb.com, senior visual effects supervisor Joe Latteri  talked about his collaborations with actor Andy Serkis, who recently brought to life the ape Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and who is reprising his role as Gollum for The Hobbit: There and Back Again.  

“Without getting into what he is going to look like on screen, and everything, because we are saving that...Technically, what has been good about this, is that we did Gollum the first time around, and it was the first time that we were doing performance capture in a film,” Letteri said. “But we couldn't record on the stage. Andy was performing with all of the other actors. But then he would have to come out, and do his performance again on a motion capture stage. We would fit the two together. He would mimic his first performance, and we would put it in with the other actors.”

“When we did Avatar, we created this whole virtual world. It was completely immersive, and everything was in this virtual world. What we did with Rise of the Planet of the Apes was come full circle with it. We took all of the technology we created for Avatar, and we figured out a way to make that on set. How to make it work within exterior sets. That way, Andy could be in the scene with all of the other actors. So you're not getting a second performance from him, trying to duplicate the first. You are getting the performance that he did with James Franco and Freida Pinto, and everyone else.”

“It closed the gap for us, to have Andy be right there in the movie, and have that be his performance. That's the thing we finally got to do with Gollum. Just as a way of nicely closing the circle.”

The Hobbit: There and Back Again will be in theatres on December 13, 2013, and Serkis and Letteri will collaborate yet again to work on Rise of the Planet of the Apes 2, which is scheduled to hit theatres in 2015.

17 December 2011

Hobbit Trailer to Stream December 20

There has been a lot of hype surrounding the release of the first trailer for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, to be released on December 13, 2012. If you’ve been keeping track of all of this Hobbit news, you know, of course, that the trailer for the first installment will be shown in theatres before The Adventures of Tintin on Wednesday the 21st; however, the studio announced today that a fifteen-minute satellite feed of the trailer will stream at 10 P.M. ET/PT on Tuesday, December 20, and again at 9 A.M. ET/PT on Wednesday, December 21.

So for those of you who, like me, cannot wait to see it, here’s your chance to catch it a day early!

15 December 2011

More Hobbit Trailer Details Emerge

The Internet is abuzz again as new details emerge on the trailer for The Hobbit, which was recently shown at the Butt-Numb-A-Thon (BNAT) Film Festival. For those of you hoping to keep the trailer a surprise, this story contains many spoilers – so stop reading now if you want to be surprised when the trailer hits theatres.

The trailer, according to one viewer, opens with Ian Holm’s Bilbo conversing with Frodo about his adventures. The scene then shifts to Gandalf introducing young Bilbo (Martin Freeman) to the thirteen Dwarves as he enlists the Hobbit’s help.

As we all know, Bilbo refuses at first, as Hobbits and adventure do not go hand-in-hand. 

The trailer then cuts to the Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield, singing “a long slow song.” This is followed by a montage of traveling and fighting scenes. We are able to catch a glimpse of Rivendell, the shards of Narsil, and perhaps even Lord Elrond. The trailer does not, however, show any signs of the dragon Smaug or of Beorn the Shape-shifter.

While the plot itself is not revealed, Thorin does tell Gandalf that he cannot guarantee a safe return; “Nor will I be responsible for his fate,” he adds. And this is where the trailer ends: Gandalf warns Bilbo that if he does return, he may be changed (here we get a sneak peak of Gollum and the One Ring).  

If you’re like me and cannot contain your excitement, just remember that there are only a few more days – six more, in fact – until the release of The Adventures of Tintin and the preview for The Hobbit!  

Only 29 Days Left to Register for Mythgard's Spring 2012 Semester!

There are only 29 days left to register for Mythgard’s spring 2012 courses.

What is Mythgard, you ask?

Mythgard Institute was founded in 2011 by Corey Olsen (the Tolkien Professor) and designed for those students with a love of fantasy and literature. For the serious scholar and the serious fan alike, Mythgard offers “challenging, engaging classes, taught by world-class teachers and leading scholars,” which can be taken at either the MA level, or audited just for fun.  

How do courses at Mythgard work?

Students enrolled in Mythgard courses meet for three instructional hours each week and will participate in a 90-minute weekly Primary Lecture (given by the instructor and special guest lecturers). Additionally, students will take part in 60-minute Discussion Sessions and end the week with a 30-minute Closing Session, led by the instructor, who will address any questions submitted by students during the Discussion Session. As these are MA-level courses, students can also expect to write essays (a total of 30-35 pages, or about 8,000-10,000 words per semester).

Available Courses at Mythgard:

This fall, Mythgard got off to a great start with “Tolkien and the Epic,” a course featuring guest lecturers Tom Shippey, Verlyn Flieger, and Michael Drout. Watch the video below to hear one Mythgard student, Carl Buonadonna, talk about his experience: 

This spring, Mythgard resumes with “The Making of Myth: C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien,” taught by Professor Corey Olsen, and “Taking Harry Seriously: The Artistry and Meanings of the Harry Potter Saga,” taught by Professors Amy H. Sturgis and Travis Prinzi. These courses are a must for any fantasy lover!

Enroll Today!

Does Mythgard sound like something you’d be interested in? Do you have a friend or loved one who might enjoy a course on Lewis and Tolkien or Harry Potter? Why not give the gift of Mythgard this holiday season with a “Ticket to Learning”? These pre-paid gift certificates are available online as a printable PDF.

Applications for enrollment will be open through January 13th.

For more information on Mythgard, course schedules, and gift certificates, visit their website, follow them on Twitter, ‘Like’ their Facebook page, and check out more of their videos on YouTube!

12 December 2011

Fans' Reactions to Hobbit Trailer

Two days ago, audiences at the Butt-Numb-A-Thon geek film festival in Texas were shown the teaser trailer for The Hobbit, and Twitter has been buzzing with fan reactions ever since.

The trailer, originally set to hit U.S. theaters this Christmas with the release of The Adventures of Tintin, was presented by Elijah Wood and Eric Vespe (“Quint” from Ain’t It Cool News), who has been reporting from the set of The Hobbit for the past few months.

While Vespe could not physically attend the film festival, he did send along a video of messages from the set of The Hobbit. Jordan Hoffman of IFC News wrote that, “Sir Ian McKellan appeared in costume as Gandalf the Grey and, through the magic of cinema (and some pyrotechnics in the theater) Vespe appeared in the flesh,” and that, “As a gag, he handed the hard drive containing the trailer to frequent BNAT attendee Elijah Wood to bring to the projection room, adding, "keep it secret, keep it safe."”

Hoffman also added that, “Hearing the music and seeing The Shire I was surprised at the flood of emotions that hit me. It was like seeing old friends. (And something to look out for: a band of Dwarves sing. It's a thing of beauty.)”

TheOneRing.net described the trailer as, “pretty much the Holy Grail for HOBBIT fans who have waited a decade to see a first glimpse of Peter Jackson’s return to Middle-earth.”

Those who had seen the trailer were asked not to go into specific detail about what they had seen. One staff member from AICN, Nordling, commented on the nature of the trailer, stating that “it’s more character-based than epic, but it’s like slipping into a warm embrace from a very old friend that you haven’t seen in many years.”

Many fans are speculating that the teaser for The Hobbit may also be attached to the upcoming Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, another Warner Bros. production. Thankfully, with Christmas fast approaching, the wait for the unveiling of The Hobbit teaser is also drawing to a close.

06 December 2011

Hobbit Cast ‘Like Family,’ says Abbington

Martin Freeman’s partner, actress Amanda Abbington, has taken the couple's two children, Joe and Grace, to New Zealand to watch their father portray Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit.

Before the cast and crew could begin filming, they had to be welcomed onto Maori soil.

 “It was sacred ground,” Abbington said, “so before they could start filming we had this thing called a ‘powhiri’ where the Maoris accept you into their family.”

Sir Ian McKellen gave a speech at the foot of the mountain “about how actors are a tribe of people as well, who don't recognise colour, creed or religion. They're just thrown together.

 “That's what it's like over here. You've got loads of people from all over the world coming in and it's like a lovely family. We came back a few weeks ago and it's just like coming home.”

30 November 2011

Elijah Wood's 'Mixed' Hobbit Emotions

Elijah Wood, reprising his role as Frodo Baggins in The Hobbit, admitted he had “mixed emotions” during filming. 

"It was amazing, a mix of emotions, I think. It was slightly surreal and felt oddly normal,” he said of his return. 

"I played the character for so long and I was in the costume, in Bag-end and a lot of the same crew were there from Rings so it was as if no time had passed and suddenly we were doing another scene. It was great, felt like a family reunion, like stepping back in time."

He told HeyUGuys.co.uk that the prequel, which includes thirteen principal actors, felt very different from filming The Lord of the Rings

"Well, there are 13 dwarves! Imagine that, 13 principal actors, it's insane - all with prosthetics and it's incredible. In some ways, the scale feels larger surprisingly even though technically the scale of Lord of the Ring is more massive in terms of the storytelling.

"There's more technology, it's being shot in 3-D, more people on the set and it feels as though the 'machine' is bigger."

28 November 2011

Couple Builds Hobbit Holes in Maine

Pillsbury with one of his Hobbit Holes

Melissa and Rocy Pillsbury of Unity, Maine, run a business called Wooden Wonders, where they have been custom designing and building miniature Hobbit homes for the past two and a half years.

When Rocy Pillsbury, 37, a man with 17 years of carpentry experience, first began Wooden Wonders, his intent was to design and build children’s playhouses in various fantasy shapes, such as castles, towers, and fairy and mushroom houses. 

These playhouses were a huge success at many of the home shows they attended – so successful, in fact, that that many adults would try to come up with a reason to buy one of them. 

"We started with playhouses, and we expanded from there to utility uses," Melissa Pillsbury said. "We quickly discovered that folks with disposable income aren't necessarily the ones with young children."

Some of the Hobbit Holes’ utility uses include being a bus stop shelter, chicken coop, doghouse, office, garden shed, sandbox, yoga space, vegetable stand, sauna, summer sleepover spot, and lakeside cottage. According to Rocy Pillsbury, one customer bought a Hobbit Hole for the purpose of conducting child therapy sessions. 

Regardless of their use, "No two are alike,” Rocy said of his Hobbit-inspired playhouses, of which there are about 50 variations, all based on the Hobbit holes described in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, published in 1937. Some have shingled roofs, while others are covered with vegetation. And they all possess the same dome shape and round front door that is characteristic of all Hobbit holes.

The couple expects sales of their Hobbit Holes to soar after the release of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films. Wooden Wonders also has a trademark licensing agreement with Middle-earth Enterprises, a California company which has exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising and other rights from Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

"I think that we are the only company in the world that sells Hobbit Holes,” Rocy said. 

The Pillsburys' two sons, Richard and Maxximus, play inside one of the Hobbit Holes. 
Photo: David Leaming/Morning Sentinel

And one of their Hobbit Holes has recently become the home of a radio personality from Bangor, Pat LaMarche.

LaMarche, who is co-host of "The Pulse Morning Show" on WZON AM 620/FM 103.1, one of author Stephen King’s radio stations, has been living in one of these Hobbit Hole for about a week now, with a goal of staying there until $70,000 is raised by the community to aid the Help Keep ME Warm fundraiser, which offers home heating fuel assistance to low-income Mainers. 

Wooden Wonders is donating 10 percent of its sales made during the fundraiser to Help Keep ME Warm, according to Melissa Pillsbury. Additionally, Stephen King himself has offered to match up to $70,000 of the amount raised.

For anyone interested in purchasing a Hobbit Hole of their own, prices range from $999 for a chicken coop to $20,000 for an insulated cottage finished with floors, windows, and screens; Pillsbury is also trying to lower the cost to $2,000 for an entry-level playhouse. 

"Anyone who knows about carpentry knows how much work goes into them," Melissa Pillsbury said. "Aesthetically they're so wonderful. We've got a Hobbit Hole for every budget."

Visit the Wooden Wonders website for more information.

No 'Hobbit' for Viggo Mortensen

Actor Viggo Mortensen recently told Movies.com that he would not be reprising the role of Aragorn in the upcoming Hobbit films.

 “At one point, the producers asked if I would do it and I said sure, if Aragorn is supposed to be in the bridge story, because he’s not in The Hobbit,” Mortensen said. “But I’ve never been asked and they’re shooting the movie. I’m not in it unless there is some last-minute plan they have, but I thought I would have heard of it by now.”

“Orlando Bloom and Cate Blanchett shot something, but they’re elves and don’t change as rapidly,” he explained. “As you know, Aragorn is half elf and also lives a couple hundred years or more and he could be in a bridge, but I have to assume it isn’t going to happen.”

Other cast members who are reprising their Lord of the Rings roles include Elijah Wood, Sir Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, Andy Serkis and Orlando Bloom.

And though he may not be reprising the role of Aragorn in The Hobbit films – which are slated for release in December 2012 and December 2013 – Mortensen is thankful for the opportunity to have played such an important character.

"That was an important period in my life. And I will always be grateful that the trilogy was so successful and gave me a lot of new opportunities. I never would have gotten A History of Violence, no matter how much David [Cronenberg] wanted me, had it not been for my newfound notoriety.”

New Photos from the 'Hobbit' Set

Source: Ain't It Cool News

Quint from Ain’t It Cool News has just posted his fourth update from the set of The Hobbit, titled: A “Palaver of Istari.” Having left Hobbiton (located in Matamata), this report comes from the small town of Te Kuiti, where the cast and crew are filming scenes in the Trollshaws in Middle-earth.  
In this update, we get our first glimpse at Sting, the Elven blade found by Bilbo, which he later passes on to his heir, Frodo, in The Lord of the Rings. We get to see "Tall Paul" Randall, Sir Ian McKellen’s stand-in, and the Dwarf Bombur, played by Stephen Hunter. And we also get our first glimpse of  Radagast (played by Sylvester McCoy), who shares a scene with Gandalf. 

“Based on what I’ve seen over the last few weeks I think it’s going to be a toss up between Bombur and Radagast on who will steal the movie,” Quint reports. “Bombur is just so loveable and funny and Radagast is ridiculously endearing, an absent-minded St. Francis of Assisi.”

You can read Quint’s full report (which contains some spoilers) here.

'Hobbit' Trailer to Be Attached to 'Tintin'

Elijah Wood recently confirmed that the first US trailer for Peter Jackson's The Hobbit will debut before The Adventures of Tintin (which is being produced by Peter Jackson), opening in cinemas on December 21st of this year. And though he knows when the first trailer will be released, he admits he has not yet seen it himself.

"I have spoken to people about the trailer," he told Digital Spy. "I have a sense of what's going to be in it. I think it's going to be in front of Tintin when it's released in the States."

He also admitted that returning to New Zealand to work on The Hobbit was like a family reunion.

"So many of the crew and some of the cast who were working on Lord of the Rings are working on The Hobbit as well. In a way it feels like stepping back in time, some of the same people are there on set. It was kind of emotional, I didn't really anticipate that."

24 November 2011

A Message of Thanks…

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I thought I would take the time to express my gratitude…

I began Tweeting and blogging in late June of this year, and honestly, I never thought I’d make it to where I am today : I’ve almost reached the 500 follower mark on Twitter, which in itself is something I never thought I could achieve. But even more remarkable than that are all of the opportunities with which I’ve been presented over the span of just five months, all the new friends I’ve made, and all the support and encouragement I’ve received from my friends and followers. It is an honour to be a part of the Tolkien Community, and an even greater honour to have “met” (virtually) and befriended so many of my fellow scholars, movie buffs, and gamers. I am also honoured to be a writer for the Middle-earth News, a fantastic network run by an amazing group of hard-working and dedicated individuals.

I am so grateful to have finally been given an opportunity to become actively involved within the Tolkien Community; from the moment I first read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I knew that one day I wanted to end up where I am now. At the age of ten or eleven, it seemed like a far-off goal, and now that I’ve begun to dip my feet in the water, it seems almost surreal. I’ve still a long way to go – many papers to write and hopefully publish, and many other projects to tackle – but I am so thrilled to be on my way with so many wonderful people backing me.

That being said, I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude and appreciation to everyone reading this. I thank you for following me on Twitter and Facebook and for reading/sharing my blog – and for taking the first step and just looking at my pages.

You guys are the best, and I wish everyone a very safe and Happy Thanksgiving!


17 November 2011

Orlando Bloom in Queenstown

Orlando Bloom poses for a photo with fan Alexandra Hopkirk; 
Source: Stuff.co.nz

With our growing dependence on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, news travels fast – especially when it comes to celebrity sightings. And especially when the celebrity is involved in what is likely one of the most anticipated films of all time.

Posts on Facebook and word-of-mouth communication alerted fans that Orlando Bloom, who will be reprising his role as Legolas in the upcoming Hobbit films, was having breakfast at Vudu, a café in Queenstown. The news, which hit the Internet almost instantaneously, brought many eager fans to the café, seeking autographs and photos with the star.

“He was really nice,” said Alexandra Hopkirk, who got to meet and have her photo taken with the star, thanks to a tip from her sister, who had in turn received a phone call alert from a friend.

"He asked if we were from around here and where we worked, and said he'd be around for about 10 days."

While Bloom graciously signed autographs and posed for photos with fans, he asked a media photographer to "do something when I'm about to leave in 10 days, otherwise I won't be able to go anywhere.”

In addition to Vudu, Bloom has been spotted dining at Amisfield, an award-winning winery and restaurant near Lake Hayes.

Other Hobbit cast members – including “vertically challenged” extras dressed in black hooded Hobbit sweatshirts and Second Unit Director Andy Serkis, who will also be reprising his role as Gollum – have been spotted in Queenstown in recent weeks.

While scenes are still being shot in Paradise over the next few days, a location manager told a photographer from the Southland Times that although he could not stop people from taking photographs, traffic control permits would make it difficult for photos to be taken once shooting had commenced.

16 November 2011

Luke Evans’ ‘Hobbit’ Excitement

Luke Evans recently spoke with Rick Bentley of the Fresno Bee about one of his upcoming films, The Hobbit, in which he will be portraying Bard the Bowman.

"I had a little bit of a heart flutter the first day I got there because they have this thing where they show the new actors around all the sets and I saw Bilbo's house, and I was like, '[Expletive], I actually walked into Bilbo's house!'" he said. "It was the most amazing thing. I'll never forget these moments, so I can't wait to go back, to be honest."

On his way back to New Zealand this month to continue working on the movie, which will be released in December of next year, he said he was not worried about The Hobbit changing his life.

"It's keeping life real, that's what's important, and not losing yourself in the fact that you're in 'The Hobbit'," Evans said.

"There is an anonymity and I think there is a way to play it, and I think you just have to hold onto that for as long as possible. It is a funny thing to think that maybe one day you won't be able to walk down the street without someone coming up to you and asking for an autograph. That is a strange thing to think of, but it's part of the job, isn't it? It's a high-class problem to have."