Watching Benedict Cumberbatch play Smaug the Dragon in The Hobbit is something else, and now we understand why director Peter Jackson and producer Philippa Boyens decided to go with the versatile actor.
If you have seen The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, you probably think that the scene in the cave, between Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins) is pretty epic. Smaug has to be one of the best dragons ever conceived, and Jackson was very successful as making it more real than many other beasts.
Dragons are nothing new in movies, but this one is different. To make Smaug look real, Jackson and his team decided to go with motion capture, a technology used by the filmmaker previously.
Andy Serkis played “the Precious,” Gollum, using the same method, and it was a hit. So when Jackson and Boyens were casting Smaug, they knew they needed someone who had the perfect voice, as this was the only thing audiences would hear.
Enter Benedict Cumberbatch, who is a classically trained actor and is not only a rising star in movies, but a well known theater actor. He is also heavily involved with audio recordings and has a very distinguishable voice.
With the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug extended edition, we find the clip Cumberbatch made for his audition for the role. In the awesome tape, we see why Benedict was cast as the terrifying voice of the evil beast.
If you watch Benedict Cumberbatch audition video, you will notice that two tapes were made. One showing his face and another one where you can only see him from his neck down.
The Sherlock star explained the unusual clip.
“I’d imagined it’d be motion capture, there might be a bit of movement (in the role). So I did a few head movements and serpentine stuff with my neck and got my shoulders working a bit. And Dan went very quiet, and I asked ‘Too much?’ and he went, ‘No, it was fine. I wasn’t expecting… it was good.’”
Peter Jackson wanted to see someone who would do something original.
“I was expecting to see something that was a surprise to us.” the director says.
Martin Freeman reveals that he and his Sherlock co-star were some of the first ones to audition for The Hobbit in 2010.
Writer/producer Philippa Boyens says Smaug was one of the first characters they cast. As they were watching audition tapes, they came across a young actor called Benedict Cumberbatch.
“We couldn’t see his head. We could only hear his voice.” explains Boyens, who apparently only saw the second clip. “I don’t think I knew what he looked like, I just heard this voice and it was like, ‘Oh my god… wow! That’s an incredible voice.’”
Jackson says it wasn’t about what he looked like, but about the way he sounded like and watching the video of Benedict Cumberbatch’s audition for the role of Smaug convinced them they had their man.
[Image via MGM]