Tag Archives: Weta Workshop Chronicles II book

Fun Facts & Quotes from The Hobbit ‘Chronicles’

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It’s been a few days since I shared anything from the latest in the series of ‘Chronicles’ books from Weta Workshop. Thought these tidbits about various aspects of the production might make a fun read for Sunday, along with a few more images in glorious HD (thanks to Heirs of Durin) from the film.

And don’t forget if you do have a Twitter account you can vote for Bilbo as “Best Hero” at the 2013 MTV Movie Awards through tonight when the broadcast takes place.http://www.mtv.com/ontv/movieawards/2013/best-hero/  As I write this on Saturday near midnight Bilbo is still in the lead by several thousand, but that could always change . . .

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The Eyes Have It

 Jeffrey Thomas, who plays King Under the Mountain Thror, actually wore colored contact lenses to increase his resemblance to the actors playing his son and grandson, Mike Mizrahi and Richard Armitage, respectively.  All three men have blue eyes, but unlike his light-eyed co-stars, Thomas’s are a very dark blue that resembled black when photographed.  A pale blue contact lens color not only tied him to his son and grandson but also served to “age him as well as give him a hint of the crazy eye, which fits considering his obsession with the gold.” (Tami Lane, prosthetics supervisor)

Cate Blanchett also wore contact lenses for the role of Galadriel. Rather than completely recolor them, these lenses were designed to lighten and enhance Cate’s own pale blue eyes, “making them feel even more remarkable and beautiful, but still based on her natural coloring,” said hair and makeup designer Peter King.

Peter Hambleton, who played the dwarf Gloin, the father of Gimli of LOTR, also wore lenses to change his eye color. “I have blue eyes and we wanted to make a connection with Gimli, whose eyes are brown,” said Hambleton. The actor didn’t require the dark lenses for distant shots, just more close-up ones, and a licensed optician on set would pop them in and out for him (remember, he was wearing those clumsy prosthetic hands). “I hope the brown eyes sing out,” Hambleton said.

Thoughts on Fili and Kili (Dean O’Gorman and Aidan Turner)

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“With no sons of his own, Fili and Kili are his family. Thorin is tough on Fili and overly protective of Kili. He sees their hope and their ambition, their youth. It’s a great driving force for him, to seek out something to bequeath for their future.”    Richard Armitage~Thorin

“Dwarves are a proud and noble people who were at  one time very wealthy. They carry jewelry and ornate plaiting in their beards to show their pride and a way of holding on to their lineage. . . they begin looking very ornate and proud, but their journey humbles and batters them . . . but it isn’t the same for each of them.

‘Fili and Kili don’t have the big, ornate, blinged-out beards of their fathers. They have a different attitude and aren’t as burdened down by the loss that gnaws at Thorin and Gloin and the other Dwarves who are obsessed with the gold. They haven’t decorated themselves as heavily, like kids who can’t see the reason for wearing shoes in a restaurant. They’re not holding onto an old grudge. They’re freer spirits.” Peter King~Hair and Makeup Designer

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“Beards are already in at the moment, but I have to wonder after these films come out whether there might not be a sudden rise in braiding and beard decoration?”  Dean O’Gorman~Fili

“On one level, we’re funny little guys, and on another, we’ve won wars and are actually pretty dangerous  . . . don’t laugh at the Dwarves because they will mess you up.”  DoG

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“It’s tough being a dwarf in Middle-earth. It’s exhausting  . . . they get chased around and for all the times they get caught, they really aren’t wanted anywhere.” ~Aidan Turner-Kili

‘First Impressions’ of the Leader of the Company: More from ‘Chronicles II’

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More fascinating tidbits from the latest Weta Workshop book, this time from Peter King, makeup and hair designer:

First impressions are often lasting . . . when you are designing a character for the screen it is vital you get their look absolutely right for the first shots in which they appear . . . so that we impart a message about the character we want them to understand instantly when he walks on screen. Consequently, we put a lot of thought into Thorin, and his arrival in the movie is built up by the other Dwarves as they await his arrival at Bag End.

thehobbit-p1_1274Thorin, as he appears at Bilbo’s door. Our first glimpse of the majestic dwarf in present day.

There is an awe and a reverence that surrounds him. He is very strong and slightly scary, but also hypnotic and charismatic. Thorin is the leader, a king among his people and the Dwarf upon whose shoulders the future and hopes of his people rests.

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I have to say that I was “wowed” by the first impression of Thorin when Gandalf opened that door to him.  Charismatic? Absolutely. Hypnotic? Hmmmmm–was I saying . . . oh, yes. Definitely.

I was truly awed.  (Not that I expected anything less than awesome with Mr. A involved.)

King discusses how Thorin’s look evolved:

We went through a number of iterations before we settled upon his final makeup, which consisted of a thin forehead and nose, wig and ear. Thorin’s nose was Romanesque, which imparted a sense of nobility. His wig was also composed entirely of human hair, without any yak, which was used to add body to some of the other dwarves. That allowed it to flow and move more romantically.

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*sigh* Works for me, Mr. King. Works for me.

As for Thorin’s beard, King has this to say:

For the same reason, Thorin’s beard ended up clipped quite close to preserve his more refined appearance and to not hide the actor under a full face of hair. It was important for people to understand and relate to Thorin so we didn’t want to build a wall of hair in front of him that would impede that in any way.

Very wise decision, sir. That face is much too expressive to hide it all under heavy prosthetics and excess facial hair.

And here are some thoughts from Mr. Armitage himself:

Early on in the shaping of Thorin’s look, we had some quite extreme prosthetics and elaborate beard designs. I was very pleased with the effort, which was such a transformation.  I looked like another being–older, and very much like a Dwarf.  As the design began to change, with resculpting, reshaping and stripping back, I realized that is was a process we were going through, to find a point at which Thorin and the actor inside him were both visible.  Of course, that feels like a great compliment, although Richard Taylor did tell me fairly near to the end of filming that they straightened my nose, which is apparently off-center . . . I didn’t know that!

Gosh, I thought his real nose was darned near perfect. Perfect in its imperfection. And truly noble.

And I do love that romantic hair . . .  I think it’s time for my “Thorin: King Under the Hair” fanvid!

A ‘handy’ post: RA talks dealing with prosthetic digits in ‘Chronicles’

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My job was to try and make the character of Thorin feel very real, despite the heavy makeup, working my facial muscles, making sure the wig moved like hair, without too much appearance of vanity, which Thorin has very little of. The biggest challenge was the prosthetic hands.

I think hands reveal so much about a character.  They are sensitive little beings all of their own, and the enlargement with the silicone hands could quite restrictive. I wasn’t able to put my hands through my hair, or pick up anything with ease.  Touching my face, or touching another character’s face in a tender moment, was always going to be difficult. Hands are also connected to the emotions. The clenched fist and the relaxed shaking fingers–these are things we had to learn to live without.

~~Richard Armitage, actor, Thorin  From the Weta Workshop book Chronicles II, “Dwarf Prosthetics”

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I found this fascinating in terms of our fascination with Richard Armitage’s own beautiful, expressive hands and how he has used them in past roles (as well as his endearing penchant for talking with his hands in interviews).

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I can only imagine he did find it frustrating to be restricted in the use of those hands whilst playing Thorin. Richard strikes me as an actor who uses all the “weapons” in his acting arsenal, facial expressions, voice modulation, hair, body language and those amazingly expressive hands, to bring a character to life. The restrictions placed on him by the makeup and prosthetics proved just one more challenge for our gifted performer to take on–and triumph over!

When he speaks of “touching another character’s face in a tender moment” my stomach does flip-flops. Once again I envision the object of Thorin’s affection being gently, tenderly caressed, face cupped in his hands before a soft, beardy kiss. Sort of a Thornton moment for Thorin . . .

(I know, I know, Thorin doesn’t have a romantic interest in the book, it’s not canon, yadda yadda yadda–but a girl can dream, right?)

Something that I have wondered about is how the actors were able to wield their weapons as dwarfs so believably and effectively with those unwieldy prosthetic hands.  And I found the answer within the pages of this book, too: dwarf mitts!

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According to Jason Docherty, the special makeup and prosthetics supervisor for Weta, the use of fighting mitts was the answer:

“The silicone covered only the top, leaving the fingers, palm and bottom completely open, and thereby not inhibiting the grip of weapons at all–great for fight sequences but not for a close-up. For close-ups, we always used a full arm or full hand.”

Docherty also mentions how much time Thorin spent with his forearms exposed and so he often wore the full arm prosthetic. That included battle scenes, so there were “fighting forearms” lacking palms, too, for just such occasions. Hmmmmm, battling Thorin with bare forearms. Roaring, hair flying, eyes flashing. Works for me . . .  *whimper* Can’t wait for some sneak peeks of him in full Bared Forearm Alpha Fighting Mode.

That being said, I really would like to see those hands on the big screen free of any silicone, being beautifully expressive. Oh, Black Sky, where art thou?

‘He’s a hero on screen and in real life.’ From the new Chronicles II book

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Here I am bloody crying again and it’s not my wonky Even Worse Knee (now being iced) that’s making me tear up. It’s reading both Richard’s words and those of others who’ve worked with him found within Weta Workshop‘s beautiful new book, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Chronicles II, which arrived today.

Here’s a snippet of what Amy Hubbard, UK casting director, had to say about RA (who gave what she called “one of the most committed performances I have ever seen”). Bold font my addition:

“I know he won’t mind me saying that Peter saw potential in Richard that hadn’t been fully exploited before . . . (Richard) turned down the opportunity (to appear in next series of Strike Back) to make himself available to appear in The Hobbit. His commitment to the films . . . was an inspiration to all of us. And I believe it was a much-needed boost to the filmmakers’ morale during a marathon casting process. And Richard really deserves credit for that. He’s a hero on screen and in real life. Other actors made similar sacrifices, but Richard made this one very early in the casting process.”

Amy Hubbard

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The book also states in the opening section on Thorin that “it was essential filmmakers cast an actor in the role with the same charisma and simmering dignity that the character demanded. Fortunately the casting directors found Richard Armitage, an actor with the quiet intensity and thoughtfulness needed for the role, and a man in whom both the rest of the cast and the audience can believe.”

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Didn’t those casting directors do a splendid job? I most definitely do believe in the power of the Armitage, and appreciate all the more the commitment he made to the film when it wasn’t even 100 percent green lighted yet. Richard, you tall, gorgeous drink of water and inspiring morale builder, you.

*Smiling even as I blink back tears* I am so very proud of you, Richard.