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The Hobbit: Benedict Cumberbatch Talks Smaug

Posted November 22, 2011 - By Joseph Baxter

The Hobbit: Benedict Cumberbatch Talks Smaug

Benedict Cumberbatch will soon be providing the voice of the flying, fire-breathing, gold-hoarding dragon who's set to terrify Middle Earth when The Hobbit kicks off in theaters next year. However, the actor recently discussed the specifics of his role and actually reveals some interesting details about how the character will be played.

Cumberbatch, known for playing the titular detective of the BBC's Sherlock, reveals to Collider that he'll be tackling this role not only behind the mic in a sound stage, but he'll also be putting on a motion capture suit, going all-out Andy Serkis to physically portray the winged mountain-squatting monster.

This isn't just some quick paycheck for the London born actor, he's ready to tackle the role of this legendary creature in a way never before done.

According to Cumberbatch, he is gearing up for an extremely physical experience with the character and channeling his previous experience playing another iconic monster.:

"I’m playing Smaug, I mean I’m physicalizing him as a dragon I’m not just doing the voiceover, so it’ll be a physical role which I’m no stranger to. I did Frankenstein at the beginning of the year with Danny Boyle at the National Theater and playing the creature in that was a very full on and sort of corporeal experience."

In discussing the timeline, the actor may (I stress "may") have inadvertantly revealed where Smaug fits into the two-picture epic, when he implies that he's waiting for the first film to be completed before he gets ready to jump in.

"I can’t wait, but the conversations have yet to start really in earnest because they’ve been doing the first film and I’ve been doing the second series of Sherlock and another series which I’m working on now called Parade’s End for HBO and BBC with Tom Stoppard, and Rebecca Hall co-starring, so it’s a world away but come a month’s time we’ll start conversations probably like you and I are having down the line."

He also emphasizes how physically-demanding the role could end up becoming.

"I’ve already started working out and doing various movement exercises to get myself limber for that all-important jump suit with balls on it, otherwise known as motion-capture. But I can’t wait, I’m really excited. I go to film it in January."

Anyone familiar with Andy Serkis' work in the motion capture suit as Gollum, crawling around on all-fours for day-long shoots can understand the kind of physical toll that's being discussed. While Smaug's role won't be quite as long, it will nevertheless require some physical preparation.

It's good to hear that director, Peter Jackson is going the route of having the voice actor actually provide the physical performance with this one. A giant creature like Smaug could have easily been dismissed as a simple CGI job. However, this move implies that we'll get a more authentic creature, and some deep character development.


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