Little is it known that a great amount of the might portrayed in the dragon Smaug from The Hobbit movie franchise came from a motion capture performance by the actor who voices the dragon, Benedict Cumberbatch. Recently released footage shows what the dragon looks like with no visual effects and it is widely intriguing to see Cumberbatch embody this stupendous beast with no additives aside from his own imagination.
The famed British actor made it known that he served as the voice for the dubious Hobbit villain, but little do many of the film’s audiences know that Cumberbatch actually donned a motion capture jumpsuit and acted out the part of Smaug quite thoroughly. A small camera was attached to the actor’s head and adjusted to film the specificities of his face. Numerous tiny tracking dots used for motion capture were placed on his face each day of filming so his expressions could be used in the animation of the dragon. The intricate planning in grabbing hold of every facial movement that Cumberbatch made is undoubtably a huge reasoning for why Smaug proved to provide an overwhelming sense of chills and intensity when first appearing on screen in last year’s The Desolation of Smaug, the second installment of The Hobbit trilogy.
Cumberbatch left no stone unturned when preparing for his unique role. It is stated that the actor visited the London Zoo to garner research and study animals that resembled the dragon. The star payed close attention to the reptiles, particularly the lizards, of the zoo. Proving a bit of his intricate studying, Cumberbatch shared a tidbit of the behavior of said lizards. The actor stated that they are incredibly still and stoic creatures who do not move very often. When they do move, Cumberbatch says they are either very slow and consider each and every action or they react incredibly fast, resulting in a very violent movement. The actor reportedly tied all of this information into his motion capture performance.
Fellow Hobbit co-star to Cumberbatch and motion capture master Andy Serkis (who plays Gollum in both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films) gave the Sherlock star a bit of advice before jumping into the skin of the dragon. Serkis reportedly told Cumberbatch to not think of taking on the character as a voice actor, but to fully embrace the physicality of the character and have fun with it. He continued his statement by saying that even the slightest of movements in one’s performance can make up the very being of the character in the final edit of the film.
Cumberbatch states that he is able to see much of his performance in the motion capture suit play out in the red-skinned monster that audiences see in the Hobbit films. The raising of the eyebrows and the movement of the mouth in certain closeups of the dragon’s face apparently really stuck out as familiar to Cumberbatch, a feature that undoubtably sent shivers down his own spine.
If one wishes to see what the dragon Smaug looks like with no visual effects, they can view the video below. The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies is the final installment in the trilogy and is now playing in theaters.
Opinion by Cody Collier
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