Some actors are undoubtedly reticent about plunging into the world of green screen and digital movie effects, believing that their talents are being marginalised by the overwhelming vistas that the latest movies offer. Joe Letteri, Director of Weta Digital and a four-time Oscar winner (Avatar, King Kong, I Robot and the third Lord of the Rings film) has come right out to say precisely the opposite.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, he agrees that what he is interested in are not so much the effects that make you lean back, (presumably in amazement), but those that make you lean forward, (with that I must watch closer feel about them). He emphasised,
“It’s an intriguing challenge and the lessons we learned from Gollum is you want to work with the actors to do this. I know a lot of actors are sort of afraid of that process but if they can get an understanding of what they are doing as stripping away everything from the performance except the performance itself, [they can view the] challenge as the engagement of an audience without being seen.”
In an interesting take on the essence of acting itself he argued that by freeing up actors from their surroundings, props, makeup and so on, all that is left is the performance itself, and the best actors are going to rise to the challenge:
“This next one centers around the story of Smaug and we’re just getting into working with him and acknowledging him as a character. In the first film you just got fleeting glimpses of him…[Benedict Cumberbatch] is a tremendous talent, and yes, I would say that is what we’re seeing as we go forward. There is this unfamiliarity and this ‘What is this thing?’ but once they actually see what’s going on, there’s a shift we see.”
It sounds like the production team is expecting Cumberbatch to bring a tremendous onscreen presence as Smaug, once Weta have finished putting the effects together.
Anyhow, any excuse to show you some more of the magic behind the making of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Here’s some of the artistry that Letteri and colleagues conjured up in making Azog come to life as a seven-foot killing machine, (do you think the Academy has got the message yet?)