Benedict Cumberbatch -- Behind-the-Scenes of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug

well thief I smell you

I hear you are breath I feel your you



the other secret weapon that we head

fish mouth beyond his design was the

fact that he is a talking dragon we

could use his personality to our

advantage and so we were looking for an

actor that was not just going to sort of

voice a dragon that we would imagine you

know a dragon would sound like you know

we wanted someone who actually would do

something original unexpected something

that was a surprise to us we both went

up were at the same time we both kind of

went on tape at the same time during the

first season of Sherlock so we both went

in very early 2010 and I knew benedict's

wanted to play smelled smoke was one of

the characters that we cast quite early

on we were looking at some of the tapes

and a young actor called Benedict

Cumberbatch actually sat down on a chair

well thief I smell you I can hear your

breath so why don't you show yourself I

guess my first point of call was going

on to the Hubbard's which is the UK

casting directors of great Fame partly

because of Lord of the Rings I mean

they've got Peter all of that cast and I

put myself and tape it down Hobbit he

said look I don't know I think you know

just do always just the voice I mean

maybe just doing off cameras for just

for smoke to start off with but I'd

imagine that it'd be motion capture

there might be bit of that volume it

well I'd love to do a little bit I'd

love to do a little bit of action

because that just helps with the voice

you seem very familiar with my name but

I didn't remember smelling one of you

are kind before who are you and where do

you come from than me aya so I did the

few head movements and serpentine stuff

with my neck and got the shoulders

working a bit and Dan went very quiet

and I went too much too much and he went

no that was no it's fine it's just I

wasn't expecting it nervous that was

good I was good oh just do one off

cameras I did one of camera as well oh

yes barrel-rider you may walk on scene

but you did not walk all the way on your

own we couldn't see his head we could

only hear his voice 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 I hate six

ponies last night and I shall catch

indeed all the others before long

and then I didn't hear anything I think

for about a year I got a call saying

they want you to place mark piece was

like why did you do that audition where

we went on camera we thought we thought

they just state they haven't framed you

in but did you do one off-camera and I

was like yeah I did because I was king

totally but it's the stuff estranged guy

said well I presume it's because it was

at the stage where I was gonna be

voiceover so you know I might ruin the

chance gang apart if you saw my

face it wasn't about what he looked like

it was about what he sounded like and

what he was able to produce in the

character simply by his voice and he

liked new Chanel I mean he understood

shmow as well as we did when I first met

him I said look I have to acknowledge

here that this is gonna be a second hand

performance you know what I owe my dad

my dad read it to me when I was six or

seven and I was really lucky my dad's an

extraordinary actor so he brought this

already very rich magical visionary

world of hobbits and Giants and trolls

and living out all the parts and

completely brought into life his Bilbo

was very good sort of free and skittish

but that sort of also grounded and

homely and thence mark was this amazing

source of gravelly growling creature and

so I basically ripped my dad off for my

performance I really do a lot he's

getting a cut Benedict came in at the

start of block three so the start of

2012 and what a way to kick off the year

we had a couple of days of motion

capture a little bit a little bit of

just he wanted to get inside the

character he really wanted to own it he

didn't want to just be a voice artist

who came in after the fact and said the

words you get the helmet on and the

helmet has a sort of Madonna type

headset thing which is actually a camera

which comes to here this camera is

really weird cuz it's right in your face

it's got little circle of LED lights so

you blue literally carrying around the

actresses dream you have your own little

private key no mmm it's really nice but

actually it's very very weird and then

you kind of have to forget it and

imagine yourself into a vast creature in

a huge space when you're really crawling

around on a great bit of carpet

Benedict's choices as an actor we're

definitely going to affect smoke at big

time I said treat it like you're playing

the role don't think you're just

providing the voice go in there

physically and get what you can out of

it there will be head turns there will

be moments from that performance that

you give that can be pulled out and

extrapolated and will become part of

smoke being I kill wherever I please and

none can stop me we wanted him to have

the ability to just really explore the

physicality of the character and we

could watch what he was doing as if it

were a stage play no doubt you find it

for your filthy dwarf Prince when you

get to play it live there is a element

of theater to it because you do have an

audience even though they're watching

this thing through very you know highly

skilled and attuned technology you know

you get the feeling that you're playing

to them a little bit

I had a very strong idea of what he felt

and looked and would smell and move like

I really did but whether I did that in

my emotional animation above my body I'm

not sure but I knew in my mind what I

was trying to do I played it as an

internal thought of I am this I am that

I can do that I can do this but whilst

my body's going on I'm just acting out

everything but I'm thinking you have to

take a very big leap of faith and just

think big Rennie

so technically Benedict's first reading

of Smaug on the mocap stage and in the

mocap suit wasn't required we knew that

we couldn't use his body movements and

actually have them drive the dragon

skeleton or drive the dragon muscles but

we were interested in in just unleashing

his performance and use that as as clues

to smaug's character that's genuinely

really exciting you're being a sort of

draftsman or at least trying to hint

towards how it should go and that's what

Pete wanted he wants something to to

stimulate them into action and getting

an idea of a flavor of character

Benedict was interested in exactly the

same ideas as we were which is to make

small guy a psychopath forget what he

looks like forget how big he is forget

how many teeth he's got his personality

is scary you're talking about Jack

Nicholson in the shining you're talking


Hannibal late

you know it's those type of characters

and what makes them scary as they're

unpredictable you have nice manners they

have that absolute ability to kind of be

charming on one level and then

ultimately you feel the tension and the

edge and there's moments where he can

barely hold his psychotic side in as

he's trying to actually get to the truth

it's an exhausting day you are drenched

not necessarily because of the super

just because of the exertion especially

in the voice there are lots of breaks

for Gollum juice as it's called it's

ginger and honey so after a lot of

roaring and scampering about I yeah that

I down quantities of that and and bits

of sushi and other things like goats and

Dorff I know this smell and taste of

dwarf no one better I try them on all

the way through Pete okay he's a nice

grain I think I think we've got some

great stuff I think but I think that's

good to you unless you want it I said

yeah I'd like to do it all again he went

the last scene okay no no no all of it

the King from under the mountain is dead

where are the king who dare seek revenge

I ate all his people like a wolf among

sheep I destroyed them I laid low the

Warriors of old and instilled terror

into the hearts of men I kill wherever I


her none shall stop me

so tell me underling how do you choose

to die

sorry undeath almost burn burn it must

all turn to ash and it was great to be

able to just have a run and play the

whole character in one fell swoop that

was an extraordinary creative process -

to witness yeah to inhabit it physically

and it may just be my face and it may

just be my voice I don't know what the

end visualization of the Dragons going

to be the idea that we were playing with

at the beginning was that he speaks to

bill though but it's a telepathic

conversation so it smells not moving his

lips few in middle-earth possess that

power when we did the previous past

where Smaug spoke psychically to Bilbo

it just didn't work there was just

something about it that just didn't work

hello good morning and welcome to ADR

for smoke's mark this is my insistence

please pan to the left and you all right

you're right and so you'll see this

beautiful sheepskin floor which I insist

on I wouldn't get on a flight unless I

knew I was going to be acting on this

there will be nudity this is not your

usual ADR session smog likes leather

about in amongst clamor and I wonder why

I get into trouble no seriously this is

amazing so what's happening is which

sort of laying down that last third of

smaug scenes and then that scripts going

to be finalizing goes to the west poison

magic will happen so basically I'm

getting all the help I can to become the

one what you want to do is you want to

create an environment that the actor

feels that he can become the animal and

so we had a real kind of stage set up

well we need him on a pedestal it seems

to be on his hands and knees we had to

get him up off the ground so that we

give him a sense of playing down to the

world was the quietest thing we could

put here to make comfortable from an

acoustic point of view rather than

scratchy yeah there's been a few jokes

about pink fluffy handcuffs but we

haven't just it's just we then arrange

the number of mics around him but it

became obvious that Benedict was gonna

move he's gonna do a lot of movement he

was gonna assume the dragon and he was

gonna be standing up he was gonna be

crouching down he was gonna be doing the

whole gambit and so a lot of work went

into working out a kind of a miking

arrangement which was basically wearing

one of the motion capture killed us but

the mics

this guy's on top of my head and I look

like I've got the sort of you know it's

like a cold stream guard cap isn't it in

miniature but that's a brilliant

microphone so I can move my head at any

angle and articulate sort of his body

movements without losing any sound

record so that's very unusual and this

is layered on top of what we've already

done with motion capture as a guide to

how he'll look and eventually sound

because obviously there'll be some

distortion to my voice because I'm not a

however many hundred year old


worm who lives under a hill you can fly

who's very big um getting there but you

know there's a

I could do on a Sunday morning and yeah

we might start I think so better put on

the well I think we should start by just

running that's thing from yesterday a

couple of times yeah it kind of leads

you the psychological you know the song

psychologically that leads straight into

the next scene anyway so I'm sure we may

as well get tap into that huge space and

then then we can carry on really Kia

okay okay it's Oakenshield that filthy

dwarvish user that's Q 301 that's

standing by for take one here we go

truthfully dwarvish usurper sent you in

here for the Arkenstone didn't he

weighed the value of your life and found

it worth will fail a darkness is coming

it will spread to every corner of alarm

good for me I mean I know you're worried

about pasty but I mean obviously you've

got you can condense the gap between the

lines I'm just getting it enough yeah

breath to get the tone of it but because

it's just like a slow chapter to me it's

like a slow Japanese water tour just

like I'm just going to tell you what the

truth isn't gonna plant this little seed

Mirage it grow in your mind as a fifth

there's actually this this has to be

shaped quite carefully there's certainly

moments where it has to be heated and

movement and you know it's be a sense of

moving and physicality but then it goes

back to another it goes back to another

getting in this hid towards the end yet

well why don't we run the next chunk

yeah just great look at that have a look

at it where does it go to

go to choose to die yes standing by to

roll pictures on my part with a single

coin not one piece

my teeth are swords my claws are Spears

my wings are my spear

Smaug had to have a personality that was

obvious which meant he needed to have

all the subtle kinds of facial

expressions that were used to seeing in

a dialogue scene and that became really

tricky because of the elongated shape to

his head and we realized that a lot of

that comes down to the eyes and the

mouth as it does with any other

character the biggest challenge is

bringing Benedict's performance into an

alligator almost it's a big flapping jaw

with very little flexibility with such a

big mouth you don't need to move it too

much to really get words out and so what

we really did is kind of pushed his

whole performance to the front of his

face so feels like the front of his

mouth is sort of mimicking a human face

because wage the value of your life

wherever we could we tried to honor

Benedict's acting cues and what I mean

by that is we would study his video and

maybe he would turn his head like that

or maybe he'd sort of lift his head back

and looked down his nose as he's reading

the line he had some nice sort of head

moves and things like that and tilts

that were very snide and it really

helped guide it even further as far as

what sort of emotion Smaug had at that

given moment

when you're looking at a performance

you're looking at the minutiae of the

face and how its acting and and how

emotions cross the face and just little

fine things that a great actor will give

you that you don't even notice that

you're watching so