Guillermo del Toro had originally signed to direct the movies, but due to various delays and conflicts with schedules, announced that he would not be able to direct them. The position was later taken over by Peter Jackson, the director of the The Lord of the Rings films, who became Executive Producer. Certain cast (Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Orlando Bloom, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Cate Blanchett ) and crew (Weta Workshop, John Howe, Alan Lee, Mark Ordesky) reprised their roles from the Lord of the Rings films. The three parts, entitled The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies were filmed back-to-back with the release dates December 2012, December 2013 and December 2014 by MGM and New Line Cinema. The production was originally planned as a two-part adaptation, but ultimately became a trilogy.
- The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
- The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (2013)
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014)
- Ian McKellen as Gandalf the Grey
- Martin Freeman as Young Bilbo Baggins
- Richard Armitage as Thorin II Oakenshield
- Ken Stott as Balin
- Graham McTavish as Dwalin
- William Kircher as Bifur
- James Nesbitt as Bofur
- Stephen Hunter as Bombur
- Dean O'Gorman as Fili
- Aidan Turner as Kíli
- John Callen as Óin
- Peter Hambleton as Glóin
- Jed Brophy as Nori
- Mark Hadlow as Dori
- Adam Brown as Ori
- Antony Sher as Thrain II
- Lee Pace as Thranduil
- Orlando Bloom as Legolas
- Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel
- Luke Evans as Bard the Bowman and Girion
- Stephen Fry as Master of Laketown
- Ryan Gage as Alfrid
- John Bell as Bain
- Peggy Nesbitt as Sigrid
- Mary Nesbitt as Tilda
- Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
- Cate Blanchett as Galadriel
- Mikael Persbrandt as Beorn
- Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown
- Christopher Lee as Saruman the White
- Bret McKenzie as Lindir
- Craig Hall as Galion
- Robin Kerr as Elros
- Simon London as Feren
- Eli Kent as Lethuin
- Jeffrey Thomas as Thrór
- Michael Mizrahi as Thráin II
- Billy Connolly as Dáin II Ironfoot
- Andy Serkis as Gollum
- Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug and Necromancer
- Barry Humphries as Great Goblin
- Manu Bennett as Azog
- Conan Stevens as Bolg
- Lawrence Makoare as Bolg
- John Tui as Bolg
- John Rawls as Yazneg
- Stephen Ure as Fimbul the Hunter and Grinnah
- Ben Mitchell as Narzug
- William Kircher as Tom the Troll
- Mark Hadlow as Bert the Troll
- Peter Hambleton as William the Troll
- Thomas Robins as Young Thrain II
- Timothy Bartlett as Master Worrywort
- Hugo Weaving as Elrond
- Ian Holm as Old Bilbo Baggins
Walt Disney considered animating segments of The Hobbit and setting them to the sound of Wagner's Ring cycle for Fantasia, but was talked out of it. He continued having an interest in Tolkien books throughout the 1950s.
Tolkien had forwarded his publisher a suggestion in his fan-mail to have The Hobbit adapted as a four-part serial. Rayner Unwin rejected it for fear of it "incarcerating us in the Odens for eight or ten hours."
In 1961, Producer William L. Snyder entered negotiations with Tolkien to adapt the book to animation. Exploiting the fact that the books were temporarily public domain in the United States (due to a publication mishap) allowed him to lease the rights until 30th June 1967 for a downpayment of $15,000. He commissioned Gene Deitch to write and animate, but couldn't get funding and ended up compelling Deitch to condense the film into a single reel (12 minute) short which was shown to twelve people in a projection booth in New York. He then sold the rights to United Artists, who were buying them off of Tolkien at the time.
In 1972, Vance Gerry of Disney sent a memo about The Hobbit, including concept art of Bilbo, a synopsis of the book and the admission that the story contains "far more incidents in the story than we could ever use" and that "many sections are too frightening for our purposes." With the rights sitting with United Artists, it went no further. Instead, Saul Zaentz got an option on The Hobbit when he set out to make The Lord of the Rings with Ralph Bakshi. With the project discontinued after the first entry, Zaentz was left with the rights to produce an adaptation of The Hobbit, while the distribution rights stayed with MGM, who were previously involved with Bakshi's film.
Arthur Rankin Junior exploited the loophole in the US publication of The Hobbit to begin developing it into a TV Special. To air in Canada, the special was eventually "authorized through a series of settlement agreements." George Lucas was rumoured to have had an interest in The Hobbit in the 1980s, having pulled on it for inspiration for Star Wars. Instead, he and Ron Howard made Willow in 1988. Other than two unathorized Soviet adaptations, the rights to The Hobbit would remain untouched.
Peter Jackson had an interest in making a fantasy film, and watched the 1980s Sword-and-Sorcery movies, noting that many of them were "B-grade" and "blatantly Middle Earth-ish", with Willow being deemed "meaningless fantasy mumbo-jumbo" and Bakshi's Lord of the Rings "ambitious" but "incoherent." He hadn't seen the Rankin/Bass TV Special, which didn't air in New Zealand.
Peter Jackson and his parner Fran Walsh started developing an original fantasy film in 1995, before they decided to try and adapt Tolkien's works. Jackson wanted to adapt The Lord of the Rings, but Walsh then suggested they should start with The Hobbit, which Jackson hadn't read until that time. He tentativelly pitched Miramax to film The Hobbit, and shoot two The Lord of the Rings films back-to-back afterward. Producer Harvey Weinstein was enthusiastic, but couldn't get the rights to The Hobbit, which were still split between Zaentz and a now-bankrupt MGM. Harvey even attempted to buy the rights off of them but proved unsuccesful, suggesting that The Hobbit be postponed as a possible prequel. Jackson had read The Hobbit by now, and even told Richard Taylor to begin designing it before the decision was made to proceed with The Lord of the Rings.
When The Lord of the Rings was put on a turnaround and went to New Line, the rights to The Hobbit once again proved unavailable, but Jackson said "New Line will definitely make The Hobbit if LotR is a success." Jackson and his co-writers "couldn't help ourselves" from putting references to The Hobbit into The Lord of the Rings. They had looked at artwork for The Hobbit (Bag-End was designed off of an illustration that John Howe had done for The Hobbit) and even delved back into the story (with the help of Henry Mortensen) to ascertain that Thorin's Map ended-up with Bilbo. However, during preproduction on The Lord of the Rings, Jackson expressed an opinion that "it would actually be harder to adapt into a satisfying movie than The Lord of the Rings", citing the tone, the lack of character development and the size of the Dwarf ensemble. He was unsure whether he would direct such an adaptation, saying it "depends on my mental condition in 3 years!" During production, Elijah Wood inquired him on this, and Jackson said he "was not interested in that." However, during post-production on The Two Towers he and Fran Walsh spoke to executive producer Mark Ordesky about doing an adaptation of The Hobbit and a "Lord of the Rings prequel" set between it and The Lord of the Rings. Philippa Boyens even started toying with casting ideas.
After The Lord of the Rings trilogy, New Line wanted to proceed with The Hobbit, as their lease on the rights from Zaentz was due to expire in 2010. In September 2006, the new ownership and management of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer expressed interest in teaming up with New Line and Jackson to make The Hobbit. 
In March 2005, Jackson launched a lawsuit against New Line, claiming he had lost revenue from merchandising, video and computer games releases associated with The Fellowship of the Ring. He did not seek a specific settlement, but requested an audit to see whether New Line had withheld money owed him. Although Jackson wanted it settled before he would make the film, he felt the lawsuit was minor and that New Line would still let him make The Hobbit. New Line co-founder Robert Shaye was annoyed with the lawsuit and said in January 2007 that Jackson would never again direct a film for New Line, accusing him of being greedy. Shaye approached MGM CEO Harry Sloan with a proposal to adapt The Hobbit (and potentially the "bridge" film proposed by Jackson) with Sam Raimi tipped to direct. Sloan had "heard bad things" about Jackson, and wanted to hear his size, calling his agent Ken Kamins, and finally having dinner with Kamins, Jackson and Walsh. By the end, he called Shaye, demanding that he "fix your Peter Jackson problem." With New Line suffering a series of financial flops in the fantasy genre, and Raimi himself wanting Jackson's blessing, Shaye was trying to repair his working relationship with Jackson. Shaye said, "I really respect and admire Peter and would love for him to be creatively involved in some way in The Hobbit." In September, New Line was fined $125,000 for failing to provide requested accounting documents.
On December 18, 2007, it was announced that Jackson would be executive producer of The Hobbit and its sequel. It was hoped that back-to-back shooting on these films would begin in 2009 for December 2010 and December 2011 releases, respectively. It was also announced that New Line and MGM would co-finance the films, and the latter studio would distribute the films outside North America — New Line's first ever such deal with another major studio. Producer Mark Ordesky returned to supervise the prequels, and it was initially announced that each film would cost around US$150 million.
Jackson began delving back into the story, both as presented in The Hobbit as well as the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, pointing out that "one of the drawbacks of The Hobbit is [that] it's relatively lightweight compared to Lord of the Rings... There [are] a lot of sections in which a character like Gandalf disappears for a while. From memory — I mean, I haven't read it for a while now — but I think he references going off to meet with the White Council, who are actually characters like Galadriel and Saruman and people that we see in Lord of the Rings. He mysteriously vanishes for a while and then comes back, but we don't really know what goes on."
While Raimi was still tentativelly attached, Jackson had wanted Guillermo Del Toro to direct, after having worked with him on an adaptation of Halo. In spite of having made negative remaks earlier about "sword and sorcery", Guillermo "was very enthusiastic about doing it" when they met him in LA and in April 2008 he signed on to direct both pictures, and it was believed he would move to New Zealand for four years after finishing Hellboy II: The Golden Army to develop the trilogy with Jackson and the teams at WETA and Wingnut Films.
The Tolkien Estate filed a lawsuit against New Line on February 11 2008, for violating Tolkien's original deal with Saul Zaentz that they would earn 7.5% of the gross from a film adaptation. The Estate sought compensation of $150 million, because they were only paid $62,500 before production of the trilogy began. A court order was also filed that would allow the Tolkien Trust to terminate any rights to future films based on Tolkien's work, including The Hobbit and the second derivative prequel.
Development under Del Toro
After he signed on to direct in April 2008, Del Toro posted on TheOneRing.net forums that he had been enchanted by The Hobbit as a child, but found that Tolkien's other books "contain[ed] geography and genealogy too complex for my prepubescent brain". In taking the job of director, del Toro was now "reading like a madman to catch up with a whole new land, a continent of sorts—a cosmology created by brilliant philologist turned Shaman". He wrote that his appreciation of Tolkien was enhanced by his knowledge of the fantasy genre, and the folklore research he had undertaken while making his own fantasy films.
Pre-production began around August 2008, with del Toro, Jackson, Walsh and Philippa Boyens writing the scripts. Del Toro collaborated with Jackson, Walsh and Boyens via videoconferencing and flew every three weeks, back and forth from Los Angeles (where some of the designs were done) to New Zealand to visit them. For the first meeting, Jackson, Walsh and Boyens flew to LA and told Guillermo about some of the parts of the story that they wanted to flesh-out such as Dol Guldur and the White Council. They also spoke of the "bridge" film, with Del Toro later remarking that the sequel would be about "trying to reconcile the facts of the first movie with a slightly different point of view. You would be able to see events that were not witnessed in the first." Del Toro spent his mornings writing and afternoons looking at material related to Tolkien to help him understand the writer's work. He watched World War I documentaries and asked for book recommendations from Jackson, who is a collector of World War I memorabilia. Del Toro felt Tolkien's experiences in that war influenced his stories.
By November 2008, del Toro had said that he, Jackson, Walsh and Boyens would realise something new about the story every week and the script was continually changing. The writing hours increased to twelve each day, as they dedicated three weeks to finally deciding the films' structures. The "bridge" film idea was abandoned in favour of splitting The Hobbit into two parts: they had considered having the first film end with the arrival at the Hidden Door, but this resulted in the first film being "enormously long" compared to the second, and they instead decided to split it at the moment the company encounter Bard before entering Laketown. During the first few months of 2009, writing would start from 8:30 am and end at 3:00 pm when del Toro would meet with Weta (i.e., Weta Workshop and Weta Digital film effects companies). Completion of the story outlines and treatments ended in March 2009, and the studios approved the start of writing the screenplay.
Filming was expected to take place throughout 2010 in New Zealand, with del Toro renovating the Hobbiton sets near Matamata. For his part, Jackson had kept the Rivendell scale model and the Bag End set (which he has used as a guest house) from the trilogy. During the middle of the shoot, there was expected to be a break which would have allowed del Toro to edit The Hobbit while sets would be altered for the second film. The director expected the shoot to last 370 days.
Jackson revealed in late November 2009 that he anticipated that the script for The Hobbit would not be finished until the beginning of 2010, delaying the start of production until the middle of that summer (several months later than previously anticipated). The announcement created doubts about whether the film would make its previously-announced release dates of December 2011 and December 2012. Jackson reiterated that no casting decisions had been made. On 22 January 2010, Alan Horn said the first film would likely not be released until the fourth quarter of 2012.
Del Toro met with Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, and Hugo Weaving, who hoped to reprise their roles as Gandalf, Gollum and Elrond respectively. He and Jackson also expressed interest in having Ian Holm return for a cameo at the beginning, using a framing device to have the "older Bilbo be our way into the story." Having toyed with the idea of casting Martin Freeman as the younger Bilbo Baggins since meeting him in 2002, Boyens suggested him to an eager Del Toro. Sylvester McCoy, who had earlier been considered as a possible substitute for Holm during The Lord of the Rings, was suggested for Radagast. The part of Beorn was written by Del Toro specifically for American actor Ron Perlman. Del Toro had originally considered asking Perlman to voice the dragon Smaug, but decided against this. Del Toro met with English actor Brian Blessed to discuss the possibility of him playing Thorin Oakenshield. The director later stated that he thought Ian McShane "would make the most perfect dwarf". Frequent del Toro collaborator Doug Jones said that he would love to play the Elvenking Thranduil, but del Toro later stated that he had another role (or roles) in mind for the actor.
During the writing, they had considered many possible development. Del Toro agreed with his co-writers that the book lacked female characters. They suggested redressing this by giving Bard a wife, but Del Toro said the new female character shouldn't be someone's wife, and instead insisted that she be a warrior. Walsh suggest she should be an Elf, and she was tentativelly caled Itarielle. They wanted a prologue of the sack of Erebor, and Del Toro had expressed interest in dramatizing a scene from the Appendices where Gandalf meets Thorin in Bree.
Del Toro also met concept artists John Howe and Alan Lee, Weta Workshop head Richard Taylor, make-up artist Gino Acevedo and composer Howard Shore to keep continuity with the previous films. Del Toro said that he thought the world of The Hobbit was a "world that is slightly more golden at the beginning, a very innocent environment [...] taking you from a time of more purity to a darker reality throughout the film, but [in a manner] in the spirit of the book". Del Toro also hired comic book artists to complement Howe's and Lee's style on the trilogy, including Mike Mignola and Wayne Barlowe, who began work around April 2009. He has also considered looking at Tolkien's drawings and using elements of those not used in the trilogy. As Tolkien did not originally intend for the magic ring Bilbo finds to be the all-powerful talisman of evil it is revealed to be in The Lord of the Rings, del Toro said he would address its different nature in the story, but not so much as to draw away from the story's spirit. Each Dwarf would need to look different from the others. WETA Workshop had began building armour for Thorin, which had horns coming out of the helmet. Del Toro would have redesigned the Goblins and Wargs and the Mirkwood spiders would also have looked different from Shelob. Del Toro felt the Wargs had to be changed because "the classical incarnation of the demonic wolf in Nordic mythology is not a hyena-shaped creature".
He also intends to push the technology of animatronics to new levels; wanting to do animatronic Trolls that would roll into balls. "We really want to take the state-of-the-art animatronics and take a leap ten years into the future with the technology we will develop for the creatures in the movie. We have every intention to do for animatronics and special effects what the other films did for virtual reality."
Del Toro also wanted the animals to speak so that Smaug's speech would not be incongruous, though he explained portraying the talking animals would be more about showing that other characters can understand them. Smaug would not have a "snub Simian [mouth] in order to achieve a dubious lip-synch". Del Toro stated that Smaug would be the first character design begun and the last to be approved. The design was described as akin to a "flying ax" and caused some concern among his collaborators, but ultimately "the visual aspect was under my control." Other design ideas included a steampunk Erebor and an oriental-looking Woodland Realm, with the Elvenking possibly having tattooes.
In 2010, del Toro left the project because of ongoing delays. On 28 May he explained at a press conference that owing to MGM's financial troubles the Hobbit project had then not been officially green-lit at the time. "There cannot be any start dates until the MGM situation gets resolved .... We have designed all the creatures. We've designed the sets and the wardrobe. We have done animatics and planned very lengthy action sequences. We have scary sequences and funny sequences and we are very, very prepared for when it's finally triggered, but we don't know anything until MGM is solved." Two days later, del Toro announced at TheOneRing.net that "In light of ongoing delays in the setting of a start date for filming", he would "take leave from helming", further stating that "the mounting pressures of conflicting schedules have overwhelmed the time slot originally allocated for the project. ... I remain an ally to it and its makers, present and future, and fully support a smooth transition to a new director". Reports began to surface around the Internet about possible directors; apparently the studios wanted Jackson, who was wary of taking the reins, and such names as Neill Blomkamp, Brett Ratner, David Yates and David Dobkin were mentioned. However, this incident has received negative reaction from many Hobbit fans, who have been angry at MGM for delaying the project. They also tried willing the studio to sell their rights to Warner Brothers. On July 27, del Toro responded to these angry fans, saying that "It wasn't just MGM. These are very complicated movies, economically and politically." However, some fans were still displeased by the studio's crisis.
On June 25, 2010, Jackson announced that he probably would direct "two installments of Hobbit films". He was in negotiation with MGM and Warner Brothers to start shooting the films at the end of 2010. However, they still didn't have a green-light and they were having difficultly getting people cast without a director. Casting director Liz Mullane and producer Carrolyne Cunningham went to Jackson with this, and he called his agent (and the films' executive producer) Kem Kamins: "We can't move ahead until this is confirmed." In October of 2010, the film finally received a greenlight to begin production with Peter Jackson as the films director in addition to writer and producer. An agreement was struck between Jackson, MGM and Warner Brothers, which would allow filming to commence around February of 2011 with an estimated budget of $500,000,000 for the two films. Jackson
At Jackson's behest, Del Toro called Martin Freeman to tell him he was still their choice for the part. However, Freeman had thought the project was delayed indefinitely and agreed on shooting a second season of Sherlock. They had looked into other actors, including Matthew Goode, James McAvoy, Tobey Maguire and Shia LeBeouf. Eddie Redmayne auditioned, but based his performance too closely on Ian Holm. Adam Brown's audition tape was deemed "hillarious" and it was decided to cast him as one of younger Dwarves (ultimately, Ori) and write him around his audition. Dean O'Gorman also auditioned for the part. Jackson eventually called Freeman's agent personally in the middle of the night, asking if Freeman "would be willing to do The Hobbit" if they could rejig the schedule to accomodate his filming of Sherlock?
Jackson met Ian Holm in order to ask him to briefly reprise the role of old Bilbo. The actor told him he had contracted Parkinson's and was "basically retired but wasn't announcing it." Jackson and Walsh explained the scenes they would have liked to do, which spurred Ian's enthusiasm and it was decided he would shoot his scenes in London.
While Sylvester McCoy remained their only choice for Radagast, they did audition "just to see who's out there" and saw John Callen, whom they then had auditioned again as a Dwarf, eventually casting him as Oin. It was confirmed Sir Ian McKellen would reprise his role as Gandalf the Grey. Christopher Lee, who played Saruman in Jackson's films, said he would have liked to have shown the Wizard's corruption by Sauron, but he would not be comfortable flying to New Zealand at his age. However, later on, it was confirmed that he would in fact be reprising his role as Saruman, with his footage being shot in the UK. Lee also toyed with the idea of voicing Smaug, but Jackson recieved an audition tape for Benedict Cumberbatch (which was done without framing his face in) and cast him.
They saw several actors for Thorin, of which Richard Armitage was the youngest. In spite of "imagining an older Thorin", they were absolutely taken with Armitage's audition and cast him in the role. The other Dwarves were all selected by first auditioning them for the part of Gloin, with dialogue representing all the Dwarf characters. Mark Hadlow auditioned for the part, and then to another undisclosed part before he succesfully read for Dori. Stephen Hunter, who gave an "upbeat" audition, was cast as Bombur. For Gloin himself, they looked at Bill Bailey (who was previously considered for Gimli) but cast Peter Hambelton. Aidan Turner read for Galion, but was cast as Kili. Rob Kazinsky was cast as Fili, but had to leave due to "health issues" a few days into filming. Jackson recalled O'Gorman's audition for Bilbo, and he was asked to read opposite Aidan. Ken Stott was their first choice for Balin, although they also had Graham McTavish read for the role after reading for Dwalin, and had considred Peter Mullan. Billy Connoly, another contender for Gimli, was offered the role of Dain.
Having seen him in The Fall, Jackson wanted Lee Pace as Thranduil. They had met Evangeline Lilly previously, and she came to mind as Tauriel from very early on, but she had considered retiring from acting, and had just given birth and was bed-ridden. Jackson had considered Eva Green, but ultimately tried Lilly, who said yes. Orlando Bloom jokingly asked Jackson for a cameo, before being asked to return to the part.
William Kircher and Lord Julian Fellowes read for the Master of Laketown, but Jackson wanted Stephen Fry for the part, and decided to recast Kircher as Bifur. Ryan Gage read for Alfrid after the manner of "a used car salesman" but was cast as Drogo Baggins before the part was written out of the script, reverting him back to the role of Alfrid.
During the table-read of the script, William Kircher and others stood-in for the Trolls, and it was eventually decided to have them voice the three Trolls. Conan Stevens was cast to play Azog, before a redesign of the character was called for, leaving Conan's Azog to be reconceptualized as the "dungeon keeper" of Dol Guldur. Mark Rawlins was then cast, before his Orc design was repurposed (and recast) as Yazneg. Manu Bennet was cast towards the end of production to motion-capture Azog.
Jackson had looked over all the artwork left from Del Toro. He decided he couldn't "impersonate" Del Toro and had to redesign the movie, but he nevertheless kept certain ideas, pointing to Laketown as being close to Del Toro's interpertation. Mirkwood was based on Del Toro's concept of an artificial, brightly-coloured forest. Del Toro's armour for Thorin was in place for a while, before it was replaced with a design featuring a raven motif.
Erebor was designed around the geometric designs established for the Dwarves in The Fellowship of the Ring, and given a green colour based on Jade, given the position of the Mountain in the north-east of Middle Earth. Some of Del Toro's ideas for a "steampunk" Erebor were used for the forges, glimpsed in An Unexpected Journey and later added to the climax of The Desolation of Smaug.
The Woodland Realm maintained some of the orientalist influence inspired by Del Toro. Philippa Boyens provided reference for Thranduil with an image of Tom Ford. Tauriel was first designed with a flowing costume made of metal scales, which didn't complement the post-pregnancy Lilly and was cast aside in favour of a green costume. The armour was designed from a "Sindaring Shield" that Howe had designed for the films during Del Toro's tenure.
An early Del Toro design of Smaug was used a placeholder before Jackson settled on a Jamie Beswarick sculpture. Smaug was designed but not finalized before the first film was completed, and in finalizing the design in February 2012, it was decided he should have just two hindlegs instead of four. In fear of doing "another DragonHeart" Jackson rewrote Smaug to talk to Bilbo psychically through the power of the Ring, but when he saw a previz of those scenes, it was decided to go back to a lipsynched performance, and they even let Cumberbatch do some motion capture for reference to Smaug.
Some designs were taken from The Lord of the Rings: when he was first tasked with designing the rooms for Bag End in 1998, John Howe designed a pantry and a dining room, with the latter having been built but never shown. Both featured in the script and shown in An Unexpected Journey. The White Council chamber of Rivendell was based on a chamber designed for the Council of Elrond before it was decided to hold it in Elrond's study.
Industrial dispute and filming location
On September 24, 2010, the International Federation of Actors issued a Do Not Work order, advising members of its member unions (including the Screen Actors Guild) that "The producers...have refused to engage performers on union-negotiated agreements." This would subject actors who work on the film to possible expulsion from the union. In response, Warner Bros and New Line Cinema considered taking the production elsewhere, with Jackson mentioning the possibility of filming in Eastern Europe. Disgruntled Hobbit fans also believe it was MGM who started this dispute because of their financial troubles delaying the project, but in reality, it wasn't.
On 25 October 2010, thousands of New Zealanders organized protest rallies imploring that production remain in New Zealand, as shifting production to locations outside New Zealand would potentially have cost the country's economy up to $1.5 billion. After two days of talks with the New Zealand government, Warner Bros. executives decided, on the 27th of October, to film The Hobbit in New Zealand as originally planned. In return, the government of New Zealand agreed to introduce legislation to clarify the distinction between independent contractors and employees working in the film production industry, and also broaden the government's financial support for big budget films made in New Zealand.
Principal photography began on 21 March 2011 in Wellington, New Zealand. It was divided into three "blocks" with the time in between used to scout more locations, approve more designs and look over some of the footage, which was being cut by editor Jabez Olssen on the set.
Filming began on at Wellington Stone Street Studios, with the shot of Bilbo looking through the mushrooms, having fallen into Gollum's cave with a Goblin imp. It was decided to begin the shoot with those scenes so as to complete work on the Dwarf costumes, and give Freeman an easier scene with which to "find Bilbo." Andy Serkis, playing Gollum, smashed the Goblin animatronic during the first day, and over the next couple of days he and Freeman performed the "Riddles in the Dark" sequence over and over again in its entirety. During photography, Serkis would splash water as part of his performance, which resulted in a couple of the cameras used to capture his facial performance breaking down.
They then moved to shooting the Dwarves in Bag-End. The scenes, which included a 90-second long take, utilized a matching greenscreen set with a camera slaved to the one used on the live set, which would allow Ian McKellen to appear in-scale as Gandalf on the monitor. This caused McKellen great discomfort in performing off of an earpiece, but Jackson asssured him "its not always going to be like this."
Jackson restored the original Rivendell set, redressed with golden highlights, to shoot the next scenes. By now the Dwarves were asked to wear heavy packs along with their already heavy costume (which included a fat-suit to make them seem squat) and required fans and cooling suits to keep cold and hydrated. Jackson had resorted to avoid calling "cut", which resulted in time being lost because of make-up and costume checks required for the Dwarves. Instead, scenes were shot take immediately after take, to help the actors keep "the energy of the scene going."
The scenes between the Shire and Rivendell were shot later.
The second block of shooting in New Zealand began at the end of August and was completed in December 2011. It included a concentrated period of location shooting, including Hobbiton, an early version of the entrance to Mirkwood, Wilderland and the Desolation of the dragon.
The Elves started shooting in this block. Jackson, Walsh and Boyens had considered pushing Tauriel's love story further, shooting a version of her meeting with Kili that had a stonger sense of "immediate, unexplainable chemistry" and even had them kiss on the Lakeshore just before Legolas intervened, but with input from Lilly it was decided to tone these aspects of the love story down.
The third block of shooting began in 2012 and extended until 6 July 2012, after 266 days of filming. At the beginning of the block, motion-capture work was done for Smaug and the Necromancer by Benedict Cumberbatch, who also visited the set while the company were shooting the scenes outside the Hidden Door. Manu Bennet was cast to shoot Azgo on the motion-capture stage, as well. Early footage of the Battle of the Five Armies was shot, including fighting in the streets of Dale an some early footage of Iron-Hill Dwarf ranks, but Jackson was unhappy with those portions of the scripts, and hadn't had the storyboards to the battle completed, and it was decided to postpone the bulk of the work on the battle to the 2013 pickups for the second film. Much of the Erebor prologue was shot in the last few days of production, with Thorin's funeral shot on the last day.
Around 24 June 2012, Jackson and his co-writers saw a rough-cut of the two films as they currently stood, and sat down to "talk about the shape of the two films." It "didn't structurally feel quite right where one finished and the other began" and they wanted to discuss what they wanted to shoot further in the pickups. "What if it was a trilogy?" Jackson asked. They started writing a treatment based on the scripts that reshaped the films into a trilogy. When shooting ended, the executive producers came down to New Zealand to congratulate the filmmakers, who proceeded to pitch the treatment to them. They then announced it to the public, saying "We recognized that the richness of the story of The Hobbit, as well as some of the related material in the appendices of The Lord of the Rings, gave rise to a simple question: Do we tell more of the tale? And the answer from our perspective as filmmakers and fans was an unreserved 'yes.'"
Two weeks of pickups were scheduled for the editing of the first film in 2012. During the pickups, various inserts were shot including Bilbo drawing Sting from its scabbard after some inspirational words from Gandalf, a shot of Bilbo and Thorin overhearing Gandalf and Elrond debating. Two beats were added to the High Pass sequences, first with Bilbo falling off the ledge and rescued by Thorin who then grumbles that the Hobbit "should never have come", followed by a scene between Bilbo and Bofur right before the Goblin trap-door opens: these were intended to set-up a passage already shot in principal photography during which Bilbo regroups with the company towards the end of the film. Also added were a few quick inserts of Azog, including a brief scene on Weathertop, and new takes of a few shots including the Goblins first seeing Orcrist and the final reconciliation of Thorin and Bilbo on the Carrock.
To accomodate for the added film, the pickup shoot was expanded from six weeks to eight. The actors' were only contracted for two pickup shoots from back when it was two films, and the 2013 pickups would have to account for both of the later entries. In 2012, Jackson said that the 2013 pickups would mostly be for the third film rather than the second. At that point, the film was titled There and Back Again, and was scheduled to release in July 2014 but was pushed to December 2014. Jackson had convinced Warners to change the title to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, in spite of Warners saying that "films with the word battle in the title don't do very well at the box office."
Jackson had spent the beginning of 2013 writing the scenes needed for the pickups, and comissioning artwork and previz. Pickups started with Thorin and Gandalf's meeting in Bree, and included a couple of The Desolation of Smaug: Balin admonishing Thorin for not being "yourself" upon hearing the rumbling of Smaug was shot, as was a new entrance to Mirkwood. The live-action components of the Battle of the Forges, concieved as a new climax for the second film, was shot. Thrain's scenes were reshot with a new actor, Antony Sher. Instead of Azog killing him, it would now be Sauron.
Seeing the footage of various scenes in which Kili and Legolas stare at one another, the filmmakers decided to add an insert where Thranduil tells Tauriel that Legolas "had grown very fond of" her. Lilly erroneously attributed this addition to Warners, but agreed that "played well." Also shot were the scenes in Gundabad, replacing an earlier version where it was Gandalf - riding east after the Necromancer - who would have discovered the second army.
The footage for the Battle of the Five Armies included the confrontation between Tauriel and Thranduil and the various Ravenhill scenes, culminating in Thorin's duel with Azog and subsequent death, which concluded the pickup shoot. Ravenhill was earlier considered as a stage for some of the fighting, but it wasn't until writing for the pickups that it was decided to hold the climax of the film there. Jackson continued to shoot motion-capture material for reference during 2014, mostly to render the crowds required for the battle sequences.
Editor Jabez Olssen would come on-set to select takes for the edit. He had prepared rough cuts of the films, which Jackson would review between blocks of shooting. They already had a rough cut of An Unexpected Journey in the two-film form by the end of principle photography but were "already cutting around it." Sequences were moved around: the High Fells sequence was still going to be a part of An Unexpected Journey, intercut with the High Fells sequence with the company crossing the Misty Mountains: the storm clouds Gandalf sees would have the same one that hindered the company at the High Pass. The post-production process was "intense" but ultimately the film came-out within minutes of the length Jackson had anticipated.
Olssen had cut the existing footage into the shape that Jackson had required for the second and third films. The process for the second film was more relaxed untill the last reel which required a lot of complex VFX to be completed down to the last couple of days. Jackson even found time to cut parts of the third movie at the same time. They had removed an early confrontation between Thranduil and the company of Dwarves, as well as more Laketown footage to streamline the film. Warners "pushed back" against some of the more grotesque pieces of humour, which Jackson agreed to cut, but kept in mind for the extended edition.
Howard Shore returned to score the films. He started developing themes early "without any pictures" and composed the music for the film's teaser trailer, setting Plan 9's and David Longe's diegetic piece "Far Over the Misty Mountains Cold" to music. This became very succesful, and Jackson had Shore use that as a theme for the company, largely replacing another theme that Shore had wrote for the company. Shore had had a chance to review the film from the two-film rough cut, and had already developed themes for the events and character that would eventually not be introduced until The Desolation of Smaug.
For the second and third movie, it was decided that Shore would work with James Siezmore and Conrad Pope so that the score could be recorded in New Zealand. Shore would sketch the music, Seizmore would create synth mockups and from these Pope would orchestrate and then conduct the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Shore was kept in contact throughout, and even had several pieces re-recorded after Smaug's theme was orchestrated with high trumpets making "Smaug sound like a James Bond villain."
- Academy Awards:
- An Unexpected Journey — Nominations: 3; 1 award (non-competitive)
- The Desolation of Smaug — Nominations: 3
- The Battle of the Five Armies - Nominations: 1
|An Unexpected Journey||The Desolation of Smaug||The Battle of the Five Armies|
|Makeup and Hairstyling||Nomination|
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey grossed over $1.17 billion dollars at the box office and set a December record of $85,345,900.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug grossed over $960 million dollars at the box office and it is estimated that the film made a profit of $134.1 million.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies grossed over $955 million dollars at the box office. It earned $11.2 million from Tuesday late-night shows, which was the second highest total of 2014.
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- The Hobbit picks up technical Oscar - BBC
- TheHobbit.com - The official site
- TheHobbitBlog.com (currently unavailable)
- TheOneRing.net - Info and news for the Hobbit movies
- AintItCool.com on the set blogs:
- An Unexpected Journey: Quint on the set of The Hobbit! Part 1 - Concerning Hobbiton by Eric "Quint" Vespe Oct 31, 2011 6:13:46 AM CDT
- An Unexpected Journey: Quint on the set of The Hobbit! Part 2 - They Call Me Mr. Chubb by Eric "Quint" Vespe Nov 05, 2011 12:29:11 AM CDT
- An Unexpected Journey: Quint on the set of The Hobbit! Part 3 - Beginnings and Endings by Eric "Quint" Vespe Nov 14, 2011 2:57:17 AM CST
- An Unexpected Journey: Quint on the set of The Hobbit! Part 4 - A Palaver of Istari by Eric "Quint" Vespe Nov 24, 2011 9:39:27 AM CST
- An Unexpected Journey: Quint on the set of The Hobbit! Part 5 - Thorin's Dilemma by Eric "Quint" Vespe Nov 27, 2011 11:23:04 PM CST
- An Unexpected Journey: Quint on the set of The Hobbit! Part 6 - Good Morning, Koro. by Eric "Quint" Vespe Dec 20, 2011 9:25:12 PM CST
- The Hobbit Movie - Up to Date news on the situation on The Hobbit Movie