The screenplay was written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Jackson, and Guillermo del Toro, who was originally chosen to direct before his departure from the project. The films take place in the fictional world of Middle-earth sixty years before the beginning of The Lord of the Rings, and follow hobbit Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is convinced by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen) to accompany thirteen dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage), on a quest to reclaim the Lonely Mountain from the dragon Smaug (voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch). The films also expand upon certain elements from the novel and other source material, such as Gandalf's investigation at Dol Guldur, and the pursuit of Azog and Bolg, who seek vengeance against Thorin and his ancestors.
The films feature an ensemble cast that also includes James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Evangeline Lilly, Lee Pace and Luke Evans, with several actors reprising their roles from The Lord of the Rings, including Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Ian Holm, Christopher Lee, Hugo Weaving, Elijah Wood and Andy Serkis. The films also feature Manu Bennett, Sylvester McCoy, Stephen Fry, Mikael Persbrandt, Barry Humphries, and Lawrence Makoare. Also returning for production, among others, were illustrators John Howe and Alan Lee, art director Dan Hennah, cinematographer Andrew Lesnie, and composer Howard Shore, while props were again crafted by Weta Workshop, with visual effects managed by Weta Digital.
The first film in the series premiered at the Embassy Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand on 28 November 2012. One hundred thousand people lined the red carpet on Courtenay Place, and the entire event was broadcast live on television in New Zealand and streamed over the Internet. The second film of the series premiered at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, California on 2 December 2013. The third and final film premiered at Leicester Square in London on 1 December 2014.
The series was a major financial success, with the films classified as one of the highest-grossing film series of all time, going on to outgross The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Although critically considered to be inferior to The Lord of the Rings, it was nominated for various awards and won several, though not as many as its predecessor.
Jackson and Walsh originally expressed interest in filming The Hobbit in 1995, then envisaging it as part one of a trilogy (part two would have been based on The Lord of the Rings). Frustration arose when Jackson's producer, Harvey Weinstein, discovered that Saul Zaentz had production rights to The Hobbit, but that distribution rights still belonged to United Artists (which had kept those rights, believing that filmmakers would prefer to adapt The Hobbit rather than The Lord of the Rings). The United Artists studio and its parent corporation Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer was for sale in 2005, but Weinstein's attempts to buy the movie rights from the studio were unsuccessful. Weinstein asked Jackson to press on with adapting The Lord of the Rings. Ultimately, The Lord of the Rings was produced by New Line Cinema, not the Weinsteins, and their rights to film The Hobbit were set 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. MGM boss Harry Sloan halted development, as he wanted Jackson to be involved. By August, after a string of flops, Shaye tried to repair his relationship with the director. He said, "I really respect and admire Peter and would love for him to be creatively involved in some way in The Hobbit." The following month, New Line was fined $125,000 for failing to provide requested accounting documents.
On 16 December 2007, New Line and MGM announced that Jackson would be executive producer of The Hobbit and its sequel. The two studios would co-finance the film and the latter studio (via 20th Century Fox) would distribute the film outside North America—New Line's first ever such deal with another major studio. Each film's budget was estimated at US$150 million, which compares to the US$94 million budget for each of the films in Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy. After completion of the merger of New Line Cinema with Warner Bros. in February 2008, the two parts were announced as scheduled for release in December 2011 and 2012. Producer Mark Ordesky, the executive producer of The Lord of the Rings, planned to return to supervise the prequels. Jackson explained he chose not to direct because it would have been unsatisfying to compete with his previous films.
In February 2008, the Tolkien Estate (through The Tolkien Trust, a British charity) and HarperCollins Publishers filed a suit against New Line for breach of contract and fraud and demanded $220 million in compensation for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. The suit claimed New Line had only paid the Estate an upfront fee of $62,500, despite the trilogy's gross of an estimated $6 billion worldwide from box office receipts and merchandise sales. The suit claimed the Estate was entitled to 7.5% of all profits made by any Tolkien films, as established by prior deals. The suit also sought to block the filming of The Hobbit. The suit was settled in September 2009 for an undisclosed amount. However the Tolkien Trust's 2009 accounts show that it received a payment from New Line Cinema of £24 million, (a little over US$38 million). This amount was the Trust's estimated share in respect of the gross profit participation due for the films based on "The Lord of the Rings". Christopher Tolkien said: "The trustees regret that legal action was necessary but are glad that this dispute has been settled on satisfactory terms that will allow the Tolkien Trust properly to pursue its charitable objectives. The trustees acknowledge that New Line may now proceed with its proposed film of The Hobbit."
Despite the legal suits, development proceeded and in April 2008, Guillermo del Toro was hired to direct the film. Del Toro has said he was a fan of Jackson's trilogy and had discussed directing a film adaptation of Halo with him in 2005. Though that project stalled, they kept in contact. In a 2006 interview, del Toro was quoted saying "I don't like little guys and dragons, hairy feet, hobbits, [...] I don't like sword and sorcery, I hate all that stuff". 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 also posted 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. 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. 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 in 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 and Jackson had a positive working relationship, in which they compromised on disagreements for the benefit of the film. Del Toro believed he would be able to shoot the film himself, although Jackson noted he had similar hopes for filming all of his trilogy and offered to help as second unit director. Del Toro planned on shooting the film in the trilogy's 2.35:1 aspect ratio, rather than his signature 1.85:1 ratio. He hoped to collaborate again with cinematographer Guillermo Navarro.
Del Toro shares Jackson's passion for scale models and background paintings, though he wanted to increase the use of animatronics; "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." Spectral Motion (Hellboy, Fantastic Four) was among those del Toro wanted to work with again. Some characters would have been created by mixing computer-generated imagery with animatronics and some would have been created solely with animatronics or animation. Gollum would be entirely digital again; as del Toro noted, "if it ain't broke, why fix it?"
Del Toro said that he interpreted The Hobbit as being set in a "world that is slightly more golden at the beginning, a very innocent environment" and the film would need to "[take] you from a time of more purity to a darker reality throughout the film, but [in a manner] in the spirit of the book". He perceived the main themes as loss of innocence, which he likened to the experience of England after World War I, and greed, which he said Smaug and Thorin Oakenshield represent. Bilbo Baggins reaffirms his personal morality during the story's third act as he encounters Smaug and the Dwarves' greed. He added, "The humble, sort of a sturdy moral fibre that Bilbo has very much represents the idea that Tolkien had about the little English man, the average English man", and the relationship between Bilbo and Thorin would be the heart of the film. The Elves will also be less solemn.
Del Toro met concept artists John Howe and Alan Lee, Weta Workshop head Richard Taylor, and make-up artist Gino Acevedo in order to keep continuity with the previous films, and he 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. 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".
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.
Del Toro and Jackson considered the sudden introduction of Bard the Bowman and Bilbo's unconsciousness during the Battle of the Five Armies to be "less cinematic moments" reminiscent of the novel's greater "fairy tale world" than The Lord of the Rings, and they would change them to make The Hobbit feel more like the trilogy. However, del Toro did say he considered some of these moments iconic and would require the "fairy tale logic [to] work as is".
Several actors were considered by del Toro for roles in the film. He wrote the part of Beorn 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. Del Toro was the one who originally pushed to cast Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown, a choice Peter Jackson later followed. While del Toro initially wanted Ian Holm to reprise the role of Bilbo Baggins, he also said that he "absolutely" supported the casting of Martin Freeman as the character, and wanted all other returning Lord of the Rings characters to be played by the original actors where possible.
In December 2012, Philippa Boyens expressed regret that del Toro's version of the film remained unmade. She revealed that it would have had a different script and visual elements, and would more closely have resembled a fairy tale. Boyens stated that the most significant script change was to Bilbo's characterisation: "It shifted and changed into someone who, rather than being slightly younger and more innocent in the world, once had a sense of longing for adventure and has lost it and become fussy and fusty."
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, but such names as Neill Blomkamp, Brett Ratner, David Yates and David Dobkin were mentioned.
However, this incident received negative reaction from many Hobbit fans, who were angry at MGM for delaying the project. They also tried willing the studio to sell their rights to Warner Bros. On 27 July, del Toro responded to these angry fans, saying that "it wasn't just MGM. These are very complicated movies, economically and politically."
On 25 June 2010, Jackson was reported to be in negotiations to direct the two-part film. On 15 October 2010, New Line Cinema and Warner Bros. confirmed that The Hobbit was to proceed filming with Jackson as director and that the film would be in 3D. As well as confirming Jackson as director, the film was reported to be greenlit, with principal photography to begin in February 2011. Jackson stated that "Exploring Tolkien's Middle-earth goes way beyond a normal film-making experience. It's an all-immersive journey into a very special place of imagination, beauty and drama."
On 24 September 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.
Partly out of fear for the Tolkien tourism effect, on 25 October 2010, thousands of New Zealanders organised protest rallies imploring that production remain in New Zealand, arguing that shifting production to locations outside New Zealand would potentially cost the country's economy up to $1.5 billion. After two days of talks with the New Zealand government (including involvement by Prime Minister John Key), Warner Bros. executives decided on 27 October to film The Hobbit in New Zealand as originally planned. In return, the government agreed to introduce legislation to remove the right of workers to organise trade unions in the film production industry, and to give money to big budget films made in New Zealand. The legislation reversed a decision by the New Zealand Supreme Court called Bryson v Three Foot Six Ltd holding that under the Employment Relations Act 2000, a model maker named Mr Bryson was an "employee" who could organise a union to defend his interests. The Employment Relations (Film Production Work) Amendment Bill passed all three readings under urgency on 29 October 2010, 66 votes in favour to 50 opposed. The government's legislation has been criticised as breaching the International Labour Organization's core ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association, and giving an unfair subsidy to protect multinational business interests.
Some have subsequently called the price (further financial subsidies and specific laws made for the producers' benefit) that New Zealand had to pay to retain the movie 'extortionate'. It was also argued that the discussion had occurred in a climate of 'hyperbole and hysteria'.
In February 2013, emails and documents released under orders of the Ombudsman showed that the union representing actors had already reached an agreement with Warner two days before 20 October protest, but Warner refused to confirm the deal publicly. One union representative said those on the march were 'patsies' that had been fooled into thinking the production would be taken offshore. Further emails released showed Government ministers knew a deal had been reached a week before the protest, despite claiming negotiations were still happening.
The project had been envisaged as two parts since 2006, but the proposed contents of the parts changed during development. MGM expressed interest in a second film in 2006, set between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Jackson concurred, stating that "one of the drawbacks of The Hobbit is its relatively light weight compared to LOTR [Lord of the Rings]... There's a lot of sections in which a character like Gandalf disappears for a while. – 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." Jackson was also interested in showing Gollum's journey to Mordor and Aragorn setting a watch on the Shire.
After his hiring in 2008, del Toro confirmed 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." He also noted the story must be drawn from only what is mentioned in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, as they do not have the rights to The Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. Del Toro also added (before writing began) that if they could not find a coherent story for the second film, they would just film The Hobbit, stating "The Hobbit is better contained in a single film and kept brisk and fluid with no artificial 'break point'." By November 2008, he acknowledged that the book was more detailed and eventful than people may remember. He decided to abandon the "bridge film" concept, feeling that it would be better for the two parts to contain only material from The Hobbit:
when you lay out the cards fro [sic] the story beats contained within the book (before even considering any apendix [sic] material) the work is enormous and encompasses more than one film. That's why we are thinking of the two instalments as parts of a single narrative. That's why I keep putting down the use of a "bridge" film (posited initially). I think the concept as such is not relevant any more. I believe that the narrative and characters are rich enough to fit in two films.
Del Toro said that he was faced with two possible places to split the story, including Smaug's defeat. He noted the second film would need to end by leading directly into The Fellowship of the Ring. In June 2009, del Toro revealed he had decided where to divide the story based on comments from fans about signifying a change in Bilbo's relationship with the dwarves. The second film's story would also have depended on how many actors could have reprised their roles.
Although The Hobbit was originally made as a two-part film, on 30 July 2012, Jackson confirmed plans for a third film, turning his adaptation of The Hobbit into a trilogy. According to Jackson, the third film would make extensive use of the appendices that Tolkien wrote to expand the story of Middle-Earth (published in the back of The Return of the King). While the third film, which as its title indicates, depicts the Battle of the Five Armies, largely made use of footage originally shot for the first and second films, it required additional filming as well. The second film was retitled The Desolation of Smaug and the third film was titled There and Back Again in August 2012. On 24 April 2014, the third film was renamed The Battle of the Five Armies. On the title change, Jackson said, "There and Back Again felt like the right name for the second of a two film telling of the quest to reclaim Erebor, when Bilbo's arrival there, and departure, were both contained within the second film. But with three movies, it suddenly felt misplaced—after all, Bilbo has already arrived "there" in the Desolation of Smaug". Shaun Gunner, the chairman of The Tolkien Society, supported the decision: "‘The Battle of the Five Armies’ much better captures the focus of the film but also more accurately channels the essence of the story."
The following is a list of cast members who voiced or portrayed characters appearing in The Hobbit films.
In early October 2010, it was confirmed by the studio that Martin Freeman had officially been cast in the role of Bilbo Baggins. It was revealed that he had earlier been approached by the producers to play a role in the films, but was forced to turn it down because of scheduling conflicts with the BBC television series Sherlock. At the time, Freeman was quoted as saying, "[I]f something could be worked out, that would be great. I did it [turned down the role] with a heavy heart, definitely." On his casting, Peter Jackson was quoted as saying, "Despite the various rumours and speculation surrounding this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us. There are a few times in your career when you come across an actor who you know was born to play a role, but that was the case as soon as I met Martin Freeman. He is intelligent, funny, surprising and brave—exactly like Bilbo and I feel incredibly proud to be able to announce that he is our Hobbit."
Later in October, it was revealed that several other cast members had joined the project, including Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Graham McTavish as Dwalin, Aidan Turner as Kíli, Mark Hadlow as Dori, John Callen as Óin, Stephen Hunter as Bombur and Peter Hambleton as Glóin. On the casting of Armitage, Jackson was quoted as saying, "Richard is one of the most exciting and dynamic actors working on screen today and we know he is going to make an amazing Thorin Oakenshield. We cannot wait to start this adventure with him and feel very lucky that one of the most beloved characters in Middle Earth is in such good hands." McTavish was quoted on his casting, "I think that I would be very lucky indeed if ever again in my career, I was offered an opportunity that was going to be so iconic in its influence and scale with regards to The Hobbit. I can't think of anything comparable." Following McTavish's casting, scheduling conflicts arose while he was working on Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception, resulting in the game's storyline being modified so that McTavish could go to New Zealand to work on the film. On the casting of Turner, Jackson stated, "Aidan is a wonderfully gifted young actor who hails from Ireland. I'm sure he will bring enormous heart and humor to the role of Kíli." On the casting of Hadlow, Jackson said, "I have worked with Mark Hadlow on many projects [Meet the Feebles and King Kong]; he is a fantastic actor. I am thrilled to be working with [him] on these movies." Hadlow also plays Bert the Stone-troll. On his casting Callen stated, "I did wonder about my casting and how they had made the choice—maybe the long hair and the beard sold it, I thought. But now that has all gone. Given that Óin is almost 200 years old I can presume only that it was the age." On being cast in the role, Hunter said, "Being cast in The Hobbit is really exciting and really an honour. I auditioned for the original Lord of the Rings way back when I signed with my agent in New Zealand. When I saw the films I thought, 'Man, I so want to do The Hobbit.'"
On 1 November 2010, Jackson confirmed that James Nesbitt and Adam Brown had been added to the cast to play Bofur and Ori respectively. It was previously reported that Nesbitt was in negotiations for a part in the film. Jackson was quoted on Nesbitt's casting as saying, "James's charm, warmth and wit are legendary as is his range as an actor in both comedic and dramatic roles. We feel very lucky to be able to welcome him as one of our cast." Nesbitt's daughters also appear in the film series as Sigrid and Tilda, the daughters of Bard the Bowman. Commenting on Brown's casting, Jackson was quoted as saying, "Adam is a wonderfully expressive actor and has a unique screen presence. I look forward to seeing him bring Ori to life." The role also marked Brown's first film appearance.
On 7 December 2010, it was revealed that several other cast members had joined the project, including Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Sylvester McCoy as Radagast the Brown, Mikael Persbrandt as Beorn, William Kircher as Bifur, Ken Stott as Balin and Jed Brophy as Nori. Blanchett was the first returning cast member from The Lord of the Rings film trilogy to be cast in the films, even though her character does not appear in the novel. On her casting, Jackson said, "Cate is one of my favorite actors to work with and I couldn't be more thrilled to have her reprise the role she so beautifully brought to life in the earlier films." McCoy, the former Doctor Who star, who appeared alongside McKellen in a Royal Shakespeare Company's King Lear, was confirmed to be in negotiations to play a major role as a "wizard" in October 2010, leading to speculation he could appear as Radagast the Brown. During the production of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, McCoy had been contacted about playing the role of Bilbo and was kept in place as a potential Bilbo for six months before Jackson went with Ian Holm. On the casting of Persbrandt, Jackson was quoted as saying, "The role of Beorn is an iconic one and Mikael was our first choice for the part. Since seeing him read for the role we can't imagine anyone else playing this character." On the casting of Stott, Jackson commented "Fran and I have long been fans of Ken's work and are excited he will be joining us on this journey." The casting of Brophy came after his collaboration with Jackson on several films, including Braindead, Heavenly Creatures, and all three Lord of the Rings films as various creatures.
On 7 January 2011, TheOneRing.net confirmed that Elijah Wood had joined the cast to reprise his role of Frodo Baggins in the project. As Frodo hadn't been born during the events of The Hobbit, the inclusion of Frodo indicated that parts of the story would take place shortly before or during the events of The Lord of the Rings. According to TheOneRing.net, "As readers of 'The Hobbit' know, the tale of 'The Downfall of The Lord of the Rings' and 'The Hobbit or There and Back Again,' are contained in the fictional 'Red Book of Westmarch.' In Peter Jackson's LOTR films, the book is shown on screen and written in by Bilbo and Frodo and handed off to Samwise Gamgee....The fictional book and either the telling from it or the reading of it, will establish Frodo in the film experiencing Bilbo's story. Viewers are to learn the tale of 'The Hobbit' as a familiar Frodo gets the tale as well."
On 10 January 2011, it was confirmed that Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis would reprise their respective roles of Gandalf the Grey and Gollum from The Lord of the Rings film trilogy. Although both actors were expected to return for their roles McKellen was previously quoted in July 2010 on TVNZ's Good Morning that: "I'm not under contract and my time is running out. I don't want to give the producers the impression that I'm sitting waiting." It was later revealed that Serkis would also serve as second unit director on the films. Serkis stated, "I think I understand Peter's sensibility and we have a common history of understanding Middle-earth. A lot of the crew from The Lord of the Rings was returning to work on The Hobbit. There is really a sense of Peter wanting people around him who totally understand the material and the work ethic."
On 11 January 2011, it was confirmed that Christopher Lee would reprise his role as Saruman the White. Lee had originally said he would have liked to have shown how Saruman is first corrupted by Sauron, but would not be comfortable flying to New Zealand at his age. Lee went on to say that if a film were made, he would love to voice Smaug, as it would mean he could record his part in England and not have to travel. On 10 January 2011, it was reported that Lee had entered into negotiations to reprise the role of Saruman.
On 21 March 2011, Jeffrey Thomas joined the project as the character of Thrór, as did Mike Mizrahi as Thráin II.
On 4 April 2011, Bret McKenzie was added to the cast as Lindir. His father Peter McKenzie played the role of Elendil in The Lord of the Rings.
On 22 April 2011, Jackson confirmed via Facebook that Ian Holm had been added to the cast as old Bilbo Baggins. During the early stages of pre-production, former director Guillermo del Toro indicated that he was interested in having Holm reprise the role of Bilbo, but acknowledged that he might be too old to take on such a physically demanding role. On his potential casting, del Toro stated, "[Holm] certainly is the paragon we aspire to. He will be involved in some manner, I'm sure." He also indicated that he was open to the possibility of Holm narrating the films. On 10 January 2011, Deadline Hollywood reported that Holm had entered into negotiations to play the older Bilbo. On 3 March 2011, Holm revealed that he had been in talks with the producers about reprising the role, but that he had not heard back from them yet.
In the early stages of production, the role of Thranduil had been linked to actor Doug Jones but on 29 April 2011, Jackson reported on Facebook that the role had gone to Lee Pace. On his casting, Jackson said, "Casting these Tolkien stories is very difficult, especially the Elven characters and Lee has always been our first choice for Thranduil. He's going to be great. We loved his performance in a movie called The Fall a few years ago and have been hoping to work with him since. When we were first discussing who would be right for Thranduil, Lee came into mind almost immediately."
On 30 April 2011, Jackson announced that Dean O'Gorman had been hired for the role of Fíli. Jackson stated, "Dean's a terrific Kiwi actor, who I am thrilled to be working with." O'Gorman was a last minute replacement for Rob Kazinsky had originally been cast for the role in October 2010, but left the film on 24 April 2011 "for personal reasons".
Hugo Weaving's return to the role of Elrond was officially confirmed on 1 May 2011.
On 19 May 2011, Stephen Fry and Ryan Gage were confirmed to join the project as Master of Lake-town and Alfrid respectively. Fry spoke of his role, saying "My character is an opportunity for sheer grossness... [Peter Jackson] had me eating testicles... gross appetites. I mustn't give too much away but I've got a bald cap and then on top of that a really bad combover wig and this wispy mustache and wispy beard and horrible blotchy skin and disgusting fingernails... And generally speaking a really unappetising piece of work. And a coward to boot and very, very greedy." Gage was originally cast to play Drogo Baggins in December 2010, though according to Jackson, "Ryan is a great young actor who we originally cast in a small role, but we liked him so much, we promoted him to the much larger Alfrid part".
On 27 May 2011, Peter Jackson announced via Facebook that Orlando Bloom would reprise his role as Legolas. Bloom revealed on 25 April 2011 that he had been in contact with Jackson, who had given him a copy of the screenplay and said that there was a high probability that he would return. He was quoted as saying, "I'm going to bet on it... But I can't really talk too much about it because it's still sort of in the ether. But I would love to go back to work with Peter Jackson. It would be an honour."
19 June 2011, it was revealed that several other cast members had joined the project, including Luke Evans in the role of Bard the Bowman, Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel, Barry Humphries as the Great Goblin and Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug and The Necromancer. Cumberbatch portrayed both of his roles through motion capture, as did Humphries for his character. The casting of Cumberbatch was prematurely revealed by his Sherlock co-star Martin Freeman during the BAFTA Television Awards in May 2011. Speculations of his undisclosed role were further fuelled when Ian McKellen wrote on his blog that Philippa Boyens showed him Cumberbatch's screen test, stating that it was "electrifying, vocally and facially". Peter Jackson finally revealed on his Facebook page that Cumberbatch was set to play Smaug. Following this, it was also confirmed that he would be portraying The Necromancer as well.
Billy Connolly joined the cast as Dáin II Ironfoot on 9 February 2012. Connolly said of his character "...this guy will terrify the life out of you. I have a mohawk and tattoos on my head."
In addition, John Bell plays Bain, Manu Bennett plays Azog, Craig Hall plays Galion, Ben Mitchell plays Narzug, John Rawls plays Yazneg, Stephen Ure plays Fimbul and Grinnah, Kiran Shah plays a goblin scribe, and Stephen Colbert was cast in an undisclosed cameo. Conan Stevens was to play Bolg, but he eventually played a Gundabad Orc, also known as Keeper of Dungeons.
Principal photography began on 21 March 2011 in Wellington, New Zealand. Filming took place at Wellington Stone Street Studios, the town of Matamata and at other undisclosed locations around New Zealand.
The costumes for each of the Dwarves included six wigs and eight beards, which were worn by the actors, stunt doubles, and stand-ins.
During July 2011, scenes from The Hobbit were filmed at Pinewood Studios, England. Sets were constructed on the F Stage and N&P Stages for the shoot. Jackson recorded a video blog from the set, which featured Christopher Lee in full makeup and costume as Saruman.
The second block of shooting in New Zealand began at the end of August and was completed in December 2011.
Principal photography ended on 6 July 2012, after 266 days of filming.
During May 2013, additional filming for the second and third films began in New Zealand and lasted for 10 weeks.
The films were filmed in 3D using Red Epic cameras. According to a production diary video, 48 Epic cameras were used during the film's production. The production employed a specialty rig designed by 3ality Technica, using two cameras and a mirror in order to achieve an intraocular effect similar to that of human sight (the distance between the eyes). This is how the depth required for 3D film is achieved.
In April 2011, Jackson revealed through his Facebook page that he would film The Hobbit at 48 fps (frames per second) instead of the normal 24 fps.
Additionally, the films were filmed at a 5K resolution, native to the Red Epic cameras, which provides a more detailed picture than the conventional 4K resolution. The films were recorded digitally onto 128 GB solid-state drives that fit into the Red Epic camera.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) asked the New Zealand government to investigate allegations that 27 animals used for the film died due to poor living conditions. Claims also include sheep falling into sinkholes, chickens being mauled by unsupervised dogs, a horse falling over a steep embankment, and another one being left on the ground for three hours after being hobbled. PETA says that instead of "vainly defending himself", Peter Jackson should be giving a "firm assurance that this will never happen again". They also called Jackson a "CGI master", stating that he could easily make convincing CGI animals, instead of using actual ones. Peter Jackson denied these allegations in a press conference hours before the premiere of the first film stating that there was "Absolutely none; no mistreatment, no abuse". Warner Bros. also released a statement which joined Peter Jackson in denying the allegations, questioning the timing and claiming the primary source of the allegations could be traced to freelance animal wranglers who had been dismissed by the production over a year earlier "for cause".
The music of The Hobbit film series was composed, orchestrated, conducted and produced by Howard Shore, who scored all three The Lord of the Rings films. Recording sessions for the first film began on 20 August 2012, at Abbey Road Studios. The second and third films were recorded in New Zealand.
The score for An Unexpected Journey was primarily played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, as it was for The Lord of the Rings, although Jackson and Shore chose the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra to score The Desolation of Smaug and The Battle of the Five Armies. Musicians Neil Finn and Ed Sheeran contributed to the score as well as some actors including Richard Armitage and the cast of dwarves and James Nesbitt (in the extended edition).
As with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Weta Digital was involved in the creation of special effects .However, as opposed to The Lord of the Rings, where the actors who played Orcs portrayed them through full-body makeup and prosthetics, many of those actors in The Hobbit had computer-generated faces in order to portray them. Many of the actors who played Orcs in this trilogy portrayed them through performance capture. Also, motion capture was used in order to be created places as depicted in the film.
The world premiere for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey took place on 28 November 2012 in Wellington, New Zealand, with the film's wide release in New Zealand on 12 December. 100,000 people lined the red carpet on Wellington's Courtenay Place for the premiere. The entire event was also broadcast live on TV3 and streamed over the Internet. Tickets to the film's midnight screenings in New Zealand sold out within minutes of going on sale, prompting director Peter Jackson to say that the fans who missed out "may get something special" which could include getting to see the film "possibly even a minute or two before anyone else". The film was released on 13 December 2012 in the United Kingdom and 14 December 2012 for some other parts of the world. It has a runtime of 169 minutes (2 hours and 49 minutes). The film grossed over $1 billion at the box office, surpassing both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers nominally.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug premiered on 2 December 2013 in Los Angeles, and was released internationally from 11 December 2013. It grossed over $958 million in box office worldwide. Like the previous installment, it surpassed both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers in nominal box office performance.
The final film The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies premiered on 11 December 2014 in London, and was released internationally from 12 December 2014. The release for the third film was originally set for an 18 July 2014 release, but was pushed back when X-Men: Days of Future Past, was announced to be released on the same date, as direct competition to the third installment. It grossed over $956 million in worldwide level in box office, and as the previous two films, it surpassed both The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers nominally, although it didn't manage to surpass the previous two films of the series.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released on Blu-ray and DVD in United States on 19 March 2013, and was released in the United Kingdom on 8 April 2013. As of 7 July 2013, DVD/Blu-ray sales in the United States were reported to be around $29,527,413, with almost 3 million units sold. An Extended Edition containing 13 minutes of additional footage and original music was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 5 November 2013 in the US, and on 11 November 2013 in the UK.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 7 April 2014 in the United Kingdom and on 8 April 2014 in the United States. An Extended Edition containing 25 minutes of additional footage and original music was released on 3 November 2014 in the UK, and on 4 November 2014 in the US.
The Hobbit: The Battle of The Five Armies was released on Blu-ray and DVD on 23 March 2015 in the United Kingdom and on 24 March in the United States. An Extended Edition of the film containing 20 minutes of additional footage and original music was released on 17 November 2015 in the United States and on 23 November in the United Kingdom.
An Unexpected Journey has won the "Technical Achievement" award by the Houston Film Critics Society, who also nominated it for "Best Original Song", the award for "Outstanding Virtual Cinematography" by the Visual Effects Society, and the Empire Awards for "Best Actor" and "Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy". Among others, the film has also received three Academy Award nominations, a nomination from the Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association, four nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics Association, six nominations from the Visual Effects Society, and three nominations from the Phoenix Film Critics Society.An Unexpected Journey — Nominations: 3; 1 award (non-competitive)
The Desolation of Smaug — Nominations: 3
The Battle of the Five Armies - Nominations: 1
At an industry event screening in April 2012, Peter Jackson showed a ten-minute clip of the film, and the new High Frame Rate 48 fps format received "an underwhelming reaction at best", while Variety stated that the footage "looked distinctively sharper and more immediate than everything shown before it, giving the 3D smoother movement and crisp sharpness". It also reported that it lost "the cinematic glow of the industry-standard 24 fps" and that "human actors seemed overlit and amplified in a way that many compared to modern sports broadcasts... and daytime television". One projectionist complained that "it looked like a made-for-TV movie".
Peter Jackson claimed that the poor reception "wasn't particularly surprising" because "it does take you a while to get used to it. Ten minutes is sort of marginal, it probably needed a little bit more". However, once the entire film was released, many critics retained their complaints. While many noted the clarity and immediacy of the action scenes, they also criticised the picture quality as "hyper-real," clear enough to detect "painted sets" and "prosthetic noses". Some critics did respond positively to the overall effect of the higher frame rate, saying it just takes a while to get used to – still allowing that the extra clarity can make some scenes look like "actors on a set rather than a scene in a movie".
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was also released in the current 24 fps standard in many theatres, some of which had not yet switched from film to digital projection.
On 6 October 2011, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and U.S. toy company The Bridge Direct announced their partnership on worldwide master toy rights for The Hobbit films. The toy line will include action figures, playsets and role-play accessories like swords and battle axes representing the characters and weapons in the films.
The first wave of toy products hit store shelves in October 2012, ahead of the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. U.S. retailers that carry the toy line include Toys "R" Us, Kmart, and Walmart. Games Workshop released miniatures from The Hobbit as part of The Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle Game. The company has had rights to produce miniatures from the original book for some years but has not released any lines, save for a stand-alone game based on the Battle of Five Armies, with original designs not related to The Lord of the Rings films.
While a number of companies were vying for The Hobbit deal, Warner Bros. Consumer Products awarded the license to Bridge Direct partly because some of its execs and staffers had worked on The Lord of the Rings toy line during their tenure at other toy companies, including Toy Biz and Play Along. The Bridge Direct, run by toy business veteran Jay Foreman, is best known for toys such as Inkoos activity plush, and the Zhu Zhu Pets plush line.
On 16 December 2011, Warner Bros. Consumer Products and Lego announced the development of figures and play sets based on the upcoming adaptations of The Hobbit as well as The Lord of the Rings. The launch of the Lego The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released to coincide with the release of the film adaptation's first part in December 2012.
Following the expiration in 2008 of Electronic Arts' license to The Lord of the Rings, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment acquired the rights to develop a video game based on The Hobbit. When Guillermo del Toro was set to direct he had stated that a video game, if it were to be made, would not be released to tie-in with The Hobbit film, but rather after their release. Del Toro had stated that while he would like to be involved in the video game's creation, making it at the same time as the film would complicate things due to a "tight schedule". In October 2011, Warner Bros. confirmed that a Hobbit video game would be released in 2012, before the first film's release. However, the studio did not confirm whether or not the game would be a tie-in with the film.
Warner Brothers developed two free-to-play online strategy games in collaboration with Kabam for promoting the film series which were The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth released for Android and iOS on 8 November 2012 and The Hobbit: Armies of the Third Age playable online on web browsers and as a Facebook app that was released on 21 March 2013.
Monolith Productions developed Guardians of Middle-earth, which was released on 4 December 2012 for PlayStation 3 via the PlayStation Network, and 5 December 2012 for Xbox 360 via Xbox Live Arcade. Guardians of Middle-earth delivers a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game set in Middle-earth and crafted specifically for the console systems. Gamers can play in teams of up to 10 players in strategic five versus five competitive multiplayer battle arenas in the epic setting of Middle-earth. Players can develop and master more than 20 guardians, including Gandalf, Sauron, Gollum and many more, forming memorable and unlikely alliances with and against friends. Gamers can connect via an in-game voice communication system, as well as access a comprehensive online stat and leader board system where they can track friends’ victories and defeats. The game featured tie-ins to the released The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey motion picture which released on 14 December 2012.
On 25 November, Warner Brothers confirmed Lego The Hobbit video game. The game's levels only took place in the first two films. The game was released 8 April 2014.
Two video games were developed to coincide with the film's theatrical release.
A tie-in fighting video game was released simultaneously with the film for Android and iOS platforms which received negative reviews from critics and users.
Shadow of Mordor was a critically acclaimed Action-adventure video game released for Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 4 & Xbox One in October 2014 and for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 on 21 November, nearly a week prior to The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies world premiere in London, on 1 December. The events of the game take place directly after Sauron fled to Mordor, escaping The White Council, which was shown at the beginning of the film. The game was planned to act as an overlap between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.