On The Set Of The Hobbit, Joining Peter Jackson On An Unexpected Journey

By Eric Eisenberg 2012-10-24 17:37:11discussion comments
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Bringing The Characters To Life
Given the incredible number of dwarves, goblins, hobbits and other assorted monsters in the movie, the hair, makeup and prosthetics department of The Hobbit production is constantly working to get actors prepared for being in front of the camera, whether they are having their entire look changed or just getting a wig and a big nose. During our second day touring the production, we were brought into the hair, make-up and prosthetic design department – with featured walls lined with hundreds of wigs and various life-like silicon feet, arms and more – where we discovered the painstaking task that comes with creating hobbits, dwarves and a variety of other beings during the shoot.

“The longest make-up of the dwarves is the Bombur make-up, which is the highly more intense one,” said Tami Lane, the film’s Oscar winning prosthetics advisor. “He's the only one with a full face, like cheeks under the eyes, forehead, chin piece, chin hair, bald-- He's about an hour and three-quarters. And our shortest make-up is Kili, who for us, for prosthetics, is thirty minutes or less. Today, he was done in twenty. But that's 'cause he has just a nose. He's one of our ones that doesn't have the full forehead, he just has a nose.”

The department is a major part of the production, and has as many as 55 and 60 people working at one time. We were told that there was a scene coming up the next day with over 200 actors involved needing work done. And that doesn’t even include the work done on the principal cast. Peter King, the picture’s makeup and hair designer, said that they had six wigs and eight beards for each member of the Dwarf company, mostly because of the different ways the characters were being shot.

“We've had to cover them in so many different aspects, King said. “The artists themselves have had to have two, then there's been a scale double, a mask double, a riding double, a stunt double-- That's six, yeah. And then we've had a couple of extra beards, 'cause we've actually taken wigs and put them on masks and taken them off and put them on people, what with the two units going as well.”

A major boon to the production, however, is that not only were members of the staff around back when they were making The Lord of the Rings trilogy (Lane and King included), they were actually able to take pieces made during the production of those films and reapply them for The Hobbit. An example of this is the elf ears, which they learned is best made from gelatin instead of silicone. “They're easy to go on, but the downfalls on this is they suffer under heat and moisture,” Lane told us. “But since they're just on the ear tip, you don't actually sweat on your ears, so they maintain pretty well. The one make-up technology that's been kept the same thirteen years ago is still the same now, is the Elf ears.”

While they weren’t able to reuse prosthetics from the first trilogy, wigs are a different story. King said that at the start of production they were able to go back and take the hair pieces for Cate Blanchett’s Galdriel, Orlando Bloom’s Legolas and Elijah Wood’s Frodo and recycle them for The Hobbit. In addition to being a real time saver, the decision also saved the movie a good amount a money. Why? Because wigs are surprisingly super expensive.

“$10,000,” King revealed when asked about the cost of an individual wig. “To have make this wig, is around five thousand pounds, so that's about ten thousand dollars… It's not cheap. I get the wigs made in England. Best wig maker in the world. And Peter, we've used-- On all Peter Jackson's films now, he's made all the wigs for everything we've ever done. They are the best. They are probably the most expensive as well, but you do see it when you see it on the screen.”
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