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Tolkien-Inspired Celebrities Descend on New Zealand

Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays the title role in the television series Sherlock, will soon be travelling to New Zealand for his part in The Hobbit. He will perform as the dragon Smaug, providing the voice as well as the movement, through the magic of motion capture. He will also voice the mysterious Necromancer.

Cumberbatch described his first experience with The Hobbit, “My father [television actor] Timothy Carlton read it to me when I went to bed as a youngster, so it was the first book I had in my head and it fired my imagination. So I owe it all to my dad really.” He’s hoping to repay the favor by having his dad and mom visit him. “I’ve never been to New Zealand and I’m really looking forward to going there,” he said. “I hope he and my mother can come and join me for some travelling around the North and South islands after filming.”

Mikael Persbrandt, who is well-known in his native Sweden for his many roles onscreen and onstage, is already in New Zealand to play the shape shifter Beorn in The Hobbit. Persbrandt also has a personal history with stories by Tolkien. “When I was young I searched for every book that Tolkien wrote in old bookshops in Stockholm,” he said. “I had them all and I still have them. I was like 14, you know, that age when you want to escape. I drew the maps; I was living in it. So it’s a fabulous story that I’m in it now. For me it’s a saga.” Surely, all of that early study helped prepare him for his role in the film!

Now that he’s in the South Island, he explains his take on the production, “It’s a very big project, but it feels small and familiar when you are on set, unlike other Hollywood productions.” And after playing a number of police officers brandishing guns, he enjoys getting to work in the world that Tolkien and Peter Jackson have created. He said, “It thrills me to work with directors who have a universe of their own.”

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