At last night’s BAFTA awards, the brilliant acting performance of Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game lost out to the equally as brilliant acting performance of Eddie Redmayne as theoretical physicist, Stephen Hawking, in The Theory of Everything. When looking back at where both actors are at the moment and how they got to this point in their acting careers, there’s no questioning the genius talents of both actors. While Redmayne is most notably known for his performances in My Week with Marilyn and Birdsong and Cumberbatch will forever be linked to his current five-year stint as Sherlock Holmes in the BBC/PBS production of Sherlock, it’s his performance as Smaug in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug that we thought we’d focus on today.
On the surface, this may seem like an easy gig…voicing an animated dragon. But this is Benedict Cumberbatch. He didn’t simply voice the dragon, he also acted out the role in a motion-capture suit. In addition, as evidenced by the screen grab above, little motion capture tracking dots were placed onto Cumberbatch’s face and he was fitted with a helmet that had a miniature camera attached to capture his every facial movement.
It was Andy Serkis, who played Gollum in Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films, who told Cumberbatch: “Treat it like you’re playing the role. Don’t think you’re just providing the voice. Go in there physically. Get what you can out of it. There will be head turns. There will be moments from that performance that you give that can be pulled out and extrapolated and will become part of Smaug’s being”. To further prepare for the role, Cumberbatch told the Los Angeles Times last year that he went to the London Zoo to study animals including lizards.
For a complete look at Cumberbatch’s transformation from actor to Smaug, check out the step-by-step process from Business Insider.