Uncut footage has been released of Benedict Cumberbatch's motion-capture performance as Smaug the dragon in The Hobbit movies. And man, does he go for it. For the actor's first foray into motion-capture, he donned a grey bodysuit and helmet and slinked around on a mat to embody the evil creature. In The Hobbit trilogy, Bilbo Baggins and a party of dwarves invade the Lonely Mountain where Smaug resides and try to reclaim his treasure.
"Well, thief," Cumberbatch snarls in the clip. "I smell you. I hear your breath. I feel your air. Where are you?"
From his body movements to his facial expressions, Cumberbatch really immerses himself in the role. The visual effects team referenced his performance when creating the CGI Smaug for the movies. Director Peter Jackson wanted an actor who would bring more than just his voice to the part.
"We were looking for an actor that was not just going to voice a dragon that we would imagine a dragon would sound like," Jackson said. "We wanted someone who actually would do something original and unexpected, something that was a surprise to us."
In another behind-the-scenes clip from the LA Times, Cumberbatch explains how he had to get into the mindset of playing a giant dragon.
"You kind of have to imagine yourself into a vast creature in a huge space when you're really crawling about on a gray bit of carpet," he said.
Andy Serkis, who used motion-capture to portray Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, gave Cumberbatch some advice on how to make the most of the technology.
"Benedict's choices as an actor were definitely going to affect Smaug, big time. I said, '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,'" Serkis said.
The footage is included on the extended edition Blu-ray and DVD of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug out on Nov. 4. Cumberbatch will reprise his role as Smaug in The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, in theaters Dec. 17.