Everyone seems intent on reporting on The Hobbit “starting” every time anything at all happens with the production, from the first costume test, to the first time Jackson steps on set, to the actual first call of “action.” It’s going to get pretty tiring pretty quick, but it’s understandable considering how long this film has been gestating, and the half-dozen major setbacks that have endangered the whole endeavor. Well now you can rest assured, Jackson and his crew have rolled camera, and have presumably dumped many many gigabytes of 3D RED data onto many many redundant RAID systems. We know this because Sir Ian McKellen took the time to write a little blog about his final costume tests, and specifically mentions that Jackson is off “filming in a cave.”

It’s a short, but delicately written little musing on the process of entering back into Gandalf’s costume and nose, written on his charmingly ugly official page.

There are a few interesting little facts that I’ve pulled out, but you should take a few minutes to read it below. Along with the pictures of Jackson on set, it strikes a comfortable and warm tone that reminds one why, despite all the questions and anxieties over the value or approach to these films, we’ve all crossed a secret finger or two for them to happen. It’s also clear that despite his distaste for the “deadness” of film (something he mentioned over-and-over every time I had the privilege to hear him speak at the Savannah Film Festival) he has a true love for this story, this crew, and these films…

– Gandalf’s costume will be muchly the same, but has 2 additions of authenticity: black boots and a scarf, as described by Tolkien.

– McKellen doesn’t yet know what to say about the difference in acting for 3D and 2D will be. He does know it will be something like this…

– Each Dwarf that will accompany Bilbo has both a full-sized principle cast member who will be integrated with effects and forced perspective, as well as a “near-identical” dwarf-scale double accompanying them.

You can read the entry right here, which is clearly and absolutely McKellen’s prose (but don’t forget to drop by his site to check out the late-90s design!). Also take another look below at CHUD’s video of McKellen describing his experience of filming with the Balrog, the site’s first-ever viral video.

The entry-

Principal photography of The Hobbit began on 21 March, without me.

Meanwhile, all the characters have been having screen-tests, so that the effect of make-up and costume can be assessed through the camera lens, before shooting begins in earnest and it’s too late for corrections.

I’m very sorry to have missed, the other sunny day, the first mass emergence from their trailers and make-up chairs, of not only our 13 heroic dwarves but also their 13 small-scale doubles — shorter, near-identical versions of the principals.  Looking at the designs, they are nothing like garden furniture (those are gnomes NOT dwarves).  Everyone who saw the first parade of two Thoren Oakenshields plus 24 assorted dwarves was mightily impressed!

With Bilbo already filming, this was final proof that The Hobbit is well and truly underway.

The wizard still had to be tested.  So, done up as Gandalf, I’m placed on a floor-mark and asked to walk toward the camera slowly, turning this way and that like a slo-mo model, so everyone can judge from her/his specialist point of view.  Everyone includes the director Peter Jackson, who attends, without fuss, to every detail; his fellow-producers and screenplay-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens; make-up chief Peter King; Richard Taylor (with an eye to WETA’s sculpted nose); Ann Maskrey, the costume designer.

The original costume I wore in LOTR hangs rather mournfully on a stand by the camera.  I can’t wear it in The Hobbit, because it has been noted “of historic status.”  Ann has made two changes which few may notice but please me because they revert to Tolkien’s introduction in Fellowship of the Ring, where he mentions a silver scarf and black boots.  In the film, a scarf appeared just once, tied to Gandalf’s cart at Hobbiton but oddly not thereafter.  I now have a substantial, magic-looking silvery scarf to wear and act with and perhaps find some part of its own to play.  I’ve already twisted it into a stylish turban.  And, as per JRR Tolkien, below the familiar gown, a new pair of black boots may be spied.  They will not look new of course.  They are riding boots, the sort that can be pulled on in a hurry.  Gandalf is often in a hurry.  His previous boots were laced and needed Emma to get on and off.  Not good for a wizard on the run.  And they were grey not black.

All are nearly content — yet still the nose is not as it was or as it should be, all agree.  Why?  A book is consulted.  A glorious book.  I have it at home, with other LOTR treasures, the farewell present from Philippa and the Jackson’s ten years ago.  It has 100 photographs, iconic and mischievous, a family album of people rather than places.  Gandalf’s nose features in a couple of full-page close-ups.  What’s different to the way I look now?

Overnight at WETA, close to his Oscars, Richard, who is confident he knows the answer, models a new nose on the plaster cast of my face.  It’s a little longer on the bridge, less bulbous by the nostrils.  Later in the day, Rick sticks it on while I snooze.  One glance at the beak in the mirror and off we confidently go to show Peter, who’s filming in a cave; Fran and Philippa too.  Again the album is consulted.  Smiles all round.

31 March

A well-wisher on my Facebook page asks what difference it will make, acting in front of a 3D camera for the first time.
Answer: I’ll let you know, when I know.

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