The Wall Street Journal opened a new interview with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey director Peter Jackson using a question about the second film in his trilogy, The Desolation of Smaug.

Jackson was asked about Benedict Cumberbatch’s role as Smaug, a dragon dreamed up by author J.R.R. Tolkien who appears at the very end of An Unexpected Journey and pays a key role further in the trilogy.

“Benedict Cumberbatch has recorded the voice and done motion capture, which we’re going to use to create the emotional presence of Smaug, because Smaug does talk in the books,” Jackson explained. “He’s got dialogue and Benedict’s done a fantastic voice for us.”

Jackson and his team took care to appreciate the unique qualities of the dragon. One of his most original features is the fact that he is a “classic storybook dragon.” Smaug “made an impact on kids reading these stories,” said Jackson. “Of course since then there’s been hundreds of dragons, I mean dragons are not unusual. So the challenge with Smaug was to make him stand out as the granddaddy of all scary dragons. So we’re doing that probably with design and Benedict’s performance. The slyness, the cunning, the way that he ultimately – it’s almost like a situation the same as Andy Serkis and Gollum. It’s not just the physical appearance, the way the character’s portrayed in the movie is going to be critically important.”

Elsewhere in the WSJ interview Jackson spoke about pulling from other Tolkien material, including The Lord of the Rings, to dream up three Hobbit films. He says that in addition to appendices found with The Return of The King, he went into The Fellowship of The Ring and used the “Council of Elrond” chapter. “It’s a very long chapter and Gandalf is talking to the group who are gathered, and he talks a lot about events that were happening at the time of The Hobbit and things that were not necessarily in the book. So that material was actually quite useful too for The Hobbit.”

An Unexpected Journey opens this Friday, December 14. Desolation of Smaug hits theaters Friday, December 13, 2013. Read our review, and for fun, learn which friends you should and shouldn’t take to your Hobbit premiere party.

Note: The image of Smaug used above is fan art by Moonchild.

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