We recently had a chance to sit down with Smaug the Dragon, star of the recently released The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The conversation was casual and freewheeling, and Smaug was clearly at ease during our time together. Read on!
Warning: Mild spoilers when Smaug talks about filming.
Laremy: First question, and it’s a toughie. Point blank, what’s with you and all the desolation?
Smaug: Ha, yeah, I’ve taken a lot of flack from my friends about that title. I tried to convince the studio to change it to Smaug’s Big Day Out but no luck so far. I guess I gotta be the guy desolating myself all over the place over here.
Laremy: Classic. So what’s your weekend process like when a film of yours is headed out into theaters? Do you just constantly check the blogs and Twitter to see how people are liking it? Or is it kind of out of your claws at that point?
Smaug: (laughs) Yeah, I mean, I think you’d go crazy if [you were] always kind of monitoring that sort of thing. But in my case Pete [Peter Jackson] had a little get together for a few of us, so it was good to catch up with Orlando [Bloom] and Marty [Martin Freeman]. Those guys are great, really just normal salt of the Earth dudes. It’s funny, whenever I see Pete we’ve got this running gag where he’ll shout, “Look what the dragon dragged in!” And I’ll yell back, “I’m needin’ a Jackson to jack me!” People always laugh when we do it, though we’ve got to be careful when kids are around, lol [Yes, he actually said, "Lol". Weird.]
Laremy: This isn’t meant to offend you, but to open up a larger conversational point I’ve been thinking about. A year ago The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey had an opening weekend of $84 million, and yet this weekend the sequel, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug only managed $73 million. What do you think that’s due to?
Smaug: (laughs) Oh, wait, are you saying that’s on me? Like they put ol’ Smaug in the title and the people stay home? Harsh, man, really harsh.
Laremy: No, I wasn’t saying that at all, what I was getting at was …
Smaug: (laughs, interrupts) Ha, no man, I get what you’re asking, do I feel like me taking on a bigger role this time around might have hurt the financial prospects?
Laremy: More like do you feel there’s anti-dragon sentiment out there, or has something changed that would cause people to be less excited about the franchise as a whole?
Smaug: (pauses) Hmmm. That’s so tough to answer. Putting me on the spot (laughs)! I guess the way I look at it is this, a film like How to Train Your Dragon only opened at $43 million, hell Dragonheart was only $15 million, so in a way I’ve sort of outperformed expectations, haven’t I?
Laremy: But haven’t the Game of Thrones dragons sort of knocked it out of the park recently?
Smaug: Yeah, those little bastards have certainly been killing it lately, haven’t they? But I think it’s all good-natured competition, and randomly I bowl with their dad in a league, so I’ve known them forever.
Laremy: Small world. So what was it like working with Peter Jackson?
Smaug: Oh, Pete is great, he really makes you feel comfortable on set and creates this environment where you feel free to try things. Like, there were a couple scenes, hopefully they’ll make the DVD, where he let me wear a cowboy hat. I mean, clearly I knew it was all a lark, but it really helped loosen up the mood. I think people just get psyched out by this idea of spending half a billion dollars making these huge franchise films, just burning through cash every hour, but Peter wanted us to know that it was okay to play. He made it kind of our sandbox, and I know we all super appreciated that from him.
Laremy: Anything funny happen on set? Any anecdotes you can share?
Smaug: Oh man, I can tell you about this one thing that happened, Marty and all the little dwarf guys were sort of waiting around for craft services to arrive, it had been a long day, but Pete told us to go again on this really dramatic scene where Martin is supposed to be hiding right underneath my wing. Anyway, PJ yells, “action!” and I’m delivering this monologue about how Bilbo (Martin Freeman) has come to meet his doom and all that, and I feel this rubbing underneath my wing, and I look down and Marty is rubbing his bare bottom on me. And he’s got this (laughs) back tattoo, I guess the makeup guys had set him up, that read, “Dragons do it hotter”, and I just lost it. I mean, totally crying, flames coming out of my nostrils, the whole nine. Peter called “cut” and we just all went to get some pizza. God, those guys slay me.
Laremy: Speaking of, how did you keep your flame up for the whole shoot?
Smaug: I can’t lie, it was tough. We were shooting these long days, sometimes 12 or 14 hours, and we’d be going 15 takes where I had to go full out with the fire. Luckily, one of the line producers had this foolproof method for keeping me hot, sort of a trade secret, but we had these giant 3-foot lozenges, sort of this petrol /eucalyptus mix, and God, they helped sooooo much. I don’t know what I would have done with out them. Kate and little Ricky, and the whole crew, mad respect, you guys know how to keep a dragon right.
Laremy: I know you don’t have too much longer, I can see your reps are getting antsy, but a few more questions and then I’ll get you out of here.
Laremy: Do you find this whole “Dragons horde gold” angle in any way offensive?
Smaug: How so?
Laremy: I mean, it’s sort of anachronistic at this point, no?
Smaug: For me, the character is just that though, a part I’m playing. I don’t really get too involved in the politics of everything.
Laremy: But I mean, don’t you sort of owe the other dragons who paved the way? The early ones into the fray, guys like Falcor?
Smaug: First off, we don’t count Falcor, or at least I don’t. I don’t even know what the hell he was. Like a weird dog-bird or something? But to your point, a lot of the gold was CGI. And if people are out there forming opinions about dragons and gold-mongering, then I don’t know what to tell them. In this day and age, you’d have thought we’d moved past that sort of thing.
Laremy: Fair enough. Last question, any future projects in the works?
Smaug: Yeah, I’m working on a spec script with Matthew Broderick, a “fish out of water” sort of pilot, we’re sort of going for Mike and Molly. But with a dragon. And I’ve got another thing going with Pete, we’re always looking at spin-off possibilities, maybe going the rom-com route. It’s been tough going though, there are just so few good working female dragons right now. You wanna talk about something people should be outraged about, take a look into that. There should be a 60 Minutes on that noise.
And with that our time was up. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is in theaters now.