In an interview with Empire Magazine, kiwi actor Manu Bennett discusses his role as the bane to all dwarves in 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'. The fearsome and relentless Pale Orc, Azog the Defiler, revealed that Azog was actually a late inclusion to the film, the name of his pet warg, and what the future for Azog holds.
Bennett reveals that Jackson called him up and asked him to play the role of Azog as a last minute thing, meaning that he had to fly out on weekends around his filming for 'Spartacus' to film for the role only four weeks before the premier.
"I was in the studio doing things for Azog four weeks before the premiere! In some ways I was the final ingredient to the whole thing. Being called in that late meant I missed out on the whole promotional machine. There were no images or footage of Azog in the trailers, because nothing was available"
We also learn that the images of Bolg (Azog's rather menacing son) were originally planned to be Azog's appearance, however Jackson pulled a last minute bait and switch and decided to make Azog a hulking CGI-fuelled beast.
"The design that ended up as Bolg was originally meant for Azog. Azog was going to be a seven-foot giant, played with prosthetics, but Peter changed his mind and decided to go with something less bulky, and played with motion-capture. I think his decision surprised everybody at the time."
Motion-capture has been used in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit universe extensively. We've seen it with Andy Serkis' Gollum in both Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, we will see it in Benedict Cumberbatch's performance as Smaug in Desolation of Smaug and finally with Bennett's performance. Bennett talks about the technology, and advice Andy Serkis himself had given him.
"The acting potential expands, because you leave your own body. It's like Tron, getting sucked into a videogame. You no longer exist and all that's left is the role." That was spot on. I had to create an emotional world for Azog. I remember sitting on a pummel horse, imagining it was a giant wolf. I called up to Peter and asked what kind of relationship I had with my warg. Because I thought it had to be a Lone Ranger and Silver kind of thing, with a connection between the two"
Bennett then shows his soft side, by revealing that this has lead to him affectionately naming the giant warg he rides Daisy. However it's not all light-hearted as we also learn that there will not be more Azog action in the Christmas release of the extended cut DVD. But Bennett does leave us with the promise that both Azog, and his warg Daisy have got roles to play in the next two films.
"Peter's told me that he's going to build Azog up over the next two films, so I'm getting plenty to do. I don't want to give anything away, but Daisy has a role to play"
Which I think we can all agree is exciting news, Azog's role in the first film was underwhelming, but with promise of Jackson's plans and the introduction of Bolg played by Conan Stevens (who was initially playing Azog), leading to a potential father-son relationship. As well as Azog's developing relationship with his warg, and the fruition of his vendetta against Thorin Oakenshield, he could yet be an important and impressive part of the final two films. You can read the whole review here.