New Release Interview: The Desolation of Smaug Visual Companion by Jude Fisher


the hobbit visual companionThe Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is coming to movie theaters in a few weeks.

It will likely be the largest grossing film of 2013, if I am a guessing man. That is not all. The movie is surrounded by a plethora of merchandising, some of it pretty mediocre, some of it absolutely fantastic.

It is easy for me to report that The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Visual Companion by Jude Fisher is one of the latter. It is a gorgeous book, filled with new photos, artwork, and behind-the-scenes type of information that any Tolkien lover would… well… love!

The person who brought it to life? Jude Fisher. She has been responsible for five previous Tolkien Visual Companions and she has a long history now of working with Peter Jackson and company. She has been allowed into the inner circle. And it has allowed her to create something beautiful and unique.

Here is more about The Desolation of Smaug Visual Companion:

The second epic instalment of Peter Jackson’s trilogy The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will see The Company of Thorin Oakenshield encounter even greater perils in their quest to claim their long-forgotten gold.

After setting out from the safety of Bag End, Bilbo Baggins has journeyed through Middle-earth with his fourteen companions, fighting through fire, Wargs, Goblins and even escaping the creature known simply as Gollum.

Introduced by Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin Oakenshield, and with over 100 rich illustrations, the Visual Companion is the perfect guide to the Company’s passage to Erebor and the Dragon that awaits them…

I asked Jude Fisher to join me here on Unbound Worlds in an interview.

Here is her interview:


Shawn Speakman: THE HOBBIT: THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG VISUAL COMPANION is in bookstores now! How did you become a part of this beautiful book and what can readers expect within its pages?


Jude Fisher: I was – under my real name of Jane Johnson – for many years the UK publisher of the Tolkien list and was the editor to commission artists John Howe and Alan Lee to illustrate Middle-earth in books and calendars (including Alan’s amazing illustrated editions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit). It was as a result of that involvement that I was invited by Peter Jackson to visit New Zealand in September 2000 to watch filming of Lord of the Rings (or ‘your book’ as he termed it…). He had been inspired by their paintings and had pitched the look of Middle-earth to Hollywood execs by pasting copies of many of their illos onto moodboards to give them the idea of how the world of the movie might appear. I came away from that trip awe-struck and in love with the entire venture and at once offered my services, under the pseudonym of Jude Fisher, to David Brawn, who had taken over Tolkien publishing after I’d stepped back to pursue a writing career. My relationship with the team continued when Peter took back the filming of The Hobbit.

The Visual Companions offer a guide to Middle-earth, a companion for fans who want to know more about the world in which the story unfolds, about the dangers, the philosophy and the magic that underpin the tale and the characters and creatures that populate Tolkien’s world. We get the chance to choose images from thousands of production stills and on-set photos and our publishing team has, I think, made a beautiful job of designing the book.

Shawn Speakman: You worked on the THE LORD OF THE RINGS COMPLETE VISUAL COMPANION as well as AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY VISUAL COMPANION. What kind of access did you have with Weta / New Line / Peter Jackson during all of those projects? See anything that you had to keep to yourself since the new movie isn’t in theaters yet?

Jude Fisher: I was dubbed ‘the 10th member of the Fellowship of the Ring‘ by Lord of the Rings producer, Barrie Osborne, I spent so much time in New Zealand during the filming! So, yes, I saw all manner of things that never made it to the big screen on those amazing visits. I went on location all over South Island and can attest to the fishing abilities of Aragon and his acolytes, Merry and Pippin and Legolas (though rather less to their cooking skills). I saw all sorts of miracles being produced by Richard Taylor and his team at Weta, and by Dan Hennah’s Art Department and all at such an early stage in the evolution of these movies, before anyone really had any idea how immense – both artistically and financially – they were going to be. By the time The Hobbit was being made though, the world had entirely changed shape: everyone knew these were blockbuster movies and New Line had given way to Warner Bros. Security is extremely tight! I have signed away my house, my husband’s life and my own on keeping schtum till the movie is released, so all the secrets I am allowed to divulge are in the book!

Shawn Speakman: What did you enjoy most about delving into Middle-earth?

Jude Fisher: I think the greatest revelation of all has been seeing John Howe and Alan Lee bringing their artistic vision to life under Peter’s guidance, or with his indulgence! They are both so brilliant at capturing every aspect of the world, so caught up in the details. To see Lake-town emerging into maquette form from their hundreds of drawings, and then to a full-sized set complete with lake (!) was incredible. And then to see the already phenomenal landscape of New Zealand given the Art Department’s tweaks simply transported me into the heart of Middle-earth. Still the most magical moment of all for me was driving through wilderness to Mount Potts on a crisp October morning in 2000 to find an almost-deserted Anglo-Saxon settlement on a crag above me, and then climbing up to it to discover Alan Lee putting tiny finishing touches to the Golden Hall of Edoras the day before filming was due to start. That will stay with me till my dying day.

Shawn Speakman: Out of curiosity, how many times have you read THE HOBBIT? Watched AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY?

Jude Fisher: Interesting question and probably an unexpected answer! It was LOTR I came to first, at the age of 11, and I was utterly captivated by it, felt as if I had suddenly found my place in the world. I read and reread it every year, specialised in Anglo-Saxon and then Old Icelandic at university because these were Tolkien’s subjects and fell into my job in publishing – at George Allen & Unwin, JRRT’s original publisher – because of the spell that book cast over me. I didn’t read The Hobbit till I was 13 or 14, by which time I was a bit too old for it. So I’ve read it only half a dozen times rather than the 20+ times I’ve read LOTR. I’ve seen the first movie 4 times, and keep finding new things to love in it.

Shawn Speakman: Most people find themselves in love with Bilbo or Thorin when they read THE HOBBIT. Do you have a favorite character?

Jude Fisher: My problem was I was already spoiled by having fallen head over heels for Aragorn at age 11, so no one was ever going to top that. I do rather adore Smaug, though.

Shawn Speakman: I have to ask: Did you fall head over heels for Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn then?

Jude Fisher: No human woman or elven maid could resist Viggo in Aragorn mode. ? He’s a fine man and a good friend.

Shawn Speakman: What is the coolest thing people can look forward to in THE DESOLATION OF SMAUG VISUAL COMPANION?

Jude Fisher: In the Visual Companion to Desolation you’ll find, amongst many other things, spreads dedicated to Beorn and skin-changers; Dol Guldur and the Necromancer; the history of the enmity between the Dwarves and the Elves; the Elves of the Woodland Realm, including Tauriel, head of the king’s guard; Lake-town and its inhabitants; and of course dragons… There’s also a gloriously gruesome photo of Azog the Defiler. But I think the coolest thing of all in the book is Richard Armitage’s very fine introduction in which he talks about the effect of dragon-sickness on Thorin Oakenshield and the dangerous parallels in our own world that too great a love of gold can inflict. It’s beautifully written and very thoughtful.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Visual Companion by Jude Fisher & Richard Armitage is available in fine bookstores now!

Beware the dragon!