A Visit to Hobbiton - Thick Pipe Smoke Fills the Air...
Greetings from Hobbiton
by John Forde
E!Online - February 1, 2000
Hamilton, New Zealand Following a monthlong break for the holidays, filming resumed January 17 in three locations: on the Hobbiton set here in Hamilton, a few hours north of Wellington; at Three Foot Six studios in Wellington; and at a recently constructed outdoor location near Wellington where the Battle of Helm's Deep will be filmed over the next few months (mostly at night, with stepped-up security and safety precautions).
A day trip to the Hobbiton site, on five acres of remote farmland, reveals a set that's, well, breathtaking. On our way, we stop at the crest of the hill to look down at the village. There's an old stone mill with a footbridge over a calm lake, with the Green Dragon Inn nestling behind.
Work on the set started in September 1998. While the lake existed prior to LOTR's arrival, most of the land was swamp, which had to be drained and cleared. Crew then laid down 5,000 kiloliters of soil to create the gently rolling hills of Hobbiton. A field overlooking the lake was replowed to appear like hobbit-farmed land.
Gardeners and technicians "repaired" the buildings and tended the flower and vegetable gardens to give a sense of generations of hobbit labor. The polystyrene buildings were expertly painted to look like weather-worn stone and wood, but they were also allowed to age naturally in the open air over the past year. As with the Amon Hen sets we saw last month, Hobbiton looks as if it's been here for years.
And it's not Disney-ized--the set looks real and lived in, with the beauty of a stretch of English countryside. The towering achievement is the ancient oak that stands above Bilbo Baggins' home, Bag End. LOTR crews constructed the tree, handpainting and attaching 250,000 leaves (and a few acorns) to its branches.
Between takes, crew members refill the hobbits' pipes, using a mixture of medicinal paraffin and incense, which creates thick, sweet-smelling smoke.