Sarah Shippobotham, associate professor and head of the Department of Theatre’s Actor Training Program recently returned from living in the Shire for eight months. While hobnobbing with hobbits and wizards, Shippobotham’s job was to be a coach in several British accents as well as an expert in the languages of Elvish, Dwarvish, and Black Speech.
Sarah was chosen as a dialect coach for Peter Jackson’s Hobbit Trilogy starting with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which opened Dec. 14. She most often worked on the second unit, directed by Andy Serkis, yes, Gollum himself. “It was an amazing experience to work on such a huge production,” she says. “This was the first film I have worked on and the sets were incredible. I am used to elaborate sets at the Shaw Festival, but nothing like what I experienced with The Hobbit. …”
Her favorite was the Orcs. “I loved working with the Orcs. I loved the language—Black Speech. I love the ugliness of it. You have to be careful to not go too Russian because it had a sort of Russian feel, but the “L” wasn’t as dark, like Russian. I was always thrilled when there was an Orcish scene.” Sarah worked with one of the main Orcs, Stephen Ure. “We would get together and go over the sounds, words, and intonation for the Orchish and the English and then we would have to rework it when he had his makeup, prosthetics, and teeth in!”
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