The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings are among the most influential and exciting fantasy adventures of all time. J.R.R. Tolkien's sprawling epic essentially wrote the handbook for what makes a great story, and served as a template for many fantasy-based projects since.
The acclaimed movie adaptations were also seen as massive game-changers for cinema, and a VFX artist who worked on The Hobbit, Jarom Sidwell, used his experience playing an orc to help bring his new VR game DvG: Conquering Giants (which is based on the story of David and Goliath) to life.
We were recently able to catch up with Sidwell and chat about the game, and he told us about some of the fun mechanics and how his time on The Hobbit helped considerably with designing DvG.
To hear our full chat with Sidwell, click the podcast player below. Tolkien superfans can also find our exclusive interview with The Lord of the Rings' Gimli and Treebeard actor John Rhys-Davies (Indiana Jones) along with the transcript below.
Darth Lexii: There were some insane battles in Avatar, The Hobbit, and Avengers. What has been your favorite project out of those mainstream films?
Jarom Sidwell: I got to be in The Hobbit. Usually, I'm the guy behind a computer, making some sweet graphics and animations. But I got to be in The Hobbit. They did a casting call for tall, ugly people. And I just happened to fit the bill. I got to go in and be an orc in The Battle of Five Armies. I thought, "This is going to be cool; I'm going to wield a sword and huck some dwarves and elves out of my way." But we spent so much time learning from Middle Earth experts about how orcs work, who they were, what they like, what they ate for breakfast. We'd get there early in the morning, and from 5:00 AM till nine, ten, eleven o'clock at night, we were practicing how orcs moved, slashed, walked, and that they were evil to their core. It was such a fascinating experience because I thought orcs were just secondary characters; I'm only one of the thousands of orcs. But I learned so much about making the character real and come to life. When we were doing DvG, I wanted you to feel like you are David, and wolves are attacking you, and you are trying to grasp what it means to take care of your flock and what it means to protect your family. Being an orc was an excellent experience that prepared me for this.
Darth Lexii: Were you a fan of The Hobbit or the Lord of the Rings before you worked on the film?
Jarom Sidwell: Oh yeah, of course. I'll tell you the time that I ate breakfast with Gandalf dressed as an orc. I'm dressed as an orc, and it takes you two hours to get dressed as an orc with all of the armor, the mask, and the little bits of makeup. After that, I go to breakfast. I'm sitting there, and we're all in costume because we're going to shoot at any time. I started to eat my morning oatmeal, trying to feed it through my mask. And it was drooling down in front of my chin. I have no idea because I can't feel it. I think I'm doing a great job of getting it in my mouth. Because of the masks, we sound like orcs anyway with anything we say. I'm sitting there, and I'm trying to mind my business and be respectful of the wizard himself. And he looked up at me, and he was like, "Sir, I don't know if you know this, but you have porridge all down your chin." (Laughs) Now, I'm going to make sure and eat at the orc table down in the corner next time.
Comic Brooks: Seeing Goliath, I was like, "This guy's huge." It was so intimidating. What went through your mind when you created him to give that feeling of a challenging obstacle to overcome?
Jarom Sidwell: I'm going to tie this back with my experience as an orc. When I was on set, Andy Serkis directed the second unit where we were the orcs battling it out. When he would say, "Elves ready!" This was when we were facing off versus the elves, and the elves would snap to attention. You'd hear it throughout the arena. Then it would be "Orcs ready!" And we would growl, and I was facing off against maybe an eighteen-year-old guy. Every time I would get into my pose and growl, he would fumble with his sword. That fear, where we were known as orcs, the Gundabad Orcs, and we were here to insight fear and cause people to shake in their boots, which is what was happening. I wanted that same feeling with Goliath. The first time you see him, you're like, I've fought a wolf, a lion, and a bear at this point. But Goliath is different; he is a lot more aggressive. I'm six foot six in real life, and Goliath is fourteen-feet tall in the game. It was pretty fun to see ten-year-olds who are four feet tall versus a fourteen-foot giant.
*This article has been edited for clarity*
DvG is a reimagined immersive experience that puts players in the shoes of a young King David, a shepherd boy. Featuring a vastly detailed world of exploration, the player must protect their flock from predators like wolves, bears, and lions before taking on the giant, Goliath himself.
DvG: Conquering Giants will be available on November 23rd through Steam and Oculus. Also, make sure to check out the game's official website for more information!