U. of U. theater professor helps “Hobbit” denizens find their voices
Published: December 14, 2012 12:46PM
Updated: December 17, 2012 11:15AM
(L-r) Dwarves Ken Stott as Balin, John Callen as Oin, William Kircher as Bifur, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield (center) and Graham McTavish as Dwalin in the fantasy adventure ìThe Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey."

People who see “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” this weekend can thank a University of Utah professor for the good diction of the hobbits, wizards, dwarves, elves and Orcs.

Sarah Shippobotham, associate professor in the U.’s Department of Theatre and head of that department’s Actor Training Program, spent eight months in New Zealand working as a dialect coach on the epic movie — largely working with the film’s second-unit director, Andy Serkis (who also performs the character Gollum).

Shippobotham told RedThread, the University of Utah’s blog, “it was an amazing experience to work on such a huge production.”

She got the job thanks to a former classmate from London’s Central School of Speech and Drama, who was already working on the film and recommended her when the production needed a second coach. Shippobotham worked not only on helping the cast with their British accents, but also with three made-up languages: Elvish, Dwarvish and Orcs’ Black Speech.

“I loved working with the Orcs,” Shippobotham said. “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.”