Paradise Take 2: Jackson talks 'The Hobbit' locations

As the second instalment of 'The Hobbit' Trilogy – 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' – opens in cinemas around the world, there are plenty of reasons to put a smile on the face of film director Sir Peter Jackson.

Since the much-awaited world première in Hollywood last week, Jackson and his leading cast members - Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Evangeline Lilly, Luke Evans, Benedict Cumberbatch, Aidan Turner, and Dean O’Gorman - have also walked the red carpet in Berlin for the European première.

"I’ve enjoyed making these as much as I’ve enjoyed doing anything in my life," Sir Peter told CBS ‘This Morning’.

"This movie - the pace and the sort of energy of it, I think is almost reflecting my kind of increased excitement and enthusiasm and spirit as I go along."

Book of New Zealand

In the lead up to the Hollywood première, Sir Peter was in Los Angeles for the movie’s media junket and making appearances for the press on the Book of New Zealand - a spectacular giant pop-up book at the Beverly Hilton Hotel telling the story of the real New Zealand landscapes featured in his latest film.

Rising 15 metres and roughly the size of two tennis courts side-by-side, the larger than life Book of New Zealand was divided into four sets featuring backdrops and props from the movie sets - Hidden Bay (Turoa, Ruapehu); Forest River (Pelorus, Marlborough); Lake-town (Lake Pukaki / Mt Cook); Beorn’s House (Paradise, Queenstown).

The highly detailed sets were filled with genuine props and original set construction from the film sets that had been transported in six shipping containers from New Zealand and reassembled in Los Angeles by the same team that designed and built them for the film.

The Book of New Zealand was open for five days hosting a series of private events for cast, media and VIPs, and public visits for Los Angeles The Hobbit Trilogy fans.

Exclusive interview

Sir Peter Jackson took time out from a busy media schedule to share the magic of Middle-earth New Zealand through an exclusive Tourism New Zealand interview on the Book of New Zealand.

Sitting on set in Paradise, with the magnificent backdrop of the now famous film location near Queenstown in New Zealand’s South Island, Sir Peter described in detail the reasons why these principal locations were chosen for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

"Tolkien is very vivid in the way he describes landscapes. In these books the landscape and the environment and even the weather, and the heather or the moss or the grass is described in quite loving detail so you come away with a strong sense of landscape having read the books.

"And, so for us, that was always an important factor in the movies."

Sir Peter explains the reality of the New Zealand landscapes that inspired his Middle-earth, the varying nature of the terrain and how each fits the fantasy of the film as he talks through the majestic alpine landscape surrounding Lake Pukaki, the deep waters of Pelorus in Marlborough, and the tranquil rural valley of Paradise near Queenstown.

Paradise, Queenstown - Beorn’s House

The epic landscapes of New Zealand’s vast Southern Lakes region are a cinematographer’s dream. Dramatic untouched wilderness with immense geographic diversity makes this other-worldly region the epitome of Middle-earth.

"Paradise is always a favourite for film crews. I mean quite a few movies have shot in Paradise and I’ve shot there - Lord of the Rings, Lovely Bones we shot some sequences in Paradise," says Jackson.

"It’s a very film friendly place. It just felt like to actually build a set rather than in a studio … you build it in a location, and you get all that - an amazing vista and the views."

Lake Pukaki / Mt Cook - Lake-town

While the irresistible beauty of this Middle-earth landscape is obvious, the Lake Pukaki / Mt Cook region also offers an endless backdrop with plenty of room to move - a wild expanse, virtually unencumbered by human population and evidence of settlement, that is also highly accessible.

"We wanted a lake that was surrounded by mountains - that had a good view - but we also had to be reasonably close to a city or a town because we needed accommodation for everybody. We were going to have to have a large number of extras and so there is a lot of different factors that you have to weigh in.

"You know you’re looking up the lake and you’ve got Mt Cook right at the end of the lake - it’s a pretty incredible view, an amazing view."

Pelorus Marlborough - Forest River

Pelorus River was the final location chosen by the film director. Jackson must have had a very clear idea in his head because the location scouts spent a long time searching out the ideal spot - a river with a solid rock shoreline surrounded by forest with a sandy beach for the barrels to come ashore - to backdrop the extensive ‘dwarves escaping in barrels’ scene.

"Pelorus - it’s interesting again because we had to have dwarves floating in barrels. So we had to have somewhere which is quite deep. And I wanted some rocks.

"I wanted a kind of a really fantastical looking environment around the river.

"So I had seen Pelorus when I was with my parents. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, we had gone on a driving tour around New Zealand. And I remember standing on that thinking wow this would be such an amazing place for skeletons to fight or for the sort of things I was seeing in these movies. And I always had it logged in the back of my mind."

"It’s interesting because Tolkien wrote these books. He created the mythology. He actually said in some of the letters he wrote, he said that mythologies should be built on and adapted by other people in other mediums. It’s like that’s what mythology is, it expands, it completes. And now New Zealand has played its role in the mythology of Middle-earth, and it will always be there."

About The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Present a Wing Nut Films Production, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. The film is a production of New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures (MGM), with New Line managing production. Warner Bros. Pictures is handling worldwide theatrical distribution, with select international territories as well as all international television distribution being handled by MGM. The film will be released worldwide beginning 13 December 2013.