There won’t be much of Benedict Cumberbatch in the first Hobbit movie…

Sherlock star hints that his character barely appears in the first part of Peter Jackson's Hobbit trilogy

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Any Tolkien fans particularly keen on Benedict Cumberbatch will have to wait until 2013 to really get the thrust of his Hobbit performance, as the actor has revealed that he’s hardly in the first part of Peter Jackson’s forthcoming trilogy.

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Speaking to journalist Anne Richardson about his role as the evil dragon Smaug in the film, Cumberbatch revealed that he’ll only make a blink-and-you’ll-miss it appearance in An Unexpected Journey, and that most of his screen-time will come in its sequel, There and Back Again.

“I think my eye might open at the end of the first film and then you’ll get the rest of me in the second,” said the 36-year-old Sherlock star.

However this lack of screen-time for Cumberbatch may have had more to do with his busy schedule than any deliberate ploy to side-line him for the first film on the part of its producers.

In an interview given in September 2011 Cumberbatch discussed how his other work committments kept him out of participating in An Unexpected Journey as much as he might have liked. He said: “They’ve been doing the first film and I’ve been doing the second series of Sherlock and another series called Parade’s End for HBO and BBC.”

As well as voicing Smaug, Cumberbatch also provided the dragon’s movements in the films via motion capture technology. Explaining his part, the actor said: “I’m playing Smaug, I mean I’m physicalizing him as a dragon I’m not just doing the voiceover, so it’ll be a physical role which I’m no stranger to.”

And despite having had to endure the “all-important jump suit with balls on it,” Cumberbatch’s enthusiasm for the Hobbit films remains unflagging. Describing An Unexpected Journey, the Parade’s End star said: “It’s going to be an amazing film; it’s going to be a real treat.”

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will be released in British cinemas on Friday 14 December.