'Hobbit' special effects guru, Joe Letteri, pays a visit to Pittsburgh

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Joe Letteri's work as senior supervisor of special effects for Weta Digital -- the folks behind "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy and the current holiday blockbuster, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" -- keeps him in New Zealand or jetting from continent to continent on promotional tours. But he still tries to get home to Aliquippa for the holidays, and Friday, he stopped by the PG Studios with his wife, Abby, and daughter, Sofia.

The four-time Oscar winner has piled on awards and nominations for his work on "Avatar," "Rise of Planet of the Apes" and more since joining Peter Jackson and Co., after a decade of designing special effects for George Lucas' Industrial Light & Magic, where his first big effect was to help create the ringed explosion of the Klingon moon Praxis in the movie "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country."

Weather permitting, Mr. Letteri returns to New Zealand -- where it's summer -- before Oscar nominations are announced Jan. 10. He was secretive about Weta's work on "Man of Steel," the new Superman feature from director Zack Snyder and producer Christopher Nolan, but he advised that we watch for the opening sequence. "Does it involve flying?" he was asked. "Maybe," he teased.

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First Published December 29, 2012 5:00 AM


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