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HBT2-046340rWhat aspects of Bilbo Bag­gins have you most enjoyed bring­ing forth across the three films, and on this one in particular?

I think it was after the time where he turned the corner from being fairly mild and meek to find­ing a bit more of a back­bone. I was always after that, really. I was always say­ing to Pete [Jack­son], “Is it now? Surely this is the time where he’s a bit stronger.” And very often he’d say, “No, no, but it is com­ing, it is com­ing, not yet.” You spend so much time play­ing Bilbo as this reti­cent per­son who is just try­ing to find his voice and try­ing to find when to speak, just find­ing per­mis­sion to breathe almost, that it is really good fun in this film when he does have to find that bit of steel inside him­self. He really, really has to find that for his own safety and that of his friends.

Did you act­ively seek a wry humour when play­ing the more timor­ous Bilbo?

Iron­ic­ally, my instinct now is not to bring humour to it, but either I can’t help it, or the writ­ing dic­tates it. Also Bilbo is not a straight hero, of course. He is a flawed, fun­nyish, slightly ridicu­lous char­ac­ter. He is pom­pous and he is fairly small-minded. So it’s not like he can be James Bond.

And from Bilbo’s point of view, when he thinks he is being really ser­i­ous, actu­ally the world is going, “Prat!” Because he is puff­ing him­self up in a clas­sic­ally Eng­lish pom­pous way. It is funny. Pete was always ask­ing me to do “that Eng­lish thing”. I don’t really know what that is. It is like ask­ing a French­man to be French, I sup­pose; we all know what nation­al char­ac­ter­ist­ics are. I am not aware of being espe­cially Brit­ish but I think maybe the rest of the world and, espe­cially in the Com­mon­wealth and Eng­lish-speak­ing parts of the world, they might see some­thing quite Brit­ish or Eng­lish in Bilbo.

How do you think Bilbo has changed by this stage in his jour­ney with the Com­pany of Dwarves?

In this film, he really, really has to change; it’s life and death. He comes across situ­ations where, in Mirkwood with the Spiders, for instance, he has to do or die and save his friends. It is not a choice. He has to do it.

It is always good to play hero­ism out of neces­sity, which is what hero­ism is, I think, a play­able, real thing that we can all relate to – some­thing that you know is true or has a bit of real­ity to it. Most people don’t want to put them­selves in life and death situ­ations, but you will do it if you abso­lutely have to. It is a bit like that for Bilbo in this film.


What did you enjoy about find­ing Bilbo’s inner hero?

It’s just great play­ing the hero. It is a funny, self-ful­filling thing in some ways; people do not always see me as the clas­sic, rugged hero, like Aragorn [the char­ac­ter played by Viggo Mortensen in The Lord of the Rings tri­logy], for example, because they have nev­er seen me as that before. Or maybe is it because of what I have done before that they don’t see me as that? Or is what I do out of neces­sity, because I know I am nev­er going to get cast as someone like Aragon? Those sort of rugged her­oes, they are just what we accept them to be.

Most of the people in the world weren’t vastly famil­i­ar with Viggo’s out­put before The Lord of the Rings films. He hap­pens to be a bril­liant act­or and he is bril­liant as Aragorn; he is bril­liant in everything else I have seen him do. But, if that’s the world’s first con­tact with an act­or, you go, “Oh, he is that”. How I became fam­ous was from The Office, so that’s sort of what people asso­ci­ate me with. I am not put­ting myself in the same cat­egory as Al Pacino, but Al Pacino’s first big scene was Michael Cor­le­one (in The God­fath­er) and that casts a long shad­ow, if that makes sense?

There were some ter­rif­ic set pieces in the first film, from the Stone Giants to the Trolls. What can we look for­ward to in The Hob­bit: The Des­ol­a­tion of Smaug?

The Spiders in Mirkwood are going to be great. I think it is a lovely bit. From my point of view, that is where Bilbo gets to find some­thing else.

Is it quite a fright­en­ing sequence in Mirkwood?

I think it is. Spiders are just fright­en­ing. I still think that The Incred­ible Shrink­ing Man is a great film, espe­cially the bit where he is fight­ing a spider with a needle and thread. It’s a film from the 1950s, so the effects are very rudi­ment­ary by our stand­ards, but it is ter­ri­fy­ing. There is just some­thing about the way a spider moves. If a spider is big enough to dom­in­ate a human being with its big fangs, or even a Hob­bit, then that is really horrifying.

And then there’s Smaug, of course…

Smaug will be very good, abso­lutely. Rather like the Gol­lum and Bilbo stuff in the book, which is lovely – and I think they adap­ted it bril­liantly for the first film – Smaug and Bilbo is pretty icon­ic stuff as well. It is that battle of wits, though it is less about the wit for Bilbo and more about try­ing to stay alive. He’s not feel­ing very witty, but he does what he needs to do, at great expense. Those scenes are really good.

Mirkwood is excel­lent, too. We all start to freak out with this drug or this spell that is put over Mirkwood. Then, also, there is Beorn, the skin-changer played by Mikael Pers­brandt. In a way, now that I am think­ing about it, you can almost see the first film as an intro­duc­tion, albeit a fant­ast­ic and excit­ing one. It leads up to what is to come, with Bard and the bar­rels sequence. There’s a lot of very excit­ing stuff in this.

Has play­ing this role made you very pop­u­lar with the chil­dren of your exten­ded fam­ily and friends?

Yes, I think so. You are aware of it at school, at pick­ing-up time and drop­ping-off time. All the schoolkids are sud­denly look­ing at you very differently.

What do you regard as the high­lights of the time you spent in New Zea­l­and shoot­ing The Hob­bit films?

The camarader­ie. That was really good. Meet­ing people who I really liked, great laughs, a very easy, simple, man­age­able way of life. Wel­ling­ton is a pretty small place. It’s easy. I mean, I love Lon­don more than any­thing else, but Wel­ling­ton doesn’t have the stress about it. It just doesn’t. It would be impossible to be as stressed in Wel­ling­ton as you are in Lon­don. If you are trav­el­ling 15 minutes in Wel­ling­ton then that’s quite a long jour­ney. I was trav­el­ling six minutes to work each day. Could you ima­gine that in London?

So, if your day isn’t taken up with three hours’ travel both ways, as ours some­times is, you have got a life at the end of the day. You can cook, go and see a film. It is great and I really do miss that. The things that were good were very good – meet­ing people, mak­ing new friends – because it is very rare that you meet that amount of people at the same time on a job. You usu­ally meet a few people, but I met a lot of people that I thought were really groovy people in Wellington!


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