Martin Freeman Interview For ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’
‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum (Andy Serkis). Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities … A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.
From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ is the first of three films based on ‘The Hobbit’ novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. The trilogy of ‘Hobbit’ films are set in Middle-earth 60 years before Jackson’s ’The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. The release schedule for the three ‘Hobbit’ films are as follows: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ is set for a December 13th release; ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ arrives in cinemas December 13th, 2013; and ’The Hobbit: There and Back Again’ concludes the trilogy on July 18th, 2014. My other interviews for ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Jounrey’ can be found through the following links: Andy Serkis, Richard Armitage, and Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman and James Nesbitt (more to come).
To play the Hobbit at the center of this adventure, Peter Jackson rearranged the shooting schedule of ‘The Hobbit’ for you so could film ‘Sherlock,’ how was that? Also, can you tell us where we meet Bilbo Baggins in ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,’ he’s in for a long line of surprises….
Martin Freeman: Definitely (laughs). I was truly shocked and pleased because I really wanted to play Bilbo, and that’s not the kind of offer that comes back. It showed that they had such faith in me as Bilbo. They must have seen something in me that could play worry, but with humour (laughs). And we join Bilbo, as the book does, as a home loving, fairly solitary, middle-aged Hobbit. He has his home comforts and he doesn’t really go outside of that. He’s got a very, very full pantry, quite a full wardrobe, and he knows where he is.
And for Bilbo to open the door of his house and to see a dwarf standing there, the first one he sees there is Dwalin, who’s this huge mountain of a dwarf, he’s never seen anything like it. It would be like in 1930s England seeing a Maasai Warrior appearing at your door. He knows that dwarves exist, he’s read about them because he’s interested in everyone in Middle-earth and everything in Middle-earth, he’s interested in the history and the different cultures of it, but he’s never had to sit down and break bread with a dwarf.
Why do you think Bilbo decides to join Gandalf and this company of dwarves on this long and dangerous journey, especially considering how much of a cautious homebody he is when we’re introduced to him. Straight away we see he’s not the typical “hero” or adventurer?
Martin Freeman: Yeah. Bilbo, he’s not a warrior. He’s not adept with a sword and he’s never been on a horse – which you can tell quite clearly from the way he holds the reins. Yet Gandalf wants him to leave Hobbiton with this band of rogues, an idea which is a bit mad. Bilbo’s quite self-sufficient. He is also quite self-satisfied, I think, a learned man without having travelled the world. The things that struck me about him suggested a certain timidity in many situations, a certain hesitancy in life, because his world is his home and Hobbiton, and beyond that is a bit scary. He’s set in his ways, he’s got his routine and he likes it. He sees no reason why it should be upset. Which is a very reasonable stance, “Why would you put yourself knowingly in danger?” But that brings us the question of, “Why does he go then?” And of course he goes because he knows he will never ever have another another opportunity like this, you know? He doesn’t want to end up being a 100 years old going, “Why didn’t I take that opportunity?” He has that adventurous “Took” side to him, which beats out the stay-at-home “Baggins” side with that decision (laughs).
Bilbo has an interesting dynamic with Thorin in the story. From the start Thorin doesn’t have much faith in Bilbo?
Martin Freeman: Oh yeah, when we’re Bag End, of all the dwarves Thorin is the most suspicious, or the most skeptical of Bilbo. He’s definitely the most skeptical of Bilbo’s suitability to come on this journey. The rest of them might think he’s a bit of an idiot (laughs), but Thorin believes he’s an absolute liability. It’s an interesting dynamic in the film. Richard is great as well.
Your first shot on the film was shooting with Andy Serkis’ Gollum, how was that as an introduction into this world and Bilbo?
Martin Freeman: It’s so well written and was so fun to play, and, obviously, I’m playing opposite Andy Serkis. He’s so good and Gollum is so beloved. It’s incredible just to hear him make that voice – something you’re so familiar with, but now it’s real; it’s right in front of you. Peter Jackson shot our scene continuously without any breaks, so in some ways, it felt like we were in a 9-minute play. And the week we spent filming this little sequence really helped me find Bilbo.
How was it filming with Andy Serkis, especially on such an important scene? That scene really sets up the events of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy many years later….
Martin Freeman: Yeah. Andy’s great, he’s very straight forward, he’s not at all precious….”precious” (laughs). He’s the ideal actor you want to be doing that stuff with, because all he wants to do is make it right, and he’s incredibly open. If you suggest something he’s up for it. When he suggests something I’m definitely up for it because I respect him, greatly!
Although he knows he will never be anyone’s idea of a great hero, that encounter with Gollum has a profound effect on Bilbo….
Martin Freeman: Certainly. Over the course of going on this journey, he finds courage that no one saw in him, really. He didn’t even see it in himself! We don’t ever know how we’re going to react to something under duress, but he finds resources within himself of loyalty, compassion and ingenuity that he never suspected were there. He has also got some magic about him now. And he’s got the ring, which provides its own magic.
How was it working with Ian McKellen as Gandalf, he’s another component to the story that has a profound effect on him?
Martin Freeman: Ian, he’s go such beautiful poise to him, he’s got such a humanity to his work as Gandalf, you know? And Gandalf’s not an easy gig. For all of the heightened fantasy in this story, it’s still about making it real, making it human. He really plays that beautifully, I think. And yeah, he makes you better, he makes you come correct when you’re in scenes with him. He’s quite fantastic.
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