Martin Freeman Interview For ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ – Talks Bilbo & Hugging Andy Serkis
‘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 Journey’ can be found through the following links: Andy Serkis #1, Andy Serkis #2, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage #1, Richard Armitage #2, Martin Freeman #1, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman and James Nesbitt, and Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving (more to come).
Due to the strength of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and the popularity of ‘The Hobbit’ book, was this role any more daunting than usual?
Martin Freeman: For me, it wasn’t daunting because of that, it was daunting because you knew that the duration of it, of filming, was going to be so long, and the distance away from home was so far. That was the daunting thing for me. But the actual responsibility of playing Bilbo Baggins, I obviously took very seriously, but I always take everything seriously. And in New Zealand, filming, they make it so that you don’t feel like you’re entering Death Row or something (laughs). Their attitude is that it should be fun and it should be something that you play, and that’s how you’re going to do your best work. So that didn’t really feel scary.
Having your first day on set opposite Andy Serkis as Gollom, starting with that particular scene – a key scene in the development of Bilbo, how was that?
Martin Freeman: It was wonderful. I think that was the best scene to start on because it really teaches you how to play Bilbo, in extremists, you know? Those life and death situations are really where you found out who your character is a lot of the time, in a more challenging and more invigorating way than finding out who he is when he’s sitting at home reading a paper. I mean, you can do that, but it’s not as “plunging in at the deep end” as when someone’s coming towards you with a rock in their hand and they’re looking to eat you. Then you really find out a lot about who you are playing (laughs).
What was it like acting opposite Andy Serkis in that scene, considering the physicality and the physical vocabulary he brings to that character?
Martin Freeman: He’s amazing. I’ve always thought that Andy was a really good actor anyway, outside of Gollum, I’ve always regarded him incredibly high. But his physicality in that role, his whole immersion in that role….I don’t mean that it’s method or anything, I didn’t have to call him Gollum at lunch (laughs), but for the time he’s doing that it’s so total, it’s a real lesson. He’d be running around on his knuckles, this is not easy stuff. And he would be doing it for hours and hours and hours a day. He was noticing that it was harder than doing it 10 years or so ago. He’s made of… I don’t know if you’ve ever hugged him, if you haven’t I would certainly recommend it, but he’s made of granite. There’s not a single ounce of give on him, and you see why after having done Gollum and various Silver Backs. He’s a muscle man (laughs).
Then playing opposite Ian McKellen, because you’re this short Hobbit and he’s this comparatively tall Wizard, how was it filming that dynamic?
Martin Freeman: Ian’s one of my favourite people. We did stuff in different rooms, but we did a lot of stuff together through different techniques. If he was on a rostrum we could film looking into each others eyes, that was fine. But if you see both of our feet on the ground, like in the beginning when he comes by Bag End and I’m there smoking a pipe, what we did was we did that live, but he was enlarged later. So that meant for our eye-lines I was looking up at the top of his hat and he was looking at my chest, so when he’s enlarged the eye-lines correspond like we’re looking at each others eyes. Looking into someone’s eyes is always the best way to act, because it can be quite discombobulating if you’re not, but it was the only way around it. I would rather that and be in a different room. Ian, he’s great.
I loved the camaraderie between Bilbo and the dwarves, how was it working with that large group of actors?
Martin Freeman: They were lovely. They were really, really lovely and for all different reasons. They’ve all got distinct characteristics as actors and as characters. We all shared the love around. The good thing about working with that many people was that if you wanted hang about over there you could, or somewhere else you could – you could rotate (laughs). It wasn’t claustrophobic, it wasn’t like there was 4 of us and we drove each other mad, there was a whole gang of us. And New Zealand is a really easy place to hangout in, they make life easy there. People do have a definitely different approach to life there that is about leisure, and it’s about enjoyment.
Then working with Peter Jackson and his team who know these characters and this world inside and out, what was that like?
Martin Freeman: Yeah, they know it better than anybody else. You feel safe because of that, you feel like you’re in very safe hands because of what they achieved on ‘Lord of the Rings.’ That team is phenomenal, and they do know Middle-earth and Tolkien better than any other filmmakers. With that, you know that any decisions they make, even if you think at the time, “Really, is that right?” You would have the back and forth discussion and then you’d take it on board. This is a kind of situation where you think, “I’m in safe hands, they will know that decision better than I will.” But also, conversely, Peter is very trusting of your decisions as an actor. He expects you to bring what you bring, he expects you to know more about acting than he does.
Did you watch back Ian Holm’s performance as Bilbo and model you performance a little after that, or was it more about doing your own thing….?
Martin Freeman: I was definitely doing my own thing and I also watched him and took what I could take. I think it would be crazy not to be mindful of what he did, but I can’t just chain myself to what he did. Because there’s so much in these three films, Bilbo has a lot of screen time, so I can’t refer everything back to what he did because he had a lot less time in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ you know? So I was able to use what was useful, and some of it was really, really useful.
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