Interviews from January issue of German magazine CINEMA.
[Translated from German by ArchedCory]
Interview with Martin Freeman:
Second parts of film series are often dark, such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom or The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers. What about this one?
This film is a bit darker than part 1. For example the giant spiders and Smaug are quite scary. However at the same time the dragon is funny as well. Just like the flight of the dwarves in the river. The film just has a lot of great and exciting moments. And Bilbo himself gets more depth than in the first part. Just as his relationship to Gandalf, who is something like his mentor, his ultimate person of trust.
For The Hobbit you lived over eighteen months in New Zealand…
…right. Being so far away from home was quite hard. After all there is a thirty hour flight between London and Wellington. But my family often visited me. And there are films one just can – and may – not reject. On the other hand New Zealand made it easy for me to feel comfortable. The people are incredibly friendly and the way to work only took about fifteen minutes and not three hours. That means I could have a private life after filming and free evenings. Also the coffee is phenomenal. I recommend Flat White.
Is there something you have learned working on this monster production?
Never give one hundred percent from the start, and don’t use up all your creativity in the first week. You still have one and a half years ahead. Otherwise you just burn out.
After the end of the official shoot there were pick-ups in June 2013. How difficult was it for you to play Bilbo again after a longer break?
I had to be extremely careful: Just because I put on Bilbo’s jacket again doesn’t mean I am him again. When you feel too confident, something is wrong. The same goes for Sherlock. Every time I approach the character again and try to blend out opinions of fans and critics. After all I created Dr. Watson after my own vision in this series.
Your Sherlock colleague Benedict Cumberbatch speaks two roles in The Hobbit: the Necromancer and the dragon Smaug…
…and he did a bad job with that. (laughs) No, quite the opposite. But we only played a few scenes together. After all the dragon is a computer creature. But I know Benedict’s voice well enough and could put myself into the mood for “his” Smaug.
Are you glad the filming is over?
Yes, but not because I didn’t enjoy the time in New Zealand and the work with Peter Jackson an all the others. Quite the opposite: I am very proud of these films. But at one point you just want to bring all of this to an end and present it to the audience. After all later on I will say, I did these films. And not, I am still doing them.
To which character can you relate more? Bilbo or Dr. Watson?
Both characters have traits I can identify with. Watson for example is very direct, just like I am. Bilbo however is polite. On the other hand I would have never gone to war with these weird dwarves. (laughs)
It is remarkable that lately Hollywood hires more British actors for Blockbusters. Henry Cavill in Man of Steel or Benedict Cumberbatch in Star Trek into Darkness to name two of them. Do you have an explanation for that?
The reason might be that a significant part of our acting school consists of classic theatre. Which means we approach the roles in a different way. But maybe we are just cheaper.
Interview with Richard Armitage:
What does The Hobbit mean to you?
The book is one of the reasons why I became an actor. My first theatre play as an actor was a stage version of The Hobbit. I was fourteen then. So it is an honour for me to be part of this.
What were your thoughts on the last day of filming?
That they would have to carry me off the set. That sequence was physically extremely demanding. I had cut myself in the face and Peter Jackson was also sick. But nonetheless it was very moving. After all I have been involved in this project for almost three years. I was already in contract in 2010 although the studio didn’t even give permission for this project yet at that point. However back then I still couldn’t see myself as a dwarf.
Because with your size of 1.90 m you don’t necessarily look like one?
Exactly, but I also enjoyed having to look up to other actors in the role of Thorin. My whole life I had to make myself smaller to listen to dialogues.
What are the key moments of part 2?
We delve deep into the realm of the wood elves and hear more about the hatred between them and the dwarves. And the madness Thorin falls for on the inside of Erebor is another element. However the peak of this process will be seen in part 3. More precisely in the Battle of Five Armies. To film the second part of a trilogy is, by the way, a big challenge for the director. The introduction of the characters is completed and the plot steers towards the end. It is an art to establish the middle part as a story on its own. And Peter managed that perfectly again as he already did with The Two Towers.
How did you approach the arising madness of your character?
To portray madness on screen is very difficult. To write it in a script is nearly impossible. Because this emotion follows no rules. To bring Thorin’s state of mind adequately onto the screen I researched all sorts of different addictions. For Thorin is addicted to gold. Further I read a lot on depravity and the moral fall of humanity. The people responsible for the bank crisis were very helpful in this context. (laughs)
What is acting to you?
Fifty percent imagination and fifty percent concentration.
How did you get yourself into the mood of your character?
I listened to different kinds of music. Classical music from Wagner and Russian chorales, rock from Muse and Radiohead and some rather disturbing compositions such as Krzysztof Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima. Pure terror!
And how did you relax?
On the weekends I sometimes secretly went skiing. Due to insurance reasons they would have never allowed that to me. When we filmed the scene in which the dwarves find the hidden door into Erebor I begged Peter to let me ski down Mount Ruapehu in full costume. But for some reason he wouldn’t let me do that. (laughs)
Interview with Luke Evans:
What was the first thing you did when you stepped on the gigantic sets of The Hobbit?
Peter Jackson led me through the set and explained everything to me. And then it already continued with the stunt training and the costume fitting.
The book of J.R.R. Tolkien only describes Bard the Bowman vaguely. How did you develop the role for yourself?
There are a few hints of his origin, but they are quite hidden. For example he is an heir of Lord Girion who shot a few arrows towards the dragon in the fight for Dale and who fled to Esgaroth with his family after the destruction of the city. With information like this I developed the character together with Peter Jackson.
How did you get the role?
About four years ago I recorded a casting tape. Back then Guillermo del Toro was still the director. Then I didn’t hear of this for a long time and suddenly Peter Jackson asked me if I could come to Wellington. However due to schedules I couldn’t at that point and I recorded a tape in London and sent it to him. Obviously he liked it.
And now you have an action figure…
… and a LEGO figure, right. Pretty cool, isn’t it?
And you have only been on the big screen for about five years.
That’s right. But I never saw my future in the cinema. I was happy as a theatre actor. When I was 28 years old a film caster saw me during a stage production in London’s Domnar Warehouse in Covent Garden and discovered me. And then everything happened very quickly.
After Apollo in Clash of the Titans and Zeus in Immortals in the last years we will see you in 2014 as Dracula and as The Crow. All of those are big films.
True that. A big responsibility on one hand, but also a great chance.
Can you say anything about the remake of The Crow?
Of course. It is definitely not a remake, we go back to the comics of James O’Barr. Eric Draven for example is not a rock musician anymore. In the beginning James was very sceptical because he had to witness what was lately done to his story. But after a few meetings with me and director F. Javier Gutiérrez he was convinced.
And Dracula – Untold?
That one is not only about vampires but more about Vlad Tepes, the Impaler. Also the historic figure that inspired Bram Stoker to his novel. You could say the film is about the man behind the legend. But don’t worry, there will be fangs.
How do you deal with your popularity?
It’s not that bad yet. On the street I have only been recognized for the last ten months. Fast & Furious 6 is a big part of that. But it is strange and at the same time makes me proud that people are now interested in my home town Aberbargoed. After all in Europe we are now known for more than our carbon landfills. (laughs)