Let's try to paint a picture, here: We have one of the most anticipated films of all time for which fans across the world are absolutely rabid with incalculable expectations. A major American studio will invest about $600 million into the project. Its success is so integral to an entire nation's economy, that the possibility of it leaving their soil created a period of genuine national tumult, after which the Prime Minister was forced to intervene. -- So, if you're a fellow by the name of Martin Freeman, it may weigh a bit on your shoulders that you are the star of said film! Well, if a recent interview with elpais is any indication, he's taking it all in stride. He discusses the process of how he came to be our new Bilbo Baggins and this lingering idea among fans, and apparently with film's creative minds, that he was indeed "The Chosen One" regarding the two-part epic's starring role.
The interview was originally published in Spanish, however, a member of the message boards from Tolkien fan-site TheOneRing has provided a translation. As it turns out, the would-be owner of Bag End confesses that he is a layman regarding J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth lore, but quickly became a fan in the research process:
“I wasn’t a fan of Tolkien before, I am now. A couple of weeks ago, I tried Bilbo’s hairy feet for the first time, and also the ears, although mine are big enough already, and the hair too. Moreover, they made molds out of those parts of my body since I’m going to be using prosthetics for many months. How did I look? Really different… but I’m ready to be Bilbo.”
This seems to be an experienced echoed by the cast members of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Just listening to their commentary on the Extended Edition DVD's and you get the impression that they went into the project not knowing a thing about the books, but emerged quite the experts. You can even hear Orlando freaking Bloom geeking-it-up, referencing specific chapters of the books. These films tend to have that enthusiastic effect.
Of course, as everyone has "known," probably since he turned in his performance as another legendary protagonist Arthur Dent in 2005's A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Martin Freeman has been just about everyone's obvious choice to play Bilbo. (At least, among those who weren't pining for James McAvoy.) As some may recall, director Peter Jackson made the following statement in the official press release announcing Freeman's casting:
"There are a few times in your career when you come across an actor who you know was born to play a role, but that was the case as soon as I met Martin."
The film's former director Guillermo del Toro also echoed this sentiment and Freeman noted that he was thankful for the gesture. The future Hobbit goes on to reveal how his involvement with the production began back in February when he had sent a screen test to Jackson (then only serving in the capacity of a producer.) Immediate feedback would arrive from then-director Del Toro, which turned out immensely positive. Dismissing the plethora of Internet rumors, Del Toro practically offered Freeman the role right then and there. However, the production's notorious susceptibility to bad luck of all shapes and forms had still yet to be resolved. Also, as it would turn out, Freeman's commitments to BBC series Sherlock (in which he plays sidekick Dr. Watson) would create a scheduling conflict by the time the "official-official" offers were put on the table. Those hurdles, however, were overcome with some slight shifts to the shooting schedule and as it was announced last month, Freeman was christened as the new Bilbo.
“I know my work plan. I start in January, then I’ll have a break in the summer (in the Northern Hemisphere) so I can shoot the second season of Sherlock, the BBC show where I portray Watson, and then I’ll be back in New Zealand in September in order to finish the movie by the end of the year."
Tackling this monolith of a film endeavor would seemingly be intimidating to even a mega-star. Yet, the English actor who's not quite a household name in Freeman is certainly not taking a step back in fear. If anything, he seems to be approaching The Hobbit as if it were a small "Mom and Pop" operation with a close-knit atmosphere. Ironically, in some ways, he's not that far off. As Freeman remarks:
“It’s not a contradiction, it’s just that Peter always does the writing with his wife, Fran, and with Phillipa Boyens, and has Carolynne Cunningham as his right-hand. They have this “big family” approach to things, and they seem to breath faith into every project they’re involved with”.
Franchise films such as this always come with (not unlike the Ring of Power,) a heavy burden, filled with fan-incited baggage. These films, however, contain all of that -- on steroids. Yet, it's always encouraging to see a clearly motivated star, and Martin Freeman is showing that he's ready for several months of blue-screen time, scale trick shooting, and hairy, athlete's foot-inducing prosthetic Hobbit feet. In the meantime, fans are still awaiting the rest of the films' cast to be fleshed-out, which may occur sometime before shooting begins this February.
How's it all sounding to you? Will Freeman be able to live up to all the "Chosen One" hype?