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Interview: Martin Freeman of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

'I think Smaug will be great.'

By James Rocchi Dec 15, 2012 10:18AM

Clad in a festive, cozy sweater, Martin Freeman looks every inch the British everyman he's played in films and series like "Love Actually," "The Office" and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." In "The Hobbit," Freeman plays Bilbo Baggins -- and while Bilbo has a few fewer inches than those other British everymen, Freeman still epitomizes Baggins with warmth, charm and humanity. We spoke with Freeman in New York about stepping into Ian Holm's, uh, feet and finding small moments in among big spectacle.


MSN Movies: One of our readers asked what was it like stepping into the shoes of Ian Holm -- which may be the wrong turn of phrase, because there aren't even any shoes.


Martin Freeman: There aren't.


What's it like stepping into the large hairy feet of Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins?


Well it was a joy. It was a joy. I always kind of thought I was quite good casting as a young Ian Holm to be honest.




Yeah. I mean not to flatter myself; I think he's amazing. But I think dimensionally, physically, there could be worse casting, you know?


BING: Martin Freeman l Winston Smith

You weren't pulling a "Looper," where you had to do a whole bunch of stuff to make it happen?


No. (Laughs)


On a more serious note, when Bilbo's going over the contract to join the merry band of dwarves, that could almost be from "The Office." That's such a real world moment.




Are human moments to these characters important in the middle of all this mystical spectacle and adventure?


Totally, yeah, 'cause I think without that then it would just be mystical spectacle, you know? And Pete is very intent on ... even though he wants people to be able to escape into these worlds that he helps create, it is meaningless unless you cut back to what you really think or what you're really feeling about this. So it's always the small bit I think. It's always the devil's in the details. And I think you need to kind of focus in on how is this person is reacting to all this. That's why I love Pete's battles. The battles are never just about 'Yay, we're all goring each other to death.' It's actually, you know, you cut back to a child and the fact that the child is terrified or the fact that Thorin has just seen his father's head cut off...


If it was just the goring, it would be boring.


Boring goring. But imagine a film about Hermann Goring doing boring goring.


If it was Goering's boring goring?


(Laughs). Yeah. Goering's boring goring on the Bering strait ...


If you go back far enough in my family tree you arrive at the British Isles. Do you have relatives who are kind of hobbit-y, like the uncle who likes to stay in and watch a  bit of footy and enjoy a bit of tea? There's something very…


Yes, I suppose. I suppose, yeah. There is, but then it's easy to say because I am English, you know? Maybe if I was American then ... but there's something also very American about not going abroad isn't there? I think it's fairly human. I think it's fairly universal. It feels English because Tolkien is English and because I'm English I sound English. But I think you could probably apply it to most cultures that there is a love of home. There is a love of your homeland and sometimes a reluctance to leaving it for very long.


So you've played Arthur Dent, you're playing Bilbo Baggins, I was asking half jokingly which other British, literary, famous everyman could you play? We were saying Winston Smith from "1984" perhaps, and you were saying you'd love to be…


I'd love to do Winston Smith, yeah. But John Hurt got there first. 25 years ago, did a fantastic Winston Smith.


It's kind of a tragedy that "1984" never stops being relevant, however.


Yes, I know. I know. Darn that George Orwell.


There are two more movies coming. What is the one thing that you know is coming that you cannot wait for people to see on the big screen?


I think Smaug will be great. I think Smaug will be really good. It will be spectacular, and it will be frightening and really, really entertaining. I think the battles will be good. We've got the Battle of the Five Armies to come. Geez, we haven't even done that yet. So not just looking  (ahead for) the audience -- looking ahead for the cast and crew, we've got a lot to do.


For more on "The Hobbit," watch our two video interviews with the cast and crew:


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