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Freeman on Being ‘The Hobbit’

4 Mar, 2013 By: Chris Tribbey

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in 'The Hobbit'

With “The Hobbit” films Warner Home Video is aiming for a repeat of the home video success it enjoyed with the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, starting with the March 19 DVD and Blu-ray Disc release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Actor Martin Freeman (Bilbo Baggins) took the time to chat with Home Media Magazine about 3D, Blu-ray bonus features, and his favorite counterpart on the set of the first “Hobbit” film.

• Can you remember the first time you ever heard of Bilbo Baggins?

Freeman: I don’t think I can. I suppose it’s the sort of thing that’s part of folklore. I don’t know when I [first] heard those two words together. Many, many years [later], in terms of what we’re talking about, when the “Rings” films came out, people began saying, “You should play Bilbo Baggins.” I don’t know why, but I’m glad someone thought so.

• Your first days on the “Hobbit” set you were working with Andy Serkis (Gollum). What was that like, considering that for the “Rings” trilogy he had to do all his Gollum work by himself?

Freeman: It was great. I couldn’t have asked for a better beginning to it, actually. Because even though it’s a pivotal moment to the story, Bilbo in the extreme, reacting to a life or death situation, I didn’t have the time to take a leisurely pace into the role. It was perfect. It taught me a lot about who Bilbo was and how Bilbo was going to be. Andy is so good, not just as Gollum, he’s just a brilliant all-around actor. He was a great partner in crime to start, and for two weeks we were doing that. He’s not just a really good actor, he’s a really good man. You can bounce your worries and your thoughts off him to tea break.

• Serkis, Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen — a who’s who for “Lord of the Rings.” Did anybody stand out, anyone you walked off the set saying, “That was amazing”?

Freeman: We all loved it when Ian was on set. He’s old — backhanded compliment, of course he’s good; he’s Ian McKellen — but if you’ve never heard of him before you’d still recognize he’s a really, really good actor. An immediate gravitas, and he might not like that word. There’s something about him that is very, very sober and reassuring when you’re working with him. You want to be able to just look him in the eye and do the scene. My frustration was that when I was doing any scenes with him, we couldn’t look each other in the eye. Either he would literally be on a different set, or if we were doing a scene live together, in post they would extend him, and it would affect our eye line. So I was doing all my scenes with Ian looking [up above his head], and he was doing all his scenes looking [at my chest]. It was frustrating because we would rehearse the scene, and I loved the work, could do it all day long for the rest of my life, but when it came time for [filming] I have to look two feet above his head. Frustrating, but the nature of this sort of film.

• Warner Bros. released this in 3D in theaters and on 3D Blu-ray Disc for the home. What does 3D add to the story?

Freeman: It doesn’t advance the story itself, [but] hopefully it advances the experience of it. I’ve seen [The Hobbit] mainly in 3D and the high [48 fps] frame rate and I think it works fantastically well. It also works fantastically well in 2D. All my favorite films are in 2D. [3D] is a new way of looking at things, and [director] Pete [Jackson] likes pushing the envelope; he likes looking at all the options. I don’t think he would ever say, “Now, all films should be [in] 3D.” He doesn’t think like that. But a film like this, it works very well in 3D, yes.

• For the disc releases Warner is including more than two hours of behind-the-scenes bonuses. Did you have much involvement with those?

Freeman: You have to be mindful of it because they occasionally drag you off, and in my case I sort of have to be dragged a little bit. Because I just want to make the film, and when I’m not making the film just go off and hide and eat a cheese sandwich. But there would constantly be cameras rolling, and if you’re up for it, you’d say something. No one would give you grief if you didn’t want to say anything, I want to save it all up for the film camera, but it’s fun to talk about it as well. But the real fun for me is the film itself. That’s why I’m here.

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