Brown, prior to taking on this grand project, had spent much of his acting career on stage, so we discussed with the newcomer his move into cinema, and what it means to him to appear in such a huge blockbuster, entering into a franchise he was already a big fan of.
Meanwhile, he tells us about filming in New Zealand, becoming friends with Sir Ian McKellen, and just how far into the whole Hobbit process they currently are…
The hype surrounding The Hobbit has been going on a while and finally the film is upon us, you must be very excited we’re so close to release?
I know, it doesn’t feel like it’s happening really , it’s quite odd.
Are you quite nervous? Excited?
A mixture of both really, I’m so excited, especially to be going back to Wellington for the premiere, and excited about meeting up with everyone again – all the boys, and just having a laugh again. I just can’t wait really, it’s going to be mental. My first film is coming out, and it’s in 3D, and it’s The Hobbit, so it’s a bit weird.
When you used to watch Lord of the Rings, which I assume you’re a big fan of – did you ever envisage that one that you yourself would be involved in this whole set-up?
No, not at all. Not at all. I watched it with my dad, it was kind of our bonding thing over Christmas, because we both really like it, so we used to watch it together. But obviously I’ve been doing theatre quite a bit, and comedy and it was never in my world or in my vision to ever aim that high really, but it’s been fantastic that it’s all kicked off. It’s so surreal that I’m actually going to be a part of it.
So how did you first come to be involved?
I remember Martin couldn’t actually do The Hobbit because of his commitments with Sherlock, so they were looking at actors under five foot seven, and I had a phone call from my agent saying he’d got me an audition for The Hobbit and at the time I was doing a production and I was like, “Where? When? Look I’ve got other commitments…” and he said “This isn’t a touring show, I mean The Hobbit, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit”. Of course it’s a world I’ve never been aware of, I never thought I could a Hollywood movie. So I went along and went for Bilbo, and I knew I wasn’t really right for him but I just did my thing and then I got a phone call the day after saying they absolutely loved me, that I wasn’t right for Bilbo but they’d think of a dwarf for me, and I had the read the book ages and ages ago so didn’t know what that meant at all, I thought I’d be there for like a day, I didn’t realise that it’s actually one of the key roles in the movie. God knows what I did in that audition, but they just fell in love with what I did, which was so lovely to hear.
You mentioned that you did read the book a while ago, have you revisited it since getting the role?
As soon as I got the phone call saying I had got it, I was straight down Waterstones reading it and trying to read the other stuff Tolkien did. It’s not really my thing if I’m honest with you. I love the movies – I’m a real geeky fan of the wizards and the goblins and stuff – so most of the stuff about my character was taught out there, with Peter and Philippa Boyens. They had very strong ideas about what they wanted Ori to be. In fact they had a very clear idea for all of the dwarves, they have done a really good job of making each character individual. I’m not the typical dwarf, I’m the baby of the group, the fish out of water, and I loved playing him – it’s been great fun.
So tell us about Ori – did you create a back story for him?
I worked a lot with my on-screen brothers Mark Hadlow and Jed Brophy who play Dori and Nori, and the idea is that Nori is the scally of the family, always away from the group, the brother who goes on adventures. And Dori is the opposite, he constantly wants to mummy me all the time, blow my nose, protect me. So with them going on this adventure I knew I wanted to go too, be a man and be a part of these stories that are told around the camp fires, and be part of the legend. So I run off and go on this adventure with this group of dwarves. But of course Ori has no idea what he’s let himself in for, he’s the one with the slingshot, that’s my weapon, so I’m definitely the comic relief out of all the dwarves.
So do you think your background in comedy helped in getting in to this character?
Yeah I think so. I don’t know what I did in my audition, but Peter said “Don’t change Adam”. They said they needed that quality, that young voice within the group of very strong dwarves. Which is funny actually as I’m not the youngest, but I think I play young quite well.
As an actor there can’t be many greater confidence boosts than hearing Peter Jackson sing your praises?
Yeah, and it’s odd actually because as you say that now I realise that he did. You kind of forget he’s Peter Jackson in a way because he’s so normal, he’s lovely. It’s like having a friend direct you, except it’s Peter Jackson.
So what’s he like to be around on set? Is he quite hands on?
Oh he is, definitely. I can’t tell you how long it took to move from our trailer to the set, it took ages. When we finally got there he would say “Aw, come on you little bastards” because that was his name for us. We would sit there on set, have a laugh, and then he’d say, “Right, let’s crack on”. He’s a very clever man, always one step ahead.
Of course the whole Lord of the Rings and Hobbit franchise is very close to his heart and something he is very passionate about – did you really get a sense for that passion? And does that help the actors, to have a director so involved?
Totally, yeah. I mean the planning… Every detail from a buttons on a jumper, there is just so much detail. But when something wasn’t working he’d change it instantly. But we’re not talking £100, this is a huge scale and we’re talking millions. It has to work for him and it’s irrelevant if it costs millions, if it’s not the right thing he’d change it. I think he was really brave doing stuff like that, if it’s not working you could tell he wasn’t just going to coast with this movie at all, this is his baby.
You’ve mentioned that you were a stage performer, but was cinema something you always wanted get involved in?
Yeah I guess so but I’ve grown up on BBC sitcoms, that’s where my heart lies, I loved all that comedy humour, so that’s where I thought my destiny would be, but I’m kinda doing that on the big screen, going round the set once looking at all our head shots and mine says “Adam Brown – think Pike from Dad’s Army” and I just got it, of course I am doing my dream, just on a bigger scale! So I feel I am bringing those elements to a multi-million dollar movie.
Being in The Hobbit in itself is an adventure, but the fact it all takes place in New Zealand must add to that, as it’s far away and detached from your normal life…
The experience, without wanting to sound like an idiot, mirrored my character. I was literally picked up and chucked into this world and Ori did the same. I don’t think this film would work anywhere else. Watching all of these Lord of the Rings documentaries before I went out there if I heard any of them say any more “We’re like a family” I thought, oh c’mon, you’re just saying that for the camera, but it’s absolutely true. The world that they create, we are so removed from the world, we’re at the end of the world you know, in a beautiful country, and we really bond as a group of actors. We live next door to each other, I mean Orlando Bloom is my next door neighbour, Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman too. It shows on camera as well, how friendly we are as a group of actors. I really question how this experience could have been at Pinewood for instance, going home in London wouldn’t have had the same feel. It’s like being away on a school camping trip. It’s just an incredible place to be.
You’ve mentioned some of the cast, it must have been amazing to be working alongside the likes of Ian McKellen, Christopher Lee, Billy Connolly – these are some of biggest actors this country has ever produced.
I don’t think there was one day I didn’t not pinch myself. The moment I stopped doing that I got really angry with myself, as I needed to enjoy every frigging moment. I remember having a conversation one day and saying “Oh, I’m having a downer today mate. I’m exhausted, I’m so tired and I just wanna go home” but it annoyed me that I was even feeling that way, I mean, how lucky am I? But you’re right, you work with these amazing actors, and they’re friends now. You know, I’m seeing Ian on Sunday, it’s just brilliant to have them as friends, but really weird.
How helpful was it to you as a quite inexperienced actor in the movies, to have people of that calibre and experience on set to help guide you? Maybe not coming up and telling you what to do as such, but just having them there to observe.
Oh brilliant. It’s great to be able to ask them questions. But it’s all about finding your feet out there, because everyone’s way of working is so different. But I think what was really funny was Martin saying “You’ll learn all this mate, but remember no other movie is like this at all. You’re learning all these skills on this film set, but no other job you’ll ever do will be like The Hobbit. You’ll be doing things so much faster, so much lower budget – don’t get used to this!” Which I thought was quite funny.
One of the appeals to The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is the escapism factor, that the audience are entering into this magical world. Was it like that for the actors – when all made up and in costume?
Yes, honestly, the sets are so real it’s unbelievable. My first time on set was in Bag End which is like stepping into a children’s book. It’s so iconic and in our heads so much, to be working on that was just mental.
So how far into the whole Hobbit process are you now? Still filming?
Yep, we go back in July. We’ve done the skeleton on two and three but basically we’re going back to do some pick-ups and also the big battle scene at the end of film three, which we’re yet to do. We’re back to Middle Earth quite soon then – so I’m trying to keep fit because I know how exhausting that scene will be to shoot.
Has it been frustrating having done all this work but knowing it’s not going to be for ages until everyone has seen it all – unable to share your experiences with everyone else?
I think it is, I came back with thousands and thousands of stories, and people’s lives move on here as well and they have thousands of stories, but you just slot back into it I guess. But for me I’m quite excited they’re going to release it next year and the following one after that, I don’t want this to go quickly, I want it to be drawn out, savour every last moment of this experience.