February 2012

Meet The Cast Of…

Undoubtedly, one of the most hotly anticipated films of 2012 is Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. While there are big names in the cast – Cate Blanchett, Sir Ian McKellen and Elijah Wood – many of the cast are largely unknown in North America. For example, when you hear “Benedict Cumberbatch,” you might think of a fancy breakfast food or a newly unearthed Harry Potter character, but he’s actually a dragon – well, at least he plays one on screen. These actors, while largely unknown to us, are actually big household names in their native UK. Here is a rundown on the cast of The Hobbit:
 
The rumor mill speculated for months about which A-List actor would land the coveted role of Bilbo Baggins. Some said James McAvoy while others put their money on Tobey Maguire. As it turns out, they were all wrong. The role belonged to British actor Martin Freeman from the start. Peter Jackson stated, “Despite the various rumors and speculation surrounding this role, there has only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us. 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. He is intelligent, funny, surprising and brave—exactly like Bilbo…” Incidentally, Freeman initially turned down the role, as it interfered with the filming of his immensely popular BBC series Sherlock. However, schedules were shuffled and The Hobbit had its star.
 
Comedy fans will likely know Martin Freeman from the original version of The Office,co-starring Ricky Gervais. Freeman portrayed Tim Canterbury, the witty 30-something year old with eyes for the company’s secretary. Tim would go on to be the inspiration for John Krasinski’s character, Jim, on the American version of the show. You may have also seen him as the lovelorn stand-in in 2003’s Love Actually, or as Simon, one of Anna Faris’ ex-boyfriends in the 2011 box-office bomb What’s Your Number. Mystery fans may know him as Dr. Watson from his current series Sherlock, which airs on PBS.  
 
Return now to the impeccably named Benedict Cumberbatch. Since they moved around the shooting schedules for Freeman, why not also cast Freeman’s Sherlock co-star? Cumberbatch, best known for his roles in 2011’s War Horse and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, may have to relinquish his leading man status to Freeman, but in exchange, he will get the opportunity to play two roles. Don’t expect to recognize him so easily, however; Cumberbatch’s performance of Smaug, one of the last remaining dragons in Middle Earth, was filmed through motion capture, the same technique used to record Andy Serkis’ performance as Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Meanwhile, his performance as the Necromancer, who is later found out to be Sauron, the creator of the infamous ring and the dark lord of Mordor, requires only a vocal performance from the actor. 
 
Another actor well known for his vocal chops is New Zealander Bret McKenzie. What most people know about McKenzie is that he is half of the Emmy-nominated, Grammy-winning music/TV hybrid The Flight of the Conchords. What many don’t know is that his first acting gig was as an extra in the original Lord of the Rings film. After the first film was released, diehard fans took to the Internet to find out who the beautiful, unnamed Elfish character was, going so far as to dub him “Figwit,” an acronym for "Frodo is great...who is THAT?!?" His popularity led director Peter Jackson to give the then-unknown a line in the third film. McKenzie will return to the big screen as an elf named Lindir in The Hobbit, but this time, his role was actually created by JRR Tolkien in the original literary work. 
 
Rounding out the cast is an actor largely known to American audiences due to multiple cases of mistaken identity. Aidan Turner is set to portray the dwarf Kili. He is not to be confused with fellow Brit import Aiden Turner, best known for playing Aidan Devane on All My Children or dancing his way to ninth place on season 10 of Dancing with the Stars. No, this Aidan Turner starred on the series Being Human, the original BBC version where he played broody vampire Mitchell who was consequently renamed Aidan in the American remake. So there, now you will never forget his name. It’s Aidan by the way, but not in the movie.
 
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is set for release December 14, 2012.