When Adam Brown’s agent called him to tell him he had an audition for The Hobbit, he thought it was for a stage adaptation. The only on-screen acting he’d done before was for Chucklevision. Two years later, after spending 18 months filming in New Zealand with the likes of Sir Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman, Elijah Wood, Cate Blanchett and of course Peter Jackson himself, the previously little-known Brown, is signing autographs at premieres for the film of the year around the world.
Katherine Maxwell-Cook (KMC) caught up with the talented newcomer just before he headed off to the Auckland premiere, to discuss horseriding in a fat suit, Tolkein mania and big adventures.
KMC: Can you tell me about the character which you play.
Adam: Ori is one of the dwarves who follow Bilbo on his adventure. All the other dwarves are axe-wielding, big beards, big muscles, then you have me in a knitted cardigan and knitted mittens. Ori’s like a little boy lost really: naive and vulnerable and has joined this adventure because he wanted to be part of history books and stories. He’s like a new recruit for a war, with no idea of what he’s signed up for. He develops a bit of mojo during the movie but at the beginning he’s the guy who drops things and narrowly misses orks flying over his head. I guess I’m the comic relief in the movie.
What’s the best thing about being a dwarf?
They eat a lot of food. I know what the worst thing about being a dwarf is: wearing the fat suit every day, wearing the make-up everyday, wearing the head costume everyday!
Who is your favourite character in the film?
Radagast played by Sylvester McCoy. He doesn’t appear in the book but he’s in the appendices. He’s a good wizard and a friend of Gandalf who lives in the forest. He’s a bit of a Dr Dolittle. He has a bird’s nest in his head. He doesn’t like people very much, but he loves animals. Sylvester McCoy is brilliant.
What was it like working with Peter Jackson?
I never forgot that he was Peter Jackson. Although he’s incredibly normal, he’s still one of the biggest movie directors in the world. He makes the atmosphere very normal on set. If you take the money and the big budgets away, it’s like he’s doing what he did years ago with Braindead or Meet the Feebles. He’s just working on a film. He’s very good at working with you. He’s one step ahead of you all the time. If you suggest something to him, it’s likely that he’s already got there already. We were invited to shoot World War One guns in his hanger. He owns all these World War One hangers – in that respects he’s mad but also incredibly normal.
Have you got any funny stories from the set?
Loads! Graham McTavish who plays Dwalin is the biggest ever wimp when it comes to riding a horse. It would cause so much laughter. Every time he’s on a horse he’s like: “Wwhhooaahhhaaaahhhh.” He’s so nervous. Also Steven Hunter who plays Bombur – everything about him is related to a fart. It’s like boys on tour.
Did you get to ride a horse?
Yes – I had to ride a horse in a fat suit with prosthetic make-up on and rubber fingers.
How are you feeling about seeing the film?
I won’t get to see it until the day before the premiere. I’m excited and nervous. I feel like my cinema chair will have finger nail imprints on the side of it. I hope I’m good.
Have you had any encounters with Tolkein fanatics?
Oh yes. It’s surreal getting fan mail and people saying they love my work although they’ve never seen anything I’ve done. These guys are crazy. Especially as I’m a character in the book; this is a character people have grown up with, so now I will officially be the guy who was Ori. It’s scary and exciting. There’s a big party the day before the premiere with people from the fan site. Some of us are going and some of us are not. It feels a bit daunting to go to. I might need a bodyguard! It’s their world, this is their big thing. But I’m looking forward to the madness of it. The good thing about it is that I’m heavily disguised in make-up, so it’s not going to change my life in terms of being noticed in the street which it did for the Lord of the Rings guys.
How did you find acting to things which weren’t there, like the special effects which were added in later?
I find it incredibly easy because it’s like what I’ve done with Clare Plested [from Plested & Brown Theatre Company] for 10 years. If you don’t have a prop, pretend it’s there, let’s make it up. I don’t need to see the world because I’ve got it in my head. A lot of the green screen stuff is just like being on a stage but instead of a black box it’s luminous green.
What do you think The Hobbit is about? Does it have anything to say to us today?
It’s about saying yes to adventures, rather than trying to stay safe and say no. The little man does good. It’s a bit of a road trip with a bunch of boys driving their car getting to a certain end. In The Hobbit, the stakes aren’t the same as in The Lord of the Rings. In The Lord of the Rings Frodo was trying to save the world. In The Hobbit a bunch of dwarves are reclaiming their home. You can find parallels there about people being taken away from their home, trying to find it again – reclaiming their homeland.
What are the main differences between Middle Earth and the real earth?
Middle Earth is very black and white, you’re good or you’re bad, maybe the real world’s not like that.
Can you summarise the plot of The Hobbit in one sentence?
The little man takes on the world and says yes to adventures, with the help of 13 dwarves.
The Hobbit is on general release from Friday, 14 December.