While The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies may well go down in cinematic history for its epic clash of clans, it’s important to note that right in the centre of the persistent crash, clatter and blood is the film’s heart and its titular “hero”: Bilbo Baggins, Esq. of Bag End.
At just over three feet, Bilbo isn’t your traditional Hollywood superman. Not by a long shot.
But that, as actor Martin Freeman points out, doesn’t quite matter.
“Most actual heroes in the world aren’t 6’5” and look like Vikings … Hollywood doesn’t always tell that truth so that’s why we think it’s surprising that Bilbo could be a hero.
“Well actually most people we’ve ever met whom we consider as heroic or brave or inspirational don’t look like Dolph Lundgren,” the British-born star states, quickly adding: “Don’t get me wrong. Dolph’s a lovely fella.”
On many occasions over the two preceding films, like in the source material, Bilbo, despite having been previously more used to books and second breakfasts than fighting off orcs, is shown standing up and demanding to be counted.
He does so again in TH:TBOTFA, and in a pivotal scene even stands his ground against the wizard Gandalf.
As Lee Pace’s Elvenking Thranduil storms off, refusing to warn his nemesis the dwarf Thorin Oakenshiled (played by Richard Armitage) of impending danger, Bilbo steps up.
“It’s out of the question. I won’t allow it,” Gandalf tells him. The hobbit quietly, but determinedly, responds: “I’m not asking you to allow it, Gandalf.”
Does Freeman feel that, like Bilbo, he too discovered parts of himself he never knew existed while working on the trilogy?
“I didn’t find it one of self-discovery particularly. I think I’m still too close to it to see how it’s changed me or how it’s informed me. I think maybe in 15 years I might know.
“Very often the things you learn in life you don’t know them five minutes later, you know them much, much later,” he says.
In the last 18 months, the actor has had his hands full, featuring in a host of diverse projects.
He’s voiced an elf (the Christmas kind rather than the Tolkien kind in the animated feature Saving Santa), starred in a short film (the Oscar-nominated The Voorman Problem), played a record producer (Svengali) and attempted to battle androids while drinking at every pub in his hometown (The World’s End).
On the small screen this year, Freeman starred opposite Billy Bob Thornton and Colin Hanks in an adaption of the Coen brothers’ Fargo and earned an Emmy (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Mini-Series or a Movie) for his return as John Watson in the third series of Sherlock.
It is his turns in The Hobbit films, however, for which he may be remembered for years and indeed decades to come, just don’t ask how he hopes his Bilbo will inspire future generations …
“I hope I’ve inspired children to be obsessed over jewellery,” he jokes, alluding to the ring Bilbo discovers in a cave in Misty Mountains, slyly adding: “And never give it back to their mums.”