Conan Stevens is an Australian actor and stuntman. After recent work on “A Game of Thrones,” the magic of the internet created a connection between TheOneRing.net and Stevens (cast as Bolg in the two-part adaptation of “The Hobbit,”) leading to the following interview. Currently TORn is embedded in the production, but that event and this interview are not related.
TheOneRing.net: Update us on everything you have going on at the moment.
Conan Stevens: Compared to the the 24 months prior, last year was a good year for me. To start with I managed to get onto “The Hobbit,” which is a story in itself. I missed the main round of auditions but managed to get a foot in the door at the last second – just as I came down with dysentery. So that was a combination of luck, tenacity and 25 years of preparation/wasting time with RPG’s the SCA, Martial Arts, Pro Wrestling, etc.
The afternoon that Peter announced on his Facebook page that I was to be in “The Hobbit” I called a casting agency that handled the”Spartacus” TV series auditions in Wellington, and it turns out the timing was again in my favour (well it has to be sometimes, considering the last two times I’d tried to make contact the timing was wrong) and I was able to audition for a Germanic character named Sedullus – and that the filming was during hiatus between the first and second block of filming “The Hobbit.” Perfect! Except the bit about 90% of my lines being in German, which I can’t speak.
You can see the outcome of that in “Spartacus: Vengeance – Sacramentum – Episode 207” which aired on Starz in the US 2 weeks ago. (Editor’s note: A little longer since this was written)
I also managed to zip over to Malaysia in Nov/Dec to film in “Vikingdom,” starring Dominic Purcell, who was a great mentor for me. Surprisingly, yet again, I was cast as the bad guy. I played the nemesis of the movie – Thor the Nordic God of Thunder, described to me by one of the Producers as an angry, pissed off God.
Vikingdom is currently in post production getting the heavy CGI treatment, so I have no idea of the proposed release date.
Besides that I am writing a new movie script, my fourth to date, my working draft will be done this week and I will be pushing to film this year whether I pull some friends together again or more hopefully sell it. It’ll be a holiday romance story that, like Bangkok Adrenaline, came up as a bit of a joke between a couple of actors chatting after work one day.
Writing keeps my mind occupied during the down time in my acting career. Even when I am working there are times when I have multiple days off each week. Also the writing allows me to ‘do’ movies that I would never do as an actor.
TORn: How is your time in New Zealand?
Conan Stevens: I am enjoying it here in New Zealand, I was in Auckland with Sydney Dance Company in 1996 and again for Spartacus just last year. Being an Australian it makes New Zealand like a second home figuratively and legally – besides the cultural similarities I can travel, stay and work without additional paperwork or time restrictions.
In Wellington everything is within walking distance, the people here are nice, the cool weather makes a change from constantly over heating in the tropics, which is a massive bonus on set wearing costume and makeup while exerting yourself.
It can become very trying when filming in S.E. Asia at 38° C with humidity at 80%+, in a leather overcoat, stunt pads, tons of makeup and a wig in broad daylight in an abandoned rock quarry and studio lights while doing a rather vigorous fight scene.
So for filming in regards to the heat, New Zealand is a lot better.
Best for me though is the quality of meat, eggs and vegetables in New Zealand. The farms still seem to be smaller family run affairs, meaning the food is grown/raised properly in near natural conditions. The Organic food/health culture is very strong too which is fantastic for me as I eat every 2 hours and I can guarantee that eating this real food has a noticeable positive impact on my health.
Anyone who thinks eating manufactured foodstuffs is OK for their health really should sit down and watch this video as a good start to learn why obesity and diabetes is out of control in Western societies, and more importantly how you can beat these modern ‘diseases’.
TORn: How did you become attached to “The Hobbit?”
Conan: I was browsing the web as I do looking for interesting things and found a press release that auditions for “The Hobbit” were starting…… except the article was a couple of months old.
It was very late to try for this, probably too late. I had missed out on a part in the remake of the “Conan” movie and I did not want to miss out on “The Hobbit”.
The book of “The Hobbit” was given to me to read by a friend of my mother when I was about 12 years old, it set my life on a different path. Next I read “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy, then “The Silmarillion” and Homers “The Odyssey” and every Greek/Roman/Viking myth book I could get my hands on. Pretty heavy reading for a 12 year old.
After this I started playing D&D (the original, then Basic, then Advanced), followed by Gamma World, Aftermath, Middle Earth Fantasy Role Playing and Warhammer (both original and role playing), then onto fighting with the SCA as a Vandal warrior named Sigmar Thorsson, you Warhammer fantasy fellows will like the arrogance of that. That was rather fun. Being so much taller, heavier and stronger than everyone else gave me an advantage. I remember one ‘medieval knight’ once complaining that you cannot use a 6′ diameter round shield as a punch shield, I asked “Why not? It seems to work for me”
Back on topic: In a small panic I called an agent I know and asked him to call “The Hobbit” on my behalf. That started well. We had a disagreement instantly which took me a few minutes to talk him around to making the call. Then the rest of the story is already covered on my website here.
TORn: Is there a different kind of fun being a bad guy for you or is a role a role?
Conan: For me a role is a role in movies. When I used to Wrestle Professionally I preferred being the bad guy, known as the ‘Heel’, you would get to ‘work the crowd’ getting them to hate you and want to see you lose, while the good guy ‘Babyface’ would walk in smile and shake hands with a few kids and his acting job was done. Of course back then we played distinctive good guy/bad guy roles.
Being an actor is a lot more involved than many people realize, there are hundreds of ways to play any character. Even for a stylized bad guy there are 4 or 5 different personalities I can play off the top of my head without thinking – better and more experienced actors can do dozens or hundreds.
So being a bad guy or a good guy, well to me at least, does not really seem to matter.
After all bad guys are just good guys with differing beliefs and moral codes.
Having said that I am only just reaching the ‘maturity’ where I feel that I can bring something to the movie besides following directions so everything right now for me is a massive learning experience. Just watching the people I work with and how they work on and off set is an exciting learning experience – unlike the formal acting training I have attempted in the past where being a tree and highly stylized ancient Chinese drama were emphasized beyond the normal limits of boredom.