With just a week to go until the Home Video release (in the US at least – check our post here for full details of when the Home Video comes out in different countries) of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, TheOneRing.net has recently had the chance to catch up with some of the film’s lead actors. Last week staffer greendragon spoke to Luke Evans about his role as Bard the Bowman, about using his native accent on-screen, and about stepping in to big shoes (or perhaps a big coffin?) to take on the role of Dracula. Here’s what he had to say:
greendragon: How did you start approaching the character of Bard? What did you focus on about him when first preparing the part: his role as an heroic figure, his ancestry, his position as a father…?
Luke Evans: The last was the thing I thought about most – he is a father. He has a huge journey in the story of the films: he goes from being just a lowly bargeman, then we discover that his ancestor was Girion, the man who took a shot at the dragon and failed, so his ancestors have been sort of ostracized, they’ve lost their privileges and their titles… There’s a lot to him. But I think when I first started studying the role and creating and building up Bard’s character, I had to focus on what was there in front of me. At that point of the story when we first meet him, he’s just a dad; he’s a single parent living in a horrible place called Lake-town! He has no money, he’s not able to make any money – and he sees these dwarves who show him some money, and he thinks he can make a little bit of extra money to look after his kids. That’s who he is at that point; and I guess at that point that’s all I wanted to focus on – because we’ve got another movie to think about, and you want to see the development of the character. I guess Peter, myself, Fran and Philippa all wanted to give Bard his due; to give him enough space to allow the audience to travel with him and support him, and to care for his position. So when Bard does these incredible things, the audience are behind him – much more than if you’d just given him the time that he has in the book, where he’s in and out like a shot. He does play such an important and integral role in the journey of The Hobbit, and the course of the history of Middle-earth…
GD: So when your Bard starts out, he doesn’t have in the back of his mind that he might be a hero one day – that’s not something for which he’s keeping the black arrow?
LE: No, absolutely not. In fact, he hides the only relic of his past in the kitchen – he’s got herbs hanging from it! Nobody even knows it’s there. But it’s his son Bain who knows about the story – he’s heard these fables about the history, and whenever he has a chance to talk about his ancestor Girion he does; whereas Bard doesn’t because Bard knows what happened to Dale. He knows the pain and the heartache, the death and carnage that it brought when his ancestor didn’t kill the dragon. So it’s the last thing on Bard’s mind, that he wants to be, or will ever be, a leader. He just wants to survive this horrid world of Lake-town!
GD: You mention your son Bain; they always say you shouldn’t act with children but it seemed to me that John [Bell] and James Nesbitt’s daughters [Peggy and Mary] did a fantastic job as your three. Was it fun working with them?
LE: Yes it was fantastic. We all had a really fun time working together. They were wonderful; that phrase needs to be rewritten, as regards Peggy and Mary and John Bell! They are really special. I tried to make it fun for them; they’re long days, you know, for youngsters to be on the set, and there’s a lot of hanging about. But we all had a lot of fun. I took the girls to see Taylor Swift a couple of weeks ago – it was very nice to see them. I feel slightly like their father in a way – very sweet.
GD: Whose decision was it that Bard and his family would have the Welsh accent? Of course we’ve seen you playing plenty of roles where you haven’t spoken with your native accent… I was delighted to hear it, as it was an accent of the British Isles that we hadn’t heard at all in Middle-earth up to this point.
LE: Well – I did an audition eighteen months before I got any response from them, and they’d taped me doing the audition, but obviously they’d spoken to me before I did the scene. When Peter and Philippa and Fran went back to look over the audition tapes, when they were ready to cast Bard the Bowman, which was almost eighteen months later, they sort of acknowledged my Welsh accent. I think they realized then that it sounded good, and that it could potentially be a valid accent for Bard. So when I did go on tape for the second audition, which was my final audition, I had a long conversation with them on the phone, and they asked me if I would go on tape and actually do the Welsh accent as an option, to see if it worked. It was quite weird for me, I have to say, because I’d never used my Welsh accent like that before, so it was very odd. I think I had to do a couple of takes before my Welsh accent actually sat properly, you know? It’s so weird – because that IS my accent, but I just wasn’t ready for doing it! Anyway we did it, and they loved it – and it became part of Bard’s nature, basically. What I didn’t realize at the time was how much it would then play a role in the film. You know, any descendants of Dale that were still alive in Lake-town, such as Bard and his kids, they all had Welsh accents as well; so we ended up casting quite a lot of Welsh accented people from New Zealand, to speak with Welsh accents, which was really very nice!
GD: That’s great – that’s a lovely extra bit of ‘behind the scenes’ information! So, obviously there are things that you can’t give away, but is there anything you can tell us that you’re particularly looking forward to people seeing in The Hobbit: There and Back Again, when it comes out at the end of the year?
LE: Well – that black arrow…? [dramatic pause] It plays a big role in my story. [laughs] For anyone who hasn’t read the book! Not spoiling it for anyone, but that black arrow – VERY important.
GD: By now you may have been getting used to the huge fan base that Tolkien, The Hobbit and Peter Jackson’s movies have. I see that you’re going to be playing the lead role in the remake of The Crow…
LE: Yes, that’s on the books!
GD: That’s another big cult fan base. Do you think that being in The Hobbit has prepared you for what fan expectations are like with these kinds of movies?
LE: Oh very much so – yes, without a doubt. I mean, I’d spent five years in films, and hadn’t really been spotted on the street; well, some people would say hello, but not many. The Hobbit has really changed that! I look very much like the character, I’m not covered in prosthetics… So yeah, I’ve become sort of visually attached to that role, by people who go to the cinema. So yeah, it’s an interesting one…
GD: But you’re obviously not daunted by stepping into these roles, because you’re also playing Dracula coming up. So you’re clearly quite happy to step into a big role which has a big following.
LE: Well yeah! I mean, we all want to play the challenging roles – well, maybe we all don’t, but I do! I want to do all the great roles! And obviously when Universal approached me to play Dracula, in a new version of the story, retelling the origins of Dracula, my first reaction was, ‘I’m too young!’ [laughs] But then reading the story and the script, I realized it was about the [factual] man behind the fictional character as much as it’s about Dracula; it’s about Vlad Tepes, the man who walked this earth in the 1400s. And yeah, these are huge boots I’m filling – I know the kind of actors that have played this role in the past. It’s exciting, it’s daunting – but it’s a brilliant opportunity for me to progress in this world, this industry, and I took the bull by the horns, as it were – or took the vampire by the fangs – and went with it!
LE: Oh thank you very much. Yeah, I’m really proud of that; I had such a good time watching it, I sort of forgot that it was me, which is always nice!
GD: I wondered if you had any seen similarities between the roles of Bruce Reynolds and Bard, in terms of the role they end up playing in their lives; this kind of walking the line on the wrong side of the law, but perhaps being a kind of ‘freedom fighter’, opposing authority. It intrigued me that there seemed to be some overlap there…
LE: I hadn’t thought about that, to be honest. They are both family men, I know that; as much as he was a criminal, Bruce Reynolds did always look out for his family, and took them away with him when they went on the run. But no, I hadn’t really thought about that; interesting…
GD: I’m hoping that we can maybe persuade you to come to a convention sometime and hang out with some of the fans…
LE: I will definitely do that, definitely. I’m hoping I will be at [San Diego] ComicCon this year, if I can squeeze it in to my schedule. I’m hoping I will get there, because obviously I have two very big films coming out this year [The Hobbit: There and Back Again and Dracula Untold], and I do love the conventions. Honestly it’s just timing – but definitely I will try to make some of the big ones if I can.
GD: Well we know you’re a busy man! And we’re very much looking forward to seeing everything that you have coming up; but particularly of course the final part of The Hobbit, and finding out just what you do with that black arrow…
LE: [laughs] Exactly!
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Later this week we’ll be bringing you exclusive interviews with Richard Armitage and with Peter Hambleton, to help pass the time until you can bring home your copy of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. Stay tuned!