There are many new names associated with the upcoming Hobbit films. With some we are familiar, and some we are not . Actor John Callen was one of those confirmed cast member for whom we just didn’t have a lot of information, except for the fact that he was cast as Óin, son of Gróin, and brother to Glóin. We have an exclusive treat for you all today as John has been kind enough to share some pictures, a brief biography and the story of how he came to be cast in The Hobbit! Make sure to click the ‘continue reading’ button to read the full story.


I was born November 4 1946 in south-east London and attended Grammar School at Blackheath before heading to NZ with my family at age 16. I attended school for one more year, tried art school and then got my first job copywriting for a radio station before moving sideways into journalism. All this time I was engaged in amateur theatricals through which I met an advertising director who employed me to do voiceovers. That was 40 years ago.

While doing voiceovers I met professional actors and hadn’t realised there were such creatures in NZ. I was asked to audition for radio drama productions and started getting more and more work before being “spotted” by one of NZ’s then leading theatre directors, Mervyn Thompson, who offered me a fulltime contract at Downstage Theatre, New Zealand’s first professional theatre company.

I had also started getting some minor TV roles and applied my journalistic skills to writing for radio and stage.

I had also been doing some directing and continued this at the theatre and then into TV and the commercial world.

I have been in or directed more than 100 stage works, two dozen TV series, a few films, hundreds of radio plays, a number of commercials and literally thousands of voiceovers, including 150 documentaries. Whay great fun.

In the past few years I have directed a lot of NZ’s favourite “soap”, Shortland Street, more than 50 commercials, as well as dramatised documentaries, some of which I have also written. This year a film called The Kiwi Who Saved Britain, why I directed and co-wrote, screened here celebrating the victory of Kiwi Sir Keith Park over the invading Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain.

In recent years I have also worked as a sometime lecturer teaching acting and media studies students.

I have lived in Auckland for the past 20 years. I am married to TVNZ executive Judi Callen.

The LOTR trilogy was one of the most magnificent pieces of cinematic work ever, and when I auditioned for The Hobbit it was not for the role I was eventually given but for Radagast. At the same time I did a voice audition for Smaug. And then, as is often the case in this business, heard nothing – for months.

I had occasion to ring my agent and said: “I’m finishing lecturing at the University soon and I need you to find me a job to set me up for my retirement, if ever that comes along.” For some reason she laughed.

Three days later she rang telling me of my casting for The Hobbit, both films, for the full length of the shoot. I had had two small roles in films here in NZ this year, but wonderful as they were both were for a matter of a few days’ work. This was something else.

After some more time I learnt the names of a few others in the cast and am honoured to be among such august company, a number of whom I have worked with over the years.

I have yet to see a script but believe there is a great deal of comedy and fun to be had amidst the adventure, danger and struggle. A friend warned me to check the nudity clause in my contract but I told them these are not horror films.

My character is Óin, the older brother of Glóin and they are the children of Gróin. Glóin is the father of Gimli, and given that character was played by John Rhys Davies I’m wondering if I need to bring out my “I’m the only 6ft dwarf in the village, look you, isn’t it” accent.

I did wonder about my casting and how they had made the choice – maybe the long hair and the beard sold it, I thought. But now that has all gone. Given that Óin is almost 200 years old I can presume only that it was the age. Maybe I’d like to think the fire of enthusiasm in my eye made a difference; Óin and Glóin are, after all, the firelighters.

From what I’ve seen, these two films will be even more extraordinary than LOTR.