From Oscar-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” the third in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece “The Hobbit,” by J.R.R. Tolkien. “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” brings to an epic conclusion the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield (played by Richard Armitage) and the Company of Dwarves. Having reclaimed their homeland from the dragon Smaug, the Company has unwittingly unleashed a deadly force into the world. Enraged, Smaug rains his fiery wrath down upon the defenseless men, women and children of Lake-town.
Obsessed above all else with his reclaimed treasure, Thorin sacrifices friendship and honor to hoard it as Bilbo Baggins’ frantic attempts to make him see reason drive the Hobbit towards a desperate and dangerous choice. But there are even greater dangers ahead. Unseen by any but the Wizard Gandalf (played by Ian McKellen), the great enemy Sauron has sent forth legions of Orcs in a stealth attack upon the Lonely Mountain. As darkness converges on their escalating conflict, the races of Dwarves, Elves and Men must decide: unite or be destroyed. Bilbo (played by Martin Freeman) finds himself fighting for his life and the lives of his friends in the epic Battle of the Five Armies, as the future of Middle-earth hangs in the balance.
At a London press conference for “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies” featured Jackson, Freeman, Armitage, McKellen, Orlando Bloom (who plays Legolas), Evangeline Lilly (who plays Tauriel), screenwriter Philippa Boyens, Luke Evans (who plays Bard the Bowman), Andy Serkis (who plays Gollum), Lee Pace (who plays Thranduil), Ryan Gage (who plays Alfrid Lickspittle), Billy Boyd (who plays Pippin in “The Lord of the Rings” movies and performs “The Last Goodbye” in “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies”). Here is what they said at the press conference.
Andy, as an actor and second unit director on “The Hobbit” movies, what are you going to take away from your experience of working on both sides of the camera?
Serkis: This whole journey for me is extraordinary, working on new technology. Again, this goes back to where Pete comes from as a filmmaker and his desire to push the envelope and to reach a point in filmmaking where visual effects become character. So the whole performance-capture journey has been extraordinary from that point of view.
But then also to be asked to direct the second unit was an enormous shock, but it really speaks to Pete’s understanding of the way he collaborates with all of the cast members and all of the crew and as an actual leader and as a filmmaker. But in terms of over-selling him, because he doesn’t need selling, his virtues are that he is the most incredibly generous human being. And to learn from a director who’s an incredibly generous human being, you couldn’t want a mentor who’s a better teacher.
Jackson: I think I’m going to have to hire you again.
Serkis: It’s a deal.
Lee, you kind of steal the show with your entrance in “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.” Is it fun to add to that grandeur?
Pace: On set, you put on this blonde wig, you put on this silver armor. And you’re going to sit here and say, “What’s next?” You’re going to ride an elk into a battle of five armies. You know, the orcs are here. And you just kind of go for it, you swing your sword around. And then show up, and you watch the movie, and it’s just extraordinary. This battle is just massive, and somehow I find myself in it.
Orlando, having been part of “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movies, has this been an emotional journey for you?
Bloom: It’s crazy to think I was 21 when I got cast and moved to New Zealand. I’m 37 now, to put it in perspective. But yeah, it’s bittersweet. I hope Pete feels a huge sense of achievement at this point, because I’m feeling a little bit of that and very grateful to just have been on the ride, really.
Evangeline, do you agree that Tauriel has no fear?
Lilly: I totally disagree. I think she’s terrified of everything, and she overcomes those fears and does it anyway. That’s what elves are supposed to do. You don’t show anything on the outside. It’s all inside.
Richard, can you talk about Thorin’s journey in this “Hobbit” movie series?
Armitage: I’m trying to get through this press tour without repeating the word “journey.” But really, Thorin has such an interesting story arc to play over three movies. And really, when does one get the opportunity to play a single story through pieces? And the material is incredible. Tolkien is incredible. The screenplay is absolutely fantastic. I was given some amazing dialogue to say. I’m very, very grateful for it.
Peter, you’ve said you had a responsibility to these films. How do you feel now that you’ve finished filming?
Jackson: I don’t have the responsibility anymore. I can go to the beach. Any film is a responsibility because you’re spending money that’s not yours, so you’ve got to feel responsibility for that. I also feel very responsible for the fact that you’re trying to entertain people.
For me, a failure is when you make a film that people go to and they pay money to see it and they don’t like it. From my point of view, I’m sure there are people who see these films and don’t like them, but the majority of people have gone and enjoyed them. And for me, that’s why we do what we do: to give people a good time at the movies.
Martin, what does revisiting a character in more than one movie allow you to do as an actor?
Freeman: It gives you an opportunity to grow and expand what you’re doing. I loved to expand Bilbo over the course of three years. That’s the truth … We have a long time to play and discover things. We don’t have five minutes. We have a long time to play this …
I was always having the conversation with Peter, “When do I get to be angry? When do I get to show that different side?” And he’d say, “It’s coming. Pace yourself. You have to shape it out.” And what you learn to pace yourself, and you learn patience — that that time that you want to play that and you want to show that will come. You just have to wait.
Sir Ian, do you think you’ll ever say goodbye to Gandalf?
McKellen: I said goodbye to Gandalf in 2000, when I left New Zealand. Here we are in 2014. It goes on and on and on. It has been the blessing of my professional life.
Like all of the actors, we think we’re all so bloody lucky. There’s nothing about luck in the making of the films, of course. That’s the planning of the [filmmakers]. But the chance that we were selected.
I was impressed at the age of the kids who slept out all night to come and wish us well. And some of them weren’t born in the last century when we started. So our work has been part of their lives. And what are we doing it for, other than to have an effect? The effect could be that crucial to them. And now, they’re going to show these films to their own kids.
To be involved in films that are now classics is overwhelming. You can’t any credit for it, but it’s just happened. It’s not the end. It’s the beginning as people see the film. And then they’ll want to see the six of them, which will be a whole other new experience that none of us would be able to have until this last “Hobbit” was made.
Jackson: Twenty-four hours of joy. Just to expand slightly on something that Ian was saying. We’re about three or four years away from the generations that will see the six films in the story order. Children that are too young, like 3 or 4 years old, are too young to see these films.
And in a very short time, they’ll be able to see these films, from “The Hobbit 1” to “The Return of the King.” So very soon, it won’t be this back-to-front thing. It’ll exist as this six-film story, as it should be.
Did you plan that from the start?
Jackson: When I did “The Lord of the Rings,” I didn’t know I was going to do “The Hobbit.” But when we knew we were going to do “The Hobbit,” we were always thinking of the full arc of the story, because there’s a lot of stuff in “The Hobbit” that we planted that is designed for the people who finally see it in the correct order so it all makes sense.
Philippa, does it make it easier to write “The Hobbit” screenplays because you knew what the end point is?
Boyens: Having done “The Lord of the Rings” first? Definitely. I think it was luck that we did those films first, because I think we would have made a very different “Hobbit” if we’d started with “The Hobbit” — probably more of a children’s tale. Not to say that would have necessarily a bad thing, but we always knew, as Peter said, that this would be set against the backdrop of films that were already in existence.
And what I do love now is we see the relationship between Gandalf and Galadriel, and that she comes to save him. So when she’s told in “The Fellowship of the Ring” that he’s died, it’s going to play in a completely different way. So that’s the experience that’s going to be special for people who can see it in that order.
Luke, was it fun playing a hero?
Evans: Yeah. He wasn’t a hero when I first read him on the page. He was just a lonely bowman. I know what he’s capable of and what he ends up doing in the third [“Hobbit”] movie, but when I started playing him all those years ago, he was a father of three without a wife, and he had a long journey ahead of him. It was very satisfying to see the look of that rooftop sequence, which was the first thing I ever shot, wasn’t it Pete?
Jackson: Yes, it was.
Evans: He put me on wires and set me up on a rooftop for four days.
Jackson: There’s a lot of scenes in “The Battle of the Five Armies” that was shot four years ago.
Evans: It was four years ago that I shot that, so I waited a long time to see that scene.
Ryan, what can you say about your Alfrid character?
Gage: It was very clear on the page. He jumped off the page from the first reading of it. He got to play around with it. It was a good opportunity for Pete to play with me and bully me a bit and throw eggs at me.
So it was great fun to be had, because he [Alfrid] has a bit of a foolish nature. He’s kind of a dark, clownish character, so I enjoyed being able to find a little bit of me that’s a bit of a fool and vain.
Jackson: [He says jokingly] A lot of it, actually.
Gage: [He laughs.] Thank you. And a bit of me that is bitter and greedy and all those things that exaggerates it and has fun being that person. It was a great treat to be him.
Billy, how did the song “The Last Goodbye” happen?
Boyd: I don’t know. I know that I liked when I got the phone call and got to go back to New Zealand and work with Fran [Walsh] and Philippa so closely on writing the song. It sort of organically happened because the song from “Return of the King” was in the trailer. And we started talking about doing this song, and it sort of snowballed from there.
Jackson: Apart from the fact that you have a fantastic voice, we felt it was almost an emotional thing, like it was a handover from the first three films to the second set of three films.
Boyd: I was thinking about that when you were talking about watching them in the right order. But it was great. It was so good to be down there in a different way. When you’re used to being an actor, and to leave it, to be there in the last couple of weeks and the excitement of putting it all together, and getting to sit with Pete as he edited it. It was great.