Martin Freeman has left The Hobbit.
This is not another April Fool, just a May Fact. Before signing as Bilbo, Martin had agreed to make three 90-minute TV films in London, again playing Dr Watson to Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes. No worries: he’ll be back in Middle Earth after our first hiatus, during which Peter Jackson will have spare time to edit the scenes already completed. The rest of the cast remains on duty for another few weeks, working on hobbit-less sections of the film. These involve dwarves of course but also elves, with Hugo Weaving back for a stretch as Lord Elrond.
Hugo was recently onstage as Astrov in Chekov’s Uncle Vanya for the Sydney Theatre Company, whose director, Cate Blanchett, played Yelena. Before she returns as Galadriel, they will reprise their production at Washington DC’s Kennedy Center in August. I shall miss the revival, because of my own play, Eduardo De Filippo’s The Syndicate at Chichester Festival Theatre and a short UK tour.
Another slim-line elf returning from LOTR, is a local: New Zealand’s actor/comedian/singer Bret McKenzie. Last time, he was an extra at Rivendell, the elven Last Homely House in the East. Under a tree at the Council of Elrond, he silently witnessed the forming of the Fellowship. Wordless maybe but not unnoticed by fans of the beautiful, who gave him the acronym F.I.G.W.I.T. (“Frodo Is Great! Who Is That?”) I confess Gandalf didn’t take much notice, distracted by the main action that involved all the main characters.
I only joined Bret’s fan-base, when he joined up with Jermaine Clement in their hilarious tv series Flight of the Conchords. Now he is briefly back in Rivendell as a senior official at Elrond’s Court and he has a name “Lindir”, which means “singer”. Tolkien has plenty of songs in The Hobbit but the script doesn’t indicate that Lindir will be singing any of them. If, as he promises, Bret makes a Conchord feature film ere long, I shall angle for a non-speaking part as BIGWIT. (“Bret Is…” etc.)
And there’s another wizard in town, preparing to make his appearance as Radagast the Brown, the eccentric friend of Gandalf’s, played by Sylvester McCoy who was last in Wellington in 2007, King Lear’s Fool in the Royal Shakespeare production in which I was his nuncle, now Sylvester’s nick-name for me. This week he has been trying out his make-up and costume. At the prospect of our scenes together, Nuncle couldn’t be happier.
Ian McKellen, Wellington, 10 May 2011