We sit down with the Irish star of THE HOBBIT…
It’s been an eventful few yeas for Irish actor Aidan Turner, not only did he star in THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES, but he has spent a lot of time in New Zealand, running after a small but determined Hobbit. Movies.ie sat down with Aidan Turner to welcome him home, discover how he feels not that THE HOBBIT has come to an end, and whether he ever lied to Peter Jackson…
How does it feel to be home in Dublin?
Aidan Turner: It’s nice to be home for Christmas; I spent the last few years away. I always came home for Christmas, but it’s nice to be here. I am going to be doing a movie with Jim Sheridan in January, so that means I am going to be here for the next month at least, so that’s cool.
How do you feel now that THE HOBBIT has come to an end?
AT: I guess it feels pretty good! To look back at the trilogy… I’m very proud of them; I’m a fan of all the films. I think everyone’s done an amazing job on them. Of course you will have people who critique them or think they don’t match up; this bit they don’t like, or that bit’s not in the book… You’re going to get that anyway, but generally, the broader strokes are that they are all a big success; that’s a big relief. I’m glad that worked out; I’m glad it wasn’t a disaster. It’s a box set I am going to be very proud of in years to come, so that’s fun. It was such a long job; I was there for a couple of years, so to move on and do other things was quite important for me, so there is a sense [that] it’s nice to let it go now, in the best possible way.
I read that when you were first cast in THE HOBBIT, you hadn’t read the book. Have you read it since?
AT: I read it when I got over there. It was terrible, I felt so embarrassed saying it to Peter… When I walked into the room he said ‘I’m a really big fan of BEING HUMAN’, and I thought ‘I have it in the bag now, it’s mine to blow at this stage!’. That was quickly followed by ‘Have you read the book?’, and I had that moment of, ‘Do I lie or not? Is he going to find out I haven’t? Can I blag it? Will he appreciate me telling the truth?’ and I said ‘No, I haven’t read it’ – this book you’d easily read in a weekend, so I had no excuses. It worked out though, he spent the next hour explaining everything in the book to me; going through it page by page, almost, and reading bits out! It would have been strange if I hadn’t got the job, so I walked out of there kind of knowing.
Martin Freeman said Ian McKellen walked around the set with the book, pointing things out as you were filming. Did you do the same?
AT: [laughs] There’s a certain gravitas that Ian McKellen can get away with! [laughs] He can hold Tolkien’s THE HOBBIT and walk around going [impersonates Ian McKellen] ‘Peter, it’s not even here. It’s not in the book!’. I wouldn’t really get away with that! There were several different sound stages that you would go to, there were different units on different given days, so we didn’t have a lot of time for walking around with books in our hands. We had trouble walking at the best of times with all the armour. McKellen could get away with that, and I think he did as well; there was always a debate whether he should be saying this, or whether this should be happening or not. He’s a stickler for that; he wants to stick to the book all the time, but there was a stage where we just let it go. McKellen’s funny. He’s my favourite; love him!
There’s already talk of THE SILMARILLION, would you come back?
AT: I don’t know whether he will have the rights to do it. The grandson, Roy Tolkien, he’s so lovely, so supportive. He’s on set a lot with us, and he’s such a legend; I love that guy… But I don’t know. I think Peter would like to do more Tolkien, and he’s the right man for the job, but whether they will ever sell the rights, I don’t know. It’s a big investment, it’s a couple of years out of your life… It’s just taking two years out to go to the other side of the planet.
You’d consider it though…
AT: [laughs] Am I at the stage where I can consider something like this!? What a ham! [laughs] Of course I’d do it, what am I talking about?
This time out Kili gets to be the romantic hero…
AT: I wasn’t so sure whether it would be kept in or not! It’s tough to know with Peter’s movies, especially when it’s coming in at 2 hours and 10 minutes; you think ‘Jesus, he’s cut a lot out of this’, but it wasn’t, it was left in. I’m very happy, very proud, it’s a nice story and Evangeline [Lilly] is very strong in it.
You’re used to playing the brooding romantic hero from BEING HUMAN, and although Kili seems much more happy about his romance, was this something you enjoyed?
AT: Martin Freeman always used to say ‘Aidan, what look are you doing today? Blue Steel? Sad face or happy face?’ [laughs] He’s hilarious. It was nice to have that storyline, but the fighting stuff and everything was fun. There wasn’t a bit of it I didn’t really enjoy. It was long, and I was ready for it to end when it came to an end, but I don’t regret a single day of it. it was amazing. You learn a lot when you’re doing a big job like this, when you’re over there and in it all the time, you pick up a lot of the techniques of how the camera works, what every department does and how they all work together, and how they keep this well-oiled machine ticking over all the time.
Did you get to do many of the fight scenes and stunts?
AT: We did most of it ourselves, really. The stunt guys were brought in, but they would usually be on different units doing other stuff. Especially for the younger guys, we would do our own fighting, and I wanted to as well, I wanted to make a point of doing it. There’s a personal sense of pride you have over your characters, and you want to know you’re doing it yourself. On the BBC show POLDARK, which is coming out in March 2015, they wouldn’t let me gallop the horse, and I was livid ‘cos I love horse riding and I’m quite all right at it, but it was just insurance. It’s horrible, because in the opening credits, Ross Poldark is galloping a horse and [angrily] it’s not me! I can’t lie, because then I’m a liar! Nobody will ever know but me, but I just can’t say it!
Well if you can’t lie to Peter Jackson…
AT: [Laughs] Yeah what’s it worth now!?
You sing in THE HOBBIT, can we see a musician biopic in your future?
AT: I have done that, yes, but I think I’m way down in the mix! I don’t have a great voice… Actually, it’s probably not that bad, it’s just not good enough that I could go ‘hey check out this song that I wrote’, or something. Although that’s what every actor thinks before they play the role. Apparently Joaquin Phoenix didn’t think he could sing, and then he played Johnny Cash… Sam Riley played Ian Curtis… There’s so many performers like that, where it comes out of nowhere and they do it. I don’t know if you’ll see a biopic with Aidan Turner playing someone… I’d love to play Michael Hutchence, but I wouldn’t be able to do his voice justice and I’d be afraid to mess it up, because then you’re screwing with somebody’s legacy.
Have you found that working on THE HOBBIT has changed your career?
AT: Yes and no… I guess doors do open, but relatively it’s all kind of the same. Sometimes you’re in a bigger pool, bigger jobs, but you are up against bigger actors, and actors who have done a lot more than you. It does open up doors, but you read stuff and think it’s a great script, it’s a great part… Who got it in the end? Oh, Ewan McGregor! Whether it’s better or worse, I don’t know, but it’s certainly different. Everything’s kind of going all right actually, it’s pretty good.
You seem to be drawn to roles in fantasy productions with THE HOBBIT, BEING HUMAN and THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES. Is that something that you’re drawn to or are these just the roles that have come up?
AT: Mitchell [BEING HUMAN] is a vampire, then it was THE HOBBIT, then I played a werewolf in THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS… Maybe it’s just the Holy Trinity of supernatural characters that I just wanted to cap off. It just sounded interesting; I didn’t necessarily want to get myself another franchise with THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, but it just seemed fun. I liked the script, I liked the idea of going to Toronto and shooting this movie. It wasn’t a huge role, but he was a very grounded person, I liked the idea of finding someone who has a human sense to him. Mitchell had that too, he was struggling to not have this affliction, he saw the supernatural attributes as a disease. Similarly with Luke in THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, he was such a real, honest guy. He was the audience in many ways… Then with Kili… I guess playing supernatural can be fun, you have a licence to muck around a bit more; nothing is off the schedule, you can kind of do anything. You can be very theatrical with some scenes, or you can pull stuff right down… You can get away with it because they are not quite human so you can do different things, and that always intrigued me. There came a point though, after THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS, when I thought ‘I need to play a real person now’, and then Ross Poldark came along and I thought ‘Oh thank god!’ [laughs]
POLDARK is a BBC TV series; was it a conscious choice to go back to TV, and specifically the BBC?
AT: Yes… Well I didn’t run away from it; it was an offer that came out of nowhere, I had never heard of POLDARK, didn’t know anything about it, and suddenly it just came in as an offer. Before I even read it the idea of it was something that I immediately warmed to; I’d be in the UK shooting, it was a real person [laughs], it was period and it was something that I wanted to get back into as well… It just ticked all the boxes and the character appealed to me; he’s a real hero. To anchor a show, I felt it was time; I felt I could do it now, I didn’t have that fear, it was just exciting and I wanted to get into it. I knew then it was the right time to do something. It all just worked, it all just happened. I didn’t go out and search for it, it came to me and it just seemed like absolutely the right project to do.
You’re working with Jim Sheridan next year, and obviously POLDARK is coming out in March, are you looking any further into the future in terms of projects?
AT: Not really. It used to be a case of have a load of stuff going on, but you realise very quickly that when you start doing that you put yourself our of action for other stuff. It sounds obvious, but immediately the scripts stop coming in, you stop reading stuff, you stop meeting directors or writers because you have your gigs and it closes off the next 12 months. You want to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on and what’s happening, it might mean sitting around for a couple of months, but being available is something I never thought of before, and it has been quite beneficial this time around. Not having a lot of stuff on has made me look around and meet people and see what’s about, and there is some great stuff happening.
It’s good to take time off too…
AT: Yeah, just to feel like yourself again. Being back in Dublin and hanging out, it’s lovely… Especially at Christmastime. [laughs]
THE HOBBIT: THE BATTLE OF THE FIVE ARMIES is released in Irish cinemas on December 12th, 2014
Words: Brogen Hayes