Worrisome role still has humour
ARTIN Freeman is on the cusp of major movie stardom, so you’d imagine he would be feeling on top of the world about his good fortune. Not a bit of it.
The actor has been in the public eye in Britain for more than 10 years, and he laments: ‘‘People have been annoying me in restaurants for a long time, and now it’ll just be all over the world. Yippee.’’
Freeman, who shot to prominence as Tim in Ricky Gervais’s The Office, might not be embracing the fame game but he’s going to have to get used to it with the release of director Sir Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in which he has the starring role of Bilbo Baggins.
‘‘I’m getting a glimpse of that external reaction to it now, the nearer the film gets to release,’’ says Freeman.
The youthful-looking 41-year-old comes across as friendly and thoughtful, if a little caustic. That could simply be his sense of humour or perhaps a protective reflex given that he describes himself as ‘‘a very, very private person’’.
So private that he doesn’t want to confirm how many children he has (a Google search reveals he has a son and daughter with his long-term partner Amanda Abbington). What he will say is that he that doesn’t want his kids to see him as anything other than their dad.
‘‘I want to keep my children absolutely out of it until they’re of an age where they can decide,’’ he says.
Freeman recently earned an Emmy and Bafta TV nomination for his role as Dr John Watson in Sherlock but he was far from a global name when Jackson cast him in the lead role. That didn’t deter the director, who was so determined to hire Freeman that he rearranged the shooting schedule to allow the actor to leave the set in New Zealand to film Sherlock in the UK.
‘‘I was truly shocked and pleased because I really wanted to play Bilbo, and that’s not the kind of offer that comes back,’’ says Freeman. ‘‘It showed they had such faith in me. They must have seen something in me that could play worry but with humour.’’
The three Hobbit movies were shot back-to-back over an epic 18 months, and in that time Freeman only returned twice to his home in London.
‘‘It didn’t take long to get away from the role but after that experience of being away, it’s like decompression,’’ Freeman says.
‘‘You’re away for so long in a completely different world, figuratively and literally, you come back to your world and your home and it takes a while (to return to normality).’’
opens on Boxing Day.
Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in a scene from