Wor­ri­some role still has hu­mour

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

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

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