Luke Evans interview: The Hobbit, LEGO

Duncan chats to Luke Evans about stunts, green screens, and being turned into a toy

Spoilers ahead for The Hobbit movies…

Having been a fan of Luke Evans’ work for some years now, it was a strange coincidence that after finally getting a chance to interview him for Dracula Untold a few months back in October, we were almost immediately offered another chance for a catch up for the release of The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies, which is finally unleashed on the 12th December.

The timing couldn’t be better though, as if there was one part of the trilogy to discuss all things Bard the Bowman, it was this one. After Peter Jackson controversially decided to end The Desolation of Smaug on a cliff-hanger, it left poor Bard trapped in a jail and postponed his rightful moment to shine with his face off against the titular dragon, but in The Battle Of The Five Armies we finally get to see the best of the Bowman and Luke Evans’s performance does the heroic and bearded character great justice.

Evans of course has been quickly building up a varied roster of roles, including everything from a villainous bastard in Fast & Furious 6 (whose older brother is to be played by our man Statham in the upcoming Fast 7, which we asked him about here), one of the three musketeers in err… The Three Musketeers, two different Greek Gods in Clash of the Titans and Immortals and even a romantic foil alongside Gemma Arterton, in Tamara Drewe.

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Once more the interview came at the end of his working day and found him confessing that “I’m exhausted, mate!” which I mentioned was the same situation for our Dracula chat, to which he joked “Oh, mate you need to get in early! You need to get your schedule right!” and with that he said he was “ready and raring to go” so without further ado…

Congratulations on the film. You must have been counting down to this part of the trilogy’s release, especially as your character of Bard finally gets his heroic moment to shine and really takes off?

Yeah, I knew it was coming and I’d spoken to Pete about it through the year and he’d been telling me it was coming together really well and that Bard plays as a really strong character and that the role was really coming through. But I was still so shocked and happy and pleased with the way it came out, because it’s such an interesting character and such a trajectory from a lowly bargeman, all the way through to being leader of the human army and right smack bang in the middle of it all and he even kills the bloody dragon! I mean that’s quite the journey, you know?

Definitely. From an audience perspective though, I thought it was a bit of a shame that we didn’t get the dragon killing at the end of the last film, but it was well worth the wait – was that how you felt?

Yeah I think so, yeah. I mean I’m a sucker for a cliff-hanger, a good one, and I thought that was just such an epic cliff-hanger and also what I really liked about this movie is it doesn’t do any recapping – if you ain’t seen the second film, tough shit, you’ve just got to keep going! And I loved that, it was like ‘We haven’t got time to do recaps, we don’t need a recap, you’ve got two movies where the story’s been told, there’s no more exposition, we are straight on, full pelt down to Lake-town’ and that’s where the story begins and it just keeps that pace all the way through, which makes it very different to the other two and I loved it.

One of the moments I loved in Five Armies was your William Tell scene with your onscreen son – was it quite intimidating for him watching you drawing a bow string towards his face?

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[Laughs] It was slightly, yeah! I mean you have to remember that it wasn’t that type, that bow – the string it was just me faking it!

Ah you never can tell!

No, but that was an idea of Peter’s and I think it took a while before Fran and Philippa got their head around the fact that Bard would rest the black arrow on Bain’s shoulder during that final moment, but I think Peter and I always thought it was going to be a good idea – we liked it very much – but I think the girls… it took them a while to get their head round it, but we did, we got it and I think it works very, very well.

I mean at the end of the day, I think what’s going through Bard’s head is they’re going to die and better for them to die together, fighting the good cause, then letting him disappear down the bell tower and into a towering inferno, you know?

Always best to go out with a fight!

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Yes exactly!

And how was the amount of green screen work you had to do? You had a lot of human co-stars and companions, but was there still a lot of it?

Yeah I had loads! [Laughs] I had lots of days where I was alone in a green screen set of my house, while the dwarves where on a different set. There was plenty, like the wagon scene – riding down there that was all green screen, so there was lot of stuff every now and again that I had to do.

I guess the fact that you were in New Zealand must help to counter balance that though, as you’ve not only got the stunning countryside, but all of the incredible production design that they do too?

Yeah, everything [helps]. You’ve got the amazing Weta Workshops, which we all got lucky enough to be taken round privately and you get to see it all first hand and touch everything – which is not what you’re allowed to do usually! So, no, it’s very, very cool.

I bet and having seen the ‘making of’ documentaries, Weta’s work is just incredible…

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It’s breathtaking.

So did you get to keep anything?

I kept the sword. They commissioned a sword of the fake one that I used in the movie, the Durian sword of my ancestor; they got Weta to make a real one. And I know the guy that made it, which is really sweet. It was actually a friend of mine – he made my sword, which makes it even more touching. Because I had a lot of friends that work for Weta and they became very close to me and the fact that when they asked them to make my sword, it was my friend Tristan who made it was very cool. I was very happy about that.

That’s lovely! So did you know those people before, or did you become friends with them on set?

No, they were people I became friends with while I was in New Zealand.

I guess you were out there for such a long time, it must be nice to be able to build friendships…

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Yeah, yeah we got to meet everybody and hang out, it was great.

When I spoke to you the other month about Dracula Untold, that seemed, especially from an action point of view, very tough and physically intensive. Was The Hobbit similarly challenging, even with the addition of CGI?

Oh yes, I mean all the fighting I do, it’s all real, I was there, I did it and the rooftop sequence? That’s me, I was on cables running and sliding down rooftops, that was all me. You can see it’s be as I’m not able to hide, so it was a lot of training, but I think Dracula was way more demanding – that was insane.

And you seem to take quite a bit of pride in your stunt work and your action choreography – was that something that’s evolved through the roles you’ve had?

Yes it is, yeah, definitely. It’s not something I… I didn’t set out going ‘Yep, I’m going to do all my own stunts’ I thought ‘I’m going to see how I am with the stunts and see if I can do them.’

I’m fit and I stay in good shape and I like the physicality and I like to challenge myself. I think I work well with stunt co-ordinators and have always understood choreography and I understand accuracy and all of those things, so if I can do it myself I will. It’s the sense of achievement as well, you know, when you can do something like that.

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I remember you saying that your process casting was quite disjointed, but before you auditioned, what was your point of reference for The Hobbit – were you a fan of the book already?

I read the book when I was a teenager and then I read it again when I got the movie, as a refresher.

I’ve been a fan of Peter Jackson since the start of his career, right back when he was making comedic gore-fests, how was he to work with?

I don’t think he’s changed very much! [Laughs] Except he can afford a steadicam now, he doesn’t have to make his own – do you remember that?

Yeah!

With a couple of springs and a couple of pieces of metal and a leather belt and you’re just like ‘wow’! No he hasn’t changed much, I think he still has the passion and the fire in his belly which is a lovely thing.

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And if he decided to go back to his roots and make another insane horror movie, would you be up for that?

Absolutely! Yeah totally, I would love to do something with him.

I know I’m getting a little bit beyond the cinema release, but do you know if any more of your performance will make it into the extended cut of Five Armies? As I know Peter Jackson is always quite unique and upfront about the fact there will always be a longer version for the home release.

I think there will be, yeah. I think there’s lots of stuff to be done. There’s a load of stuff that I know isn’t in the film right now that he would want to put back in and I think with the rooftop sequence there’s definitely lots there that can go back in.

I’m always fascinated by fan reactions, especially as I fall between being a fan and a writer, as it can sometimes be quite intense. Has it been a positive experience for you?

Yeah, it’s always been positive, I mean I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s a lovely feeling to get out of a car and hear people screaming your name! It’s like ‘Wow!’ it’s a very lovely thing. I know I’m going to be stopped on the street for many years as Bard the Bowman and I really don’t mind.

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And of course you’re now a Lego figure too!

I have two Lego figures, thank you very much!

[laughing]

Let’s just get that clear, alright?

I’ll make sure I write that bit in capitals for you! 

And I was going to ask if you were taking a break, but it looks like you’re still a very busy man…

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Well, I just wanted to finish this year on a high and commit as much of my time as I could to selling this movie to people and taking it to all the different countries and stuff. And then next year I start with these two projects, they should be announced quite soon, one is going to be shot here in the UK and the other one… I think in the UK as well.

One is the Ben Wheatley movie, which I’m very excited about, which is his new one Free Fire that he’s written and so there’s plenty going on and I’ll be looking forward going back to work. I’ve had such a busy year with so much, I’m quite happy to shell into Christmas now and start next year afresh.

And is The Crow still progressing?

It’s not, no. No, at the minute The Crow is not, not for me.

I mean I’m sure it’s going to go ahead at some point, but I have other projects that are greenlit and ready to go and projects that I’m very interested in and you know, I can’t wait much longer! [laughs]

That’s fair enough! Mr Luke Evans thank you very much!

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