Luke Evans returns to the big screen this weekend as we are introduced to Bard The Bowman for the first time in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
- Did you come across the work of J.R.R. Tolkien as a teenager?
Yes, just The Hobbit. The Lord of the Rings terrified me too much, just the sheer size of it!
I think The Hobbit is probably the most child-friendly of all the Tolkien stories in this series. I think it is the easiest to read.
I was captivated from the second it starts. It starts very cozy in the middle of the Hobbit Hole - it is beautiful - and it draws you in very quickly. The characters are so well written.
One thing Tolkien does incredibly well - and this is from a lay person’s point of view; I am not scholar or anything - is that you don’t have to make an effort to envisage the worlds that he writes about.
They are so well done. I immediately have an image whenever I read him. I reread The Hobbit, and the images I had in my mind straightaway were the same images I had as a teenager. They still triggered the same images. I think that is very clever.
- How does your character, Bard, come into the story, and why does he help the Dwarves?
You meet him exactly as you meet him in the book, which is nice. The Dwarves crash their barrels on the edge of the river and don’t know where they are.
They are a bit disorientated and look up, and all of a sudden there is this huge, ominous figure peering down with an arrow pointing at them. He is a giant compared to them because they are so small. That’s how you meet him.
A bit of bartering goes on to get them into Lake-town. Bard is lower-working class, really, living hand-to-mouth. He has three kids and lives in this controlled state, which is very corrupt and run by one dictator.
The people there have nothing. The place is rotting away. It is literally sinking into the lake. It has lost all its trade with Erebor because this huge Dragon now lives there sitting on its gold. It’s tragic. They have nothing.
They have nowhere to go and that’s the sadness of this place. You do feel they are just a forgotten race.
- So Bard is out for himself at the beginning?
He is. But when he comes across these 13 Dwarves and a Hobbit, he knows that this is a big deal. How is he going to get them all in to Lake-town? And, yes, he wants to make it worth his while, saving them, so he makes a deal with them. Bard is not stupid.
He is a very savvy, street-wise character and that is why he has survived for as long as he has, much to the dislike of the Master of Lake-town; Bard always seems to be one step ahead of the Master, who really doesn’t like Bard.
- You must have enjoyed the on-screen friction between Bard and the Master, played by Stephen Fry?
It is a fantastic dynamic. Anyone who is offered a role against Stephen Fry, in any context, any genre, would be mad to not take it. And this one was no exception.
The Master in this film looks just incredible. He is a very statuesque human being. Stephen is a very tall man. They have made him very portly.
He has these teeth, is bald-headed, and he is really over-indulging in food and wine while the rest of his townsfolk starve and suffer on a daily basis.
The thing that he doesn’t have, though, which Bard does, is the respect of the people. As you see the film develop and the story unfold, Bard gains their respect because he is one of them, whereas the Master is never really one of them; he never wanted to be part of their lives.
He keeps them on the verge of starvation so that they are weak and they can’t revolt, but Bard is the light in this very dark world that they live in.
- Can you describe Bard’s finest moments in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug?
Bard has quite a lot of finest moments! He starts off as this sort of cheeky chap, maybe with an undercurrent that he doesn’t play everything by the rules.
Well, you wouldn’t, in order to survive and to have some quality of life in a controlled state.
You meet his family; he has these wonderful kids but no wife because she has died. It is very sad, and he works for them. That’s it. That’s all he has and he keeps them clothed, fed, watered and safe.
As the film goes on, you realize his only objective is to keep them safe and, unfortunately, that is compromised.
He has shunned his history and his family legacy. His ancestor, his grandfather six times back, was Girion, Lord of Dale, who is the only person who ever tried to kill the Dragon and all he managed to do was to dislodge a scale.
The dragon survived and eliminated Dale and all of Bard’s ancestors. It is a story they don’t talk about; Bard’s ancestors were shunned, disliked, because they were held responsible for the annihilation of Dale.
There is a lot going on in Bard’s life. There are some incredible moments for Bard in this film. They are very epic.
- Bard has a hidden talent with archery. Did you take well to it?
Great, I loved it. We had a really good time learning archery. We all did it together, even though the Dwarves use different bows and arrows.
They shoot from the hip, whereas Bard shoots like the Samurai, so the palm is facing away from the face. That way, you can extend further than the face. If your palm is facing your face you can only draw the bow to your ear.
You naturally cannot go any further. A longbow takes a massive draw for the arrow to go anywhere. That was one of the wonderful things I learned!
- Peter Jackson has always used a variety of accents in his Middle-earth films. Does Bard have a Welsh accent by any chance?
Actually, when I auditioned for this role, Peter, Fran and Philippa [Boyens] discussed my accent because they’d heard me speaking on an earlier tape and they had heard my Welsh accent. They really liked it.
A lot of characters in The Lord of the Rings films and in The Hobbit Trilogy have Irish, Scottish, Yorkshire accents, but they didn’t have a Welsh accent, so they thought this might be the perfect time to put the Welsh stamp on the film. So Bard overnight became a Welsh-accented character.
At the time, I didn’t think about it, but actually Bard being Welsh has an impact on the legacy of his ancestry. The people who survived Dale, who now live in Lake-town, have Welsh accents. So anybody who watches the movie should always assume that Dale was Wales, which I quite like.
- What does your casting in these films mean to you on a personal level?
It is hard to put it into words, to be honest, with what has happened to me in these last five years. If you had asked me six years ago what I would have been doing, I would not have even remotely thought I would be in this world, to have been part of this legacy. It is in everybody’s mind.
Everybody knows about Peter Jackson, The Hobbit movies and The Lord of the Rings films being made in New Zealand, and to actually have been part of it for such a long period, to live there and to have friends that I will have for life because of that experience, is an amazing thing.
I always felt very envious of listening to the stories of Elijah [Wood] and Viggo [Mortensen] and how they just lived there and lived the life and had this incredible experience and saw things they would never have seen.
I feel that I have had that experience and feel very, very lucky to have had it and I will always have that with me. I feel that New Zealand is my second home.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is out now.