Dublin-born actor Aidan Turner has just touched down in New York after a direct flight from the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Wellington, New Zealand. He’s already so jet-lagged he hardly knows where he is. The only thing that connects to each day is the hordes of screaming fans behind the rope lines.
“Everyone’s been so excited about the film,” Turner, 29, tells the Irish Voice. “It’s been sort of a frenzy everywhere we’ve gone. The premiere in Wellington was absolutely insane. Something like 80,000 people came out on the streets to see the red carpet premiere.
“It took us about three hours to walk the rope line. It was quite hard to take in. It was quite a surreal experience.”
Having spent the last 18 months of his life starring in the three back to back films, Turner is delighted to have his real life back but also delighted to have been a part of the whole adventure.
“It was a year and a half in the making,” he explains. “A lot of that time was spent exercising and sword training. Then the shoot went over by six weeks.
“So we were out there (in New Zealand) so long that it’s a shock to finally be doing the press and talking to yourself. It feels like we’d settled into a regular job and they’ve finally just closed the curtain on it.”
Most people would say Turner’s rise to fame has been pretty fast, but he swears that’s not the case.
“From where I’m sitting in the driver’s seat it doesn’t feel as whirlwind and as crazy. I left the Gaiety School of Acting in Dublin in 2004 and I did five years of theater after that,” he says.
“So it feels more gradual to me since moving on to Being Human and all the other stuff I did with the BBC and Showtime. It was a slow enough climb.”
Turner caught director Peter Jackson’s eye after his acclaimed turn in Being Human, the BBC supernatural drama. Jackson decided the handsome Dubliner was the right man to steal some of Orlando Bloom’s thunder from the original Lord of the Rings trilogy.
But while Bloom got to play a six-foot elf, it was Turner’s luck to play what he laughingly calls a “hot dwarf.”
“It could be worse,” he smiles. “We had prosthetics on like the rest of the guys to alter our appearance, but they didn’t alter them that much. Some of the other guys look unsightly to say the least.
“To be honest with you, it did make some of the other dwarves a little bit grouchy. But the greatest thing for us was that our makeup calls were only an hour in the morning where the other guys were taking almost three times that. We got to look like ourselves. We dodged a lot of bullets on that one.”
Acting on set under pounds of prosthetic makeup and hot lights wasn’t fun.
“There were coolers under our costumes,” Turner explains. “They’re like a vest that you wear and every kind of hour or so you plug yourself into this little machine that pumps cold water around your body cooling you down. It’s quite an odd thing but it saved our lives sometimes.”
One thing Irish fans will notice right away is that fellow Irish actor James Nesbitt got to keep his Co. Antrim accent in the film. Nesbitt’s part of Middle Earth sounds like it runs through Coleraine.
Did it make Turner jealous? Did he request to work in his Dublin accent?
“In The Hobbit there were British, Irish, Australian and New Zealand actors and Peter Jackson was adamant that we would all sound like we were from Britain somewhere,” offers Turner.
“Kili is of the royal line so he would probably have an upper class accent, I imagined. I don’t think my Clondalkin brogue would have carried that in quite the same way.”
In his most recent film, though, Turner decided to work in a Dublin accent. “In Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (which he stars in alongside fellow Irish actors Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Robert Sheehan) I wanted to play my character as Irish, not out of laziness but as a choice. That was freeing, but it was also right for the character,” he says.
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Meanwhile, acting alongside screen legends like Ian McKellan (who plays the wizard Gandalf) in The Hobbit was more of a challenge than Turner first anticipated.
“They often split the scene between him and us. He would literally be in a different room. Sometimes it was really complicated and technical and sometimes it was really archaic and simple,” Turner shares.
“Sometimes we were arguing with a tennis ball. It’s easier for us because we can all see each other, but he often can’t see any of us at all.”
Travelling to the other side of the world for more than a year was the biggest challenge.
“As wonderful as the opportunity was you’re still completely uprooted and it’s a long commitment. But there again it’s one of the few DVDs from my career that will really stick around,” Turner maintains.