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.
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.
Turner was under director’s orders to keep fit and work out. He says, “My character in particular has a lot of sword fighting and a lot of running so there was nothing for it. Hangovers don’t work on set so well with Peter Jackson.”
The cast of Lord of the Rings famously became lifelong friends starring together in the epic production, and something similar has happened to the cast and crew of The Hobbit, working for so long in such close quarters.
“When you’re part of an ensemble and share the screen with so many people you become close to them because you’re hanging out all the time. Obviously you have your ups and downs but that kind of brings you closer in many ways,” he says.
“I’m trying not to sound cheesy with this. It was like a big family. Not everyone immediately clicks but you’re kind of forced to get on.
“You spend a lot of time together and you get into some surreal situations that you have to share. We weren’t close enough to get tattoos, but we’re doing the press now and having a laugh and pull each other through it.”
What’s on Turner’s mind now, after the premieres in London’s Leicester Square and Dublin’s Imax Theater, is Christmas and his very Hobbit like desire to put his feet up.
“I fly home today! First I have London and then the Dublin premiere. It’ll be nice to go home and then that’s me for Christmas. I plan to hang out and rest up until the New Year,” he says.
It’ll also be time to catch up with the growing number of Irish actors who are becoming international screen stars (including his new pals from Mortal Instruments: City of Bones). Although he grew up in Clondalkin, he lives on the Grand Canal Dock in Dublin now, befitting a young star about to break big.
“That was quite crazy starring in that with the three Irish lads. I didn’t have a lot of scenes with Johnny but Robbie and I became quite close. He’s a lovely lad,” says Turner.
“And I just met Jack Raynor over here who stars in the brilliant Irish movie What Richard Did. There’s quite a few of us making our way around the world now.”
Turner speculates that a lot of the reason why Irish actors are breaking though internationally is their theater training. It gives them an edge, he suspects.
“To make a career as an Irish actor, generally it’s the case that you move to London. When you make that move you do tend to stand out. So that question has come up before and I’ve thought about it. And a lot of us are getting to play Irish now too which is terrific,” Turner says.
For the next two years Turner will line up to promote The Hobbit, and he couldn’t be happier about it. It’s his big screen debut after all.
“I’ll be doing this for a while but it’s fun and I’ll be able to catch up with the other cast members again. It’s a nice little reunion,” he says.
Catch the trailer for 'The Hobbit' here: