It’s starting all over again. Dublin born actor Aidan Turner, 30, has crossed so many international date lines in the past two weeks that it’s becoming harder for him to remember where he is.
Traveling from the plane to the hotel to each opening night in New York, London, Berlin, Zurich, Paris and on through Europe to Asia, he’s suddenly living like he’s a teenage pop star on a world tour because he’s still part of a giant film making project that began three years ago.
With the launch of each new chapter of The Hobbit trilogy Turner, who first came to fame in the hit supernatural BBC drama Being Human in 2008, finds himself reunited with the huge stable of leading actors that brought J.R.R. Tolkien’s imaginary world to life when they filmed the series in New Zealand three years ago.
Today he’s in Berlin where he’s meeting the press, posing for pictures, talking about the film and stepping out at night to promote it. He hasn’t had a minute to himself in weeks in other words. Tomorrow he’ll be in Zurich.
The Hobbit film, all three parts, took a year and a half to complete, and all told the annual promotional tours will see Turner invest over three years of his life to the sword and sorcery franchise. For an actor it’s the best possible exposure, and Turner is making the most of it on his world tour.
As Kili, head of the so-called “hot dwarves” in the film, Turner was glad he didn’t have to wear all the fat suits and prosthetic noses that his fellow actors sweltered in. In fact, he says, his handsome character was such a contrast to the rest of the hairy crew that they discussed making a hot dwarves calendar.
“We all posed as naked dwarves for a Hobbit calendar,” Turner joked to the press this week. “We each did a tango pose and I had a rose in my mouth I think.”
He’s laughing but his relief was real. Actors sometimes fainted in those fat suits under the hot studio lights.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is the second part of the epic adventure series. A much darker chapter than the first installment, the film has been wowing critics as a return to form for director Jackson as the action and the stakes heat up for a confrontation with the forces of darkness.
The plot, such as is it is, involves the quest of Bilbo (Sherlock’s Martin Freeman) and his merry band of dwarves led by Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) to reclaim the lost kingdom of Erebor located under the Lonely Mountain, from the terrifying dragon Smaug (played by a snarling Benedict Cumberbatch).
It pure escapist hokum, in other words, but it’s so well made you’ll be swept away by the story telling. This go round The Hobbit has borrowed some of the grandeur of The Lord of the Rings, which means that as well as pleasing fans it’s likely to do as well or better at the box office as the original trilogy that made it possible.
Turner’s rise to fame was slow but steady he says. “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 (including major roles at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre),” 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.”
Fans of the original Lord of the Rings trilogy will be glad to see the return of Legolas (Orlando Bloom), whose skill with a bow is unmatched. But this time he has a love interest called Tauriel, played with alternating spirit and sweetness by Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly, 33.
At one point Tauriel takes quite a shine to Turner’s brooding character Kili, which enrages the jealous Legolas. “He’s quite tall for a dwarf,” she says at one point.
“But no less ugly,” Legolas spits back.
The love triangle, while not in Tolkien’s original book, greatly helps the new film by giving a female protagonist a chance to step into the limelight and develop her character independently of the larger quest. Critics have rightly groused that the first chapter of the trilogy was a completely male dominated affair, so Jackson has made a wise choice in allowing Turner to have the hots for Lilly’s character too.
Turner and Lilly’s forbidden romance also plays up an interesting contrast between the elves and the dwarves, because the former sit by as the orcs and other foul night creatures overrun the land, leaving the dwarves to literally fight for their lives. That indifference strongly echoes the lead up to World War Two in Europe, with some nations preferring to look the other way as a great evil takes power and prepares for war.
It helps that the chemistry between Turner and Lilly is simply off the charts, but so is the chemistry between Turner and Dan O’Gorman, 37, who plays his brother Fili. When Kili is injured in battle and hovers close to death as the dwarves try to save him, the worry on Fili’s face is tear jerking.
As the dwarves make ready to leave, Kili tries to come with them but Thorin Oakenshield holds him off. That creates one of the greatest moments in the new film as Fili stand up to him when his uncle orders him to come away. He and Kili are brothers, bonded for life, and to hear Fili say that explicitly is heartwarming. Dean O’Gorman excels in the scene.
For Turner though, the biggest challenge was filming the love scenes with Lilly, who was frequently on a different set. Because of the size difference between their characters in the film, the pair often had to be in entirely separate locations and act as if they were just inches apart.
For Bloom, 36, it was also a challenge being jealous of a man he couldn’t physically see, shooting jealous looks at a tennis ball on a piece of string. But there’s no doubt that Turner’s role in this chapter has become even more central to the story arc than it was in Tolkien’s original.
That’s why one of Jackson’s key scenes in the film involves fellow Irish actor James Nesbitt, John Cullen and Turner himself being dropped off on a mountain in New Zealand’s epic South Island.
The four actors, in full dwarf costume, steadily make their way up a hill while second-unit director Andy Serkis (Gollum in The Rings trilogy) films them from an overhead helicopter. It was that moment, Turner says, that linked The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings and it anchors the whole new installment.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug opens Friday, December 13.