Peter Jackson, director of the acclaimed Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, apparently always had his heart set on casting Martin Freeman as a young Bilbo Baggins. Jackson never even imagined anyone else playing the role, even at the last minute when it looked as if this almost wouldn’t be the case.
Freeman, at the time of casting 39 years old, gained popularity playing many different dramatic and comedic roles which the director knew him from. He was first made famous as Tim Canterbury in the original British production of The Office, he appeared in the popular British romantic comedy Love Actually, he was the main character Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy film adaptation, and he also had short cameos in the Simon Pegg movies Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead. When MGM’s bankruptcy caused difficulties in presenting Freeman with a contract and the start of shooting approached, Jackson nearly freaked out. During the delay, Freeman was offered a role in the television series Sherlock, which he accepted.
But in the end, everything worked out. Jackson was flexible with Freeman on his recently cast Sherlock schedule and did editing on the movie while Bilbo was away filming.
Martin Freeman – Perfect for the Role of Bilbo
The role of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit requires a down-to-earth (down-to-Middle Earth?) character that the
viewers can relate with, compared to the ax-wielding, dragon-slaying dwarfs and ancient wizard that comprises the rest of the cast. Freeman is soft and charming, perfect for a role that demands a character that needs to primarily above all else love loafing about in a Shire hobbit hole, enjoying snacks and tea.
In the film, his quirky and stuttering response to a wizard and battle-worn dwarfs showing up at his door is perfect, and it truly is hard to imagine anyone else performing this role. He just seems so…. absolutely normal and delightfully English compared to his fantasy film companions. He is the absolute anti-thesis of the other lead character in The Hobbit, Thoren Oakenshield, and it works wonderfully.
5 Stars – Compliments
One of the film’s writers, Phillipa Boyens, described Martin Freeman as “quintessentially English“, and while it maybe unclear what that exactly means, it is an important essence for the Bilbo Baggins role. Perhaps its his everyman sound and round nose, or something else abstract that is hard to put a finger on, it’s hard not to agree with both Boyens and Jackson on his charming perfection in the role.
Multiple Genres Incorporated Well in Bilbo
Although Bilbo’s character development is spread across the three Hobbit films, Freeman’s talent as a dramatic actor who has a deep understanding of comedy and how to embody it in even the most intense scenarios, effectively displays the gradual change from a homebody couch potato to a heroic adventurer — who would still prefer sitting on the couch. And Freeman makes it fun to go on that journey with him, embodying an empathetic character that reluctantly accepts change but still rises to the occasion against adversity.