Another musical dwarf, clarinet-playing Bifur is kin with Bofur and Bombur, his cousins and fellow woodwind tootlers. In The Hobbit, he’s played by another of the cast’s Kiwi complement, William Kirchner, a US-born veteran whose Hobbit utterances will all be in Khuzdal, thanks to that piece of steel embedding in his noggin. We started with the obvious question: “Ferug trugaz goroj?”
Tell us about the axe...
Can’t say too much about it – top secret. It became a character thing for me and I loved it. It’s just something a little bit different and as an actor it gives you something to work with and make jokes about.
You don’t speak very much either.
|Bifur’s totally unstable and in a fight he just goes insane, especially with the trolls.|
I only speak in Dwarvish – it’s because of the axe. But there’s going to be a story; a character of a story towards the end of the story where something happens. The backstory for my character is that once he was a reasonably okay guy but unfortunately he’s turned into a bit of a maniac. He’s a bit mentally challenged – only because of the axe. He’s not thick, he’s just got mental problems. He’s totally unstable and in a fight he just goes insane, especially with the trolls. I’m playing one of the trolls – Good Tom. We’re doing it like Gollum. You wear the mo-cap suit and you actually play the character.
So you fight yourself?
Indeed. We shot Bifur climbing onto a troll’s leg and burying his axe-head into the troll.
The dwarves certainly seem to be a tight unit.
The journey for us as a group of actors parallels the journey of the film. Right from the start we came together. The film is a group forming an ensemble to go on an adventure together to reach the goal of re-founding the kingdom of Erebor, and in the process dealing with Smaug.
What’s Peter like?
He’s a great actor’s director - very relaxed to work with. He has the approach of somebody with a very strong vision, which goes through the whole company. When you arrive at four o’clock in the morning, there’s not feeling of “Oh my God, I don’t want to be” from anybody. They’re doing it because they’re enjoying it.
And how was the singing?
Oh, it’s fantastic. We’re putting out an album.
Were you a fan of Tolkien beforehand?
Of course, yes. Everyone in the ‘80s was reading Tolkien; he invented this whole medieval fantasy genre. Like everybody else, I got into it and read the Hobbit and Lord Of The Rings. To end up being in the movie is incredible.
How much pressure do you feel under to match the book?
Films are always different from books.You have to trust that the imagination of the people making this is in the right place – and it is. Peter considers Tolkien the star of this piece, so we’re not going to be landing aliens or taking any bizarre story arcs. It stays absolutely as faithful as it can, which is why I think people have reacted so strongly. Tolkien fans reacted so strongly to Lord Of The Rings as a franchise because it stayed true; the heart of it was true to the book. The Hobbit is going to be exactly like that.