Martin Freeman Talks The Hobbit

Exclusive: Actor could still be Bilbo

Middle Earth fans, hold on to your oakenshields. Martin Freeman has been linked with the role of Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit for ages now, but he's said precious little about the tenacious rumours. You know what the next bit is: until now.

‘They are as yet rumours, but stranger things have happened,’ Freeman told Empire, while promoting his BBC Radio 3 play, an adaptation of B. S. Johnson’s novel The Unfortunates.

Speaking of unfortunates, Freeman confirmed what many have suspected for weeks – that he was lined up for the role, but had to turn it down. "I did have to say no to it for the second series of Sherlock," he says of the BBC 1 show in which he plays Dr. Watson. "But if something could be worked out, that would be great." But it must have been tough having to turn down such a plum part? "Oh yeah, I did it with a heavy heart, definitely."

But with The Hobbit’s starting date still up in the air, it seems there may still be room for manoeuvre. "I’d like to think so. If there is any outside possibility, then that would be great. But I’ve learned not to think too much or hope too much about stuff. It will happen if it happens."

Though Freeman wasn’t immersed in The Hobbit as a child, he admits to being impressed by the Lord of the Rings trilogy, where Bilbo was of course played by Alien star Ian Holm. "I wasn’t a fan of it as a kid but I did like the films," he said. "I think Ian [McKellen] is very good, and [director Peter] Jackson’s a clever man. I thought what he did with them was interesting and entertaining."

Freeman also agreed that it would be refreshing to see Bilbo played by a slightly older actor, rather than someone fresh out of drama school (he's 39). "Absolutely, because Bilbo isn’t 20 at this stage of the story,’ he said, ‘and I reckon I could do a young Ian Holm. I think I could give that a go."

We're with him on that. So, do you agree? Would Freeman make a good Bilbo? Should, more importantly, Freeman make a good Bilbo? And how gutting must it be to turn down the role of a lifetime? As ever, vent your thoughts below...

The Unfortunates will air on Sunday 17 October, at 8pm.