The Hobbit Interviews: James Nesbitt On Bofur

"He's gone along for the craic..."

Musically minded, heavily armed and fond of a cuppa or two, Bofur is dwarf for all seasons. Like close relatives Bombur and Bifur, he’s a miner by trade but, explains James Nesbitt, he’s joining Bilbo’s quest mainly “for the craic”. The Northern Irish actor chatted to Empire about his cheese-loving Naugrim.

Tell us about Bofur...
Bofur is someone who, along with Bombur, his brother, and Bifur, his cousin, is not quite as obsessed with regaining Erebor as the others. They’re a bit rougher – I think we just went along for the craic. Bofur is optimistic, he’s quite funny, a little bit naive perhaps, but he’s also quite close to Bilbo and when the others are maybe suspicious of Bilbo or deem him unnecessary, I think Bofur quite takes to him.

Bofur also seems to be the dwarf who tends to shoot his mouth off
Yes, true, but he can be deliberately very funny. Nevertheless, when pushed, he can be very, very fierce, like all the dwarves in Middle-earth.

Unusually, his weapon of choice is a mining mattock.
Well, they are miners, Bifur, Bofur and Bombur, so their weaponry is more crude, and their fighting is crude as well. Bofur likes to get the job done quickly. I don’t think he cares too much about the rules in war; he just wants to bury the fucking thing into someone’s head.

Did you have special mattock training?
We had all kinds of doubles – small-scale doubles, stunt doubles, digital doubles – so we actually did very little acting! (laughs) My stunt guy turned out to be an ex-New Zealand wrestling champion, incredibly well built and incredibly good looking and a very nice guy. So he’s going to make me look fantastic. He did quite a lot of different fighting techniques, and, of course, he’ll be back next year because there’s still quite a bit of fighting next year.

Was there a particular bond between you and the other dwarves?
With Bombur, yes. He’s huge with a big red beard and he’s very funny. Even after 18 months we would still laugh at him, half the time just by looking at him. Bofur also has a very strong bond with Bombur, because he’s often the slowest and Bofur often has to protect him. Bofur and Bombur are both very protective of Bifur, who can only speak in dwarvish.

Bifur is something of a fruitcake, isn’t he?
Totally unhinged, we are very protective of him too. And Bofur has this strong protective connection with Bilbo because he understands Bilbo’s fear and how Bilbo’s really wanting to get away and Bofur’s quite understanding of that and sympathetic towards him. You know it’s difficult with 13 dwarves you know — it’s hard to know how much screen time you’re going to get.

You’re playing a fantastical creature in a fantastical world. What’s that like as an acting challenge?
That’s a great question. Had it not been so enjoyable, it might have been very difficult. It was actually hugely rewarding, understanding that even without huge individual speeches or scenes, you were contributing to a rich tapestry. But they managed to give 13 dwarves 13 different personalities that all work well together and have individual stories. You sometimes feel like you’re a small cog in a very big machine, but I’m very glad I did it.

And how was the singing?
I get to sing a song I actually wrote – words by J.R.R. Tolkien, music by James Nesbitt. It’s called the Man In The Moon song, so it sounds like it’s by R.E.M. I sing it in Rivendell and all the rest of them join in. However, it may not be in the bloody thing...

What was Peter Jackson like to work with?
Somewhere in his head are all these ingredients that he puts together to create these fantastic films. Peter often works off the cuff — it’s rather startling. I can sort of be in awe sometimes, because it’s like he has 10,000 jigsaw puzzles, but somehow he does those puzzles every morning. He has amazing pictures in his head, but he’s very down to earth. There must be a heavy responsibility on him with all that money and telling the story of The Hobbit, that he loves, but he carries it all in a reasonable way. He enjoys a laugh, but you’re never in doubt that he’s the boss – you wouldn’t cross him. I’d love to do a much smaller film with him and spend more time with him.

Did you get to go to his remarkable house?
Did you get to go to his remarkable house? No, but I think Richard [Armitage] might have gone out there. He drove into work in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang one day, which he’d just bought, but when you go to his house the Oscars are all just lying around his house. He hasn’t got around to putting them anywhere.

When do you head back for the next batch of shooting?
I think it’s towards the end of May and I can’t wait. Do I want to get back into the prosthetics? I don’t know what the other dwarves would say, but no, I don’t want to fucking get back into prosthetics, but I can’t wait to get back into the part again and to get back to New Zealand.

Do you think small?
No, dwarves think big is ugly and stupid and that small is the natural way to be, because you can fight quicker and you can forage better. They think small is big and big is small.

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