It’s clear Luke Evans still can’t quite believe he’s here.
“The first scene [I] did, I did with Ian [McKellen],” says the actor during an interview on the New Zealand set of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit.” “It’s just a weird thing, isn’t it, when you’ve seen it [the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy] for ten years and all of a sudden you’re actually on set and he’s looking at you with the white eyes…It’s brilliant. It’s brilliant.”
Evans, who plays Bard the Bowman in the fantasy trilogy, sits in the center of a group of reporters who have traveled to Wellington for a sneak peek at “The Desolation of Smaug,” the second film in the series. Far from being handed the part, the actor tells us he was forced to wait a year-and-a-half after his first audition before he was finally offered the role (“He’s not in it for the majority of the first film, so…there was no room in their heads to be thinking about Bard,” he says), which came just as he was about to begin shooting the horror film “No One Lives” in Louisiana.
“Three days before I left, before I got on the plane, I had a phone call saying that Peter wanted to meet me and test me for the role of Bard,” he says. “And I was like, ‘What?'”
For those unfamiliar with the novel, the Bard – a descendant of Lord Girion of Dale – leads the defense of the settlement of Lake-town against the fearsome dragon Smaug, who attacks the community after becoming enraged at the intrusion of Bilbo and the dwarves (led by Thorin Oakenshield) into the Lonely Mountain. Following the dragon’s attack, during which Lake-town is completely destroyed, the Bard travels to the Lonely Mountain to request reparations from Thorin for the devastation that has occurred – only to meet with resistance.
“There is a lot of personal emotion that he’s going through because he feels like he’s been slightly betrayed,” says Evans. “He helped the dwarves, he got them into Lake-town and they caused this huge dragon to come down and kill most of the people that I knew…So when he gets to this mountain, it’s his last straw, that’s all he’s got left.”
Luckily for Evans, the fact that he’s the first actor to play the Bard on screen means there was lots of room left for interpretation when it came to filling out the role.
“I had a phone call with [co-screenwriter/producer] Philippa Boyens on the phone the night before my audition, and she said, ‘We want you to go in and do it in your Welsh accent,'” says Evans. “And I was like, ‘Really? I’ve never done a Welsh accent ever in anything.’ Even though it’s my accent, most people want to stamp it out. And she said, ‘No, we like it. We really like it.'”
Not only was the freedom to use his own speech patterns a blessing for Evans as an actor, it also had a ripple effect on the process of casting some of the other residents of Lake-town.
“Because [the Bard is] an ancestor of Dale, I come from Dale, my ancestors are from Dale,” says Evans. “And so they made everybody who has ancestry of Dale Welsh. So now there’s people in Lake-town who speak with a Welsh accent and you know that they have great-great-great-grandfathers or grandmothers that were actually from Dale. So all my children are Welsh in the film, I’m Welsh, and so Dale will always be Wales to me, which is a really nice thing.”
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” hits theaters on December 13.