There are many complications that come with adapting J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit for the big screen, and the group of dwarves at the center of the story. For those uninitiated, the novel follows Bilbo Baggins as he travels with a band of 13 dwarves to the Lonely Mountain so that they can steal their great treasure back from the monstrous dragon Smaug. What makes the presence of the dwarves so difficult is not only the fact that you’re juggling an incredible number of main characters, but also the fact that Tolkien doesn’t spend much time fleshing out each individual. This was something that obviously needed to be changed for the film, and while spending time on the set of the movie I not only found out that it was a problem they were fixing, but also the important traits of most members of the team.
As you may have already know, back in mid-May a small group of journalists including myself were flown down to Wellington, New Zealand to watch Peter Jackson and his cast and crew once again bring Middle Earth back to life. While the production was breaking for lunch, eight of the 13 dwarves were kind enough to give us some of their time to talk about their roles in the movie and what we could expect from their performances. But just who are Dori, Nori, Ori, Oin, Gloin, Bifur, Bombur, Bofur, Balin Dwalin, Fili, Kili and Thorin Oakenshield? Start finding out below with our very special Guide To Recognizing Your Dwarves.
Played By: Richard Armitage
On His Beard: “Once we'd decided what the beard was going to be like, I realized I could probably grow it myself. Because we started with a stick-on beard which was this kind of length. When it comes to the action stuff, and especially water and any kind of battle cry, it just starts to lift, and there's much less fuss with this. And it looks better, I think.”
His Surprisingly Tall Stature: “The real height of Thorin is five-foot-two, so actually he's not really that short. I think most five-foot-two people would be quite offended if they were to be called dwarves. And I think I'm sort of-- They put lifts in my shoes because they wanted Thorin to be half an inch taller than Dwalin, so actually they made me slightly taller. But what's really crazy about it is that when you've got all the gear on, the padding, the costume, you feel bigger than your real self, so mentally, I've been walking around for the last year as a bigger version of-- It's like a giant version of yourself, and then they shrink it down. But it's not until you see it shrunk down that you think, actually-- Yeah, it's just a connection that you make in your head, 'cause you're bigger than everyone, and heavier. But I think that's not a bad thing, that we haven't been playing small people. And when you see the way that they've got their kingdoms, they have this inflated-- They're compensated for the fact that they are a secret forbidden race that were nearly destroyed. And the Elves have their privileged existence, this almost spiritual existence, and the dwarves have to really fight for their place. And so they do it by aggrandizing their environment. So that's been interesting.”
On Exploring Thorin’s Darker Side: “I think knowing that his father and his grandfather have been touched by this dragon sickness which doesn't necessarily affect all dwarves, but some dwarves are susceptible to it. It's this attraction to gold which becomes their downfall, has always been at the back of his mind. And I think the burden of taking his people back to their homeland, which is so massive, makes him a lonely figure, I think. Knowing that his grandfather failed, and his father failed, so if he doesn't do it, there's no other member of his line that will ever do this. So he will continue through history as the king that failed to achieve the potential for his people. That's something, again, which is a huge burden to carry. And I think that's what drives him, but it's also the thing that he fears, that he will fail. And there's many opportunities for him to fail on this quest. But we haven't really got into the mountain yet, and had to play around with the dragon sickness, but I think it's going to be very interesting. I've looked at all sorts of different-- I've looked at drug addiction, and along those lines, so that it actually has a physical effect on him, his mind and his body. But I think because he's been a very heavy, melancholic character, I think the gold is going to change that, and it's going to sort of bring him to life and make him the king that he should be, and more vibrant. But it comes at a price, I think.
On Meeting Gandalf And His Feelings About Bilbo: “Yeah, it's something which-- They've used a lot of the appendix in Lord of The Rings. I think there's two versions of this chance meeting between Thorin and Gandalf which happens prior to this story, which I've certainly used. We've discussed The Hobbit, and why we need to take him. But in terms of this story, it does unfold as we go along that we need a Hobbit to go in to try and find the Arkenstone. Because the dragon will not recognize the smell of a Hobbit, whereas he knows very well the smell of a dwarf. And there's a possibility that they may be lighter on their feet, and more able to get in there. But it's kind of a loose project for Thorin to accept, I don't think he's ever bought that. I think he needs Gandalf to go on the quest, and if Gandalf says they've got to take this Hobbit, then fair enough. 'Cause he can't really do it without him, because Gandalf has the map and the key, and he's kind of hoodwinked into doing it. But all the way along, there is this antagonistic relationship between Thorin and Gandalf. I think Thorin is trying to prove that Gandalf isn't correct, and most of his assumption is that he's trying to usurp his leadership. When Gandalf isn't there, Thorin really becomes a leader, and when he turns up, he has to be subservient, and it's not something that he likes at all.”
A Quest For What Is Rightfully Theirs And A Quest For Gold: “I think the dwarves by nature are greedy and stubborn, and they covet gold, there's no getting away from it. They don't see that as a bad thing. You have to remove your human sentiment when it comes to greed and the accumulation of wealth. They see it as a very positive thing. But this particular group of dwarves, only thirteen of them have come out on this quest. Everyone else turned their backs and said, "No, no, no, leave it alone. Stay away from that mountain." So it really is about thirteen survivors that are going to attempt to do something which people have dissuaded other dwarves from doing. And so there is a sort of spirit of conquest in the dwarves. But as I say, we haven't actually-- We've done a few chase sequences around the mountain, but we haven't actually got to the point yet where we really see the gold and start touching it and owning it. So it's going to be interesting to see how that divides this very tight unit of questers.”
The Weight Of One’s Armor: “At my heaviest, I've carried an extra 30 kilos [about 66 pounds] on top of my own, so it's about a quarter of my own body weight on top of what I already have. Yeah, it's been tough, but the only downside of it is you're hot and you're tired, but because everything's bigger, your movement is kind of reduced. So you watch playback and you think, 'I know I'm working hard, but it doesn't look like I'm working hard enough.' So you have to put extra effort in to make it look really dynamic. And then they shrink you down and it looks even smaller, so I don't know. It's been an ongoing challenge.”