On The Hobbit’s Casting Choices

Today I read an interesting criticism from Ben Child of Peter Jackson’s upcoming Hobbit films — the films will be an extended exercise in stunt casting:

With the news that Billy Connolly is to take the role of dwarf king Dain Ironfoot in his adaptation of JRR Tolkien’s debut Middle-earth-set novel, Jackson appears to be taking stunt casting on the project to a level of which even Quentin Tarantino might be proud.
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The Hobbit, by contrast, has already given us a lineup of dwarves and halflings that might have come straight from the little black book of a BBC TV casting director.
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[Is] it really so necessary for the Master of Lake-town to appear in the smug yet cuddly form of dear old Stephen Fry and wizard Radagast the Brown to arrive in the shape of ex-timelord Sylvester McCoy?
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Connolly’s appointment, in particular, seems likely to add an air of pantomime to the proceedings.

A valid criticism? Off-base?

Let’s contemplate the film’s trailer.

Damn, isn’t that awesome? I get all a-tingly every time I watch it. :)

Cross’ thesis is that the cast of “lesser-known actors from the Antipodes… lent the series a freshness and originality that might otherwise have been missing” and that Jackson has strayed from that template for The Hobbit.

First, the originality of Middle-Earth is a ship that’s already sailed. Over the course of three films and twelve hours, Jackson has already established a look for the world. To be quite honest, audiences are more interested in the world, not the actors in the small roles like the Master of Lake-town.

Second, The Lord of the Rings is serious business in a way that The Hobbit is not, and The Hobbit requires a very different touch. The Lord of the Rings is a medieval romance, while The Hobbit is a children’s bedtime story, and Tolkien wrote them differently. The Lord of the Rings exists narratively within its own world, while The Hobbit is told by someone who is very familiar with the modern world (well, the modern world of the mid-1930s, anyway). It made sense for for that reasons for The Lord of the Rings films to use less familiar actors just as it makes sense for The Hobbit to use more familiar actors within a story that has more familiar trappings.

Finally, Peter Jackson is a fanboy and a nerd (seriously, just watch Bad Taste), and it’s been clear from the very start that he was casting people in The Hobbit because he thought it would be really freaking cool to have them in The Hobbit. To be honest, I’m disappointed that he hasn’t cast people associated with Star Trek or Star Wars for minor roles in The Hobbit. (Let’s be honest. William Shatner would kick ass as the elder patriach of the rival Sackville-Bagginses.) I can’t begrudge Jackson for wanting to work with people he’s been a drooling fanboy over.

Also, insofar as Stephen Fry is concerned, Jackson has wanted to work with Fry for some time now. Fry wrote a draft of a movie script on the Dambusters for Jackson about five years ago. And Stephen Fry is a professional; I have no doubt that he won’t be playing himself in Middle-Earth.

Of all the things to worry about with The Hobbit, a cast of familiar faces does not number among them, as far as I’m concerned. Ben Child is plain off-base. :h2g2:

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