Martin Freeman starred as Bilbo Baggins in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy, and according to the director, that was his plan from the very start. He was amazed by the English actor’s performances in some of his previous works, which made him the perfect fit for the character.
Jackson’s plans for the fantasy franchise were later challenged by scheduling conflicts as well as MGM’s bankruptcy. Although, obviously, they had it sorted out, and Freeman ultimately delivered one of his most iconic performances in cinema.
Peter Jackson Desperately Wanted To Cast Martin Freeman In The Hobbit
In an interview via The Hollywood Reporter, director Peter Jackson revealed he was adamant about bringing Martin Freeman into The Hobbit films because he believed the actor had everything they needed for the role of Bilbo Baggins. He stated:
“Martin was the only person that we wanted for that role, and that was really before we met Martin. We knew him from [the BBC’s] The Office and Hitchhiker’s Guide [to the Galaxy], and we just felt he had qualities that would be perfect for Bilbo. The stuffy, repressed English quality. He’s a dramatic actor, he’s not a comedian, but he has a talent for comedy.”
Freeman, who also starred as Everett Ross in the MCU, immediately said yes to Jackson even though he had never read any of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels. He enjoyed the Lord of the Rings movies so it was easy to persuade him. Unfortunately, several problems occurred during the process.
MGM went broke, leaving no formal offer to present to the actor, and by the time the director was able to hand Freeman a contract, he had already signed on for BBC’s Sherlock. Jackson admitted:
“We were in trouble. I was really panicking. I was having sleepless nights. We were probably six weeks away from the beginning of the shoot, and we hadn’t settled on anyone else, and I was torturing myself by watching Sherlock on an iPad at 4 o’clock in the morning.”
They tried to look for another actor, but no one was good enough to match up to Freeman. Jackson devised a plan to work with him for four months and then let him return to England to shoot for Sherlock. This proved to be a wise decision because he was able to edit and make the necessary adjustments for the film.
Jake Gyllenhaal Reveals Embarrassing The Hobbit Audition
While Peter Jackson expressed his obsession with Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins, the director hated Jake Gyllenhaal during his audition for The Hobbit. The Spider-Man: Far From Home star infamously had a horrible experience trying out for the part of Frodo Baggins.
During his interview on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Gyllenhaal recalled how Jackson hung his head in shame because the actor forgot to use the required English accent:
“He literally turned to me and said, ‘You are the worst actor that I have ever seen.’ He said, ‘Did anyone tell you you were supposed to have an accent?’ I was like, ‘No!’ and he said, ‘Well, fire your agents.’”
Elijah Wood eventually won the role of Frodo Baggins. Jackson did not comment on Gyllenhaal’s disastrous audition, but the incident was featured in Ian Nathan’s behind-the-scenes book, Anything You Can Imagine: Peter Jackson and the Making of Middle Earth.