The Iris Interview: Jed Brophy of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (USA/New Zealand, 2013)

While at Supanova in Sydney all the way back in June, Larry Heath sat down with one of the dwarves from Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy to talk about the films, New Zealand based actor Jed Brophy who plays Nori. We address some fan disappointment in the first film, how that might be addressed in the future, and what it means to be one of only two actors featured in all six Lord of the Rings films (not to mention just about everything else Jackson has ever done). Read on!

How’s it all going for you? I saw you speak on the panel yesterday.

Yeah I love doing the panel. It’s nice to tell a little bit of the truth of what we’re doing but also have a bit of fun and make people laugh. It’s a long way for people to come and there are long queues so it’s nice to be able to break the day up and have a bit of fun ourselves. It’s great.

200kmh winds coming out of Wellington I hear?

Yeah it’s the strongest winds they’ve had there, maybe not on record but certainly since the 60s. It was pretty scary actually. Taking off on Saturday morning was quite hairy, but we made it.

And you’re in the middle of re-shoots, pick-ups and all that?

Yeah, Peter doesn’t like to call them re-shoots so they’re pick-ups. They’re scenes we didn’t get around to. And when they knew it was going to be three films they needed to do some re-writing, so we had to come back and do some inserts of scenes we’d already done. Then some of them were completely new scenes, so it’s been really interesting for us to come back and find out what we’re up for. And of course we have the iconic battle of the five armies coming up, and Nori’s a pretty good fighter so I’m looking forward to that.

Yeah that’s gonna be fun. Has it been a challenging shoot? I mean you heard all the stories from the first Lord of the Rings…you’ve been upgraded this time, you’re just one character as far as I know. How does this shoot compare to the first time around?

The first shoot for Lord of the Rings there was a lot more on location. I was working for the horse department as well – training the horses as well as being an actor. We had fourteen months on the road. We only did eight-weeks on location for this. Location work is such long days, you have to get up so early to travel from where you’ve been staying to where we’re actually shooting. And then it’s quite arduous depending on the weather conditions. So being on the soundstage makes things easier on some levels, but it means it becomes a bit more of a grind. The great thing with location is you get to go to different places and you get to have dinner at different places. When you’re stuck in the studio it becomes a bit kind of… endless. One scene just kind of seems to flow into the other. Having said that, we’re going to be really gutted when it’s finished. It’s going to be a very hard gig to say good-bye to. Ian McKellen was saying to me last year he said: “You know that you and I are going to be the only ones who have done six-years in Middle Earth.” Three films and three films. I think he’s worked it out that we’re the only two actors that will have done all six.

And when you went into shooting it was going to be two films?

It was, it was really weird actually. But I mean, I think it’s a good thing. I know Peter Jackson well enough to know that he’d probably want to make three-hour films out of these three films as well. He’s got enough visual sort of stuff that he would do that.

One thing that he seems to have nailed of it all is the artwork – from those fold-outs from those extended editions all the way to the posters.

Yeah having John Howe and Alan Lee, you know the illustrators from Tolkein’s work and all the books that were written before, working on this keeps a through-line of that artistry going right throughout the films. The team at the Art Department have done a really great job of recreating those illustrations on to the film sets and I mean, then there’s the other thing of when you walk on to a film set and there is – Erebor. Oh my god! You can’t really explain to people who don’t have that privilege what that’s like. I mean, I thought I’d never be blown away by anything ever again. The sets on LOTR are so amazing, but they’ve actually stepped up another gear and it’s incredible.

You’ve worked with Peter for a very long time, how’s he changed as a director in that period?

In terms of directing actors he’s got a lot better at understanding that actors aren’t all the same. And he’s really, really good at picking up and getting under the skin of each individual character and getting the best out of them. In terms of his integrity and the fact that what’s in his head ends up on screen, he’s exactly the same. He’s always been a purist in terms of the way that he sees it in his mind is the way that it ends up on celluloid and he will keep shooting until he gets it. The difference is that when we used to shoot on film was that it was so expensive to process the film stock he had to rehearse lots and lots of times and then only shoot maybe four or five times. He can shoot maybe forty or fifty takes on digital. It’s just really more that he has more tools.

He’s a lot more relaxed than I’ve seen him in a long time. The pressure of making the LOTR trilogy was really hard on him. It’s that thing that virtually everybody knows the book. It’s the second biggest selling book after the bible. Everybody has a version in their mind of how the film should be, everybody has something to say about what he left out, what he should have put in and what was there that wasn’t in the original book. He takes that sort of thing really personally. I mean, he wants to fulfill the wishes of the fans and at the same time he wants to make his version of the film. He has a great writing team with Phillipa and Fran there behind him. So really it’s just the fact that he’s surrounded himself with people that are really good at their jobs too. That’s the only difference really, he has more tools. And he’s become a lot more relaxed socially as well.

Do you think that after a bit of feedback from the fans from the first Hobbit film of ‘too long’, ‘some scenes too long’, I mean that seems to be the rhetoric that you heard a lot of. Do you think he’s going to take something like that on board? ‘Cause I remember between the first two LOTR there were some things he took on.

Yeah I think he takes that stuff really seriously. That’s who he makes the films for. He makes them for the people that want to come and watch them so I think he takes it on board up to a point. It’s still a Peter Jackson film, it’s not a worldwide fan film. He still has to serve what he and Phillipa and Fran have come up with in terms of how they see the films themselves. It’s a very difficult line that you run. I’ve done a lot of theatre and if you read the reviews and change the performance you can ruin the play. One person’s opinion does not necessarily make it right. But yeah he certainly listens to what they say and he does re-shape things, but only to a certain degree.

We’ve got a lot of things to look forward to. You mentioned the big battle coming up and the river rapid scene which is going to be cool. Any hints you can give us as to what else we should look forward to?

We’ve only put on the foot on the accelerator in the first film briefly. We’re looking at now being on a freight train that’s unstoppable. It becomes a chase movie, and once we’ve started being chased we really can’t stop. So I’d look for a lot more momentum, a lot more fighting, a lot more danger. The danger, the stakes are higher. It’s been great to have that amount of input into our characters. And we’re really celebrating the fact that we get to do more visceral stuff. It’s gonna be a hell of a lot more kick-arse, that’s for sure.

Well we can’t wait to see it. You head back in a couple of days to keep filming?

Yeah I head back tomorrow, then Tuesday I’m doing stunt training and then Wednesday I’ll be back on set filming so I’m looking forward to it. I don’t really like being away from filming, I love it! We know we only really have five weeks as a family left as well. It’s really gonna be hard, man, you know I was really upset at the end of LOTR saying goodbye to those guys. We got to know each other so well and it’s been the same on this. It’s going to be the same on this. It’s kind of going to be the hard thing. We did this scene the other day and it was the last time we were all together as fifteen. It was the Hobbit, thirteen dwarves. I teared up. We all looked at eachother, just going “No, that can’t be right! Surely there’s another scene.” We’d be racking our brains going “surely there’s another scene!” I don’t know that he’s right about that, I hope he’s not. It’s going to be tough.

You seem like you’re very well schooled in the work of Tolkein.

I’ve read Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit many, many times. I’m very passionate about the work. I do take my research quite seriously. I mean I just love the World. I’m a geek. Total ‘Middle Earth’ geek.

Did you get to meet Christopher Lee? ‘Cause I know he reads it every year.

I did. My very first day on set was working with Christopher Lee. He sends the white riders out. It was a huge joy as I’ve been a great fan of his work all my life. Probably the most nervous I’ve ever been in my career was meeting him and doing my first scene with him and he was very, very generous. He didn’t have to stay for my close-up but he did. I mean both he and Ian McKellan.. I didn’t imagine I’d ever get to meet them but I did.

Well thank-you so much for your time, I can’t wait to see the next two films. Best of luck!

Yeah me neither! Thank-you very much.

The interview originally happened on the AU review during the Supanova Pop Culture Expo – For more on that event, head to our hub at Transcription assistance provided by Josie Smart.

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is in Australian theatres on December 26. For worldwide release dates, hit up:


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.