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Adam Brown

Adam Brown

The Hobbit


January 2013

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Adam Brown, who plays Ori in The Hobbit, gives us the lowdown on life on set

Sir Ian McKellen told us recently that, whereas there were no openly gay actors on The Lord of the Rings apart from himself, ‘there were eight on The Hobbit, which is a sign of how things have changed in the past 12 years’. Perhaps, although being out to colleagues on a film set is one thing, but declaring it in interviews is still a step too far for most actors. But Brit actor Adam Brown, who makes his film debut in Peter Jackson’s fantasy-adventure trilogy as Ori, one of the 13 dwarves joining Bilbo Baggins on his epic quest, has no such qualms.

The 32-year-old actor, who studied theatre at Middlesex University, spent a decade performing in physical theatre troupe Plested and Brown, and was in the middle of devising a show with cohort Clare Plested when his agent phoned to announce he’d landed him an audition for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. ‘I was like, [disappointed] “Oh… Where’s it going?” And he said, “No, it’s not touring small-scale art centres – it’s The Hobbit film!” Brown was initially seen for the role of Bilbo when it appeared that Martin Freeman might not be able to do it (‘Like every other actor under 5ft 7in in the country’), but his audition clearly struck a chord and they ended up offering him Ori, the dwarf pack’s timid scribe.

‘They must have thought, “He’ll make a good nerdy, petrified dwarf,”’ says Brown, who describes Ori as ‘the baby of the group’ and says his make-up took an hour to apply, putting him in the lightweight category compared to some of his co-stars. ‘He starts off timid but hopefully by the end he gets his mojo and becomes a bit of a warrior.’

Most of the cast lived on the same peninsula, which Brown says ended up being ‘like the Wisteria Lane of Hobbit actors’, and Jackson proved a welcoming host, inviting his cast to fire World War One weaponry (he’s a collector), ride around in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (he owns it) and pop around to his place for Christmas drinks (Brown’s father was so nervous, he bowed to the Kiwi director).

Naturally, he bonded with McKellen, who hosted regular dinners cooked by his Kiwi Man Friday (‘the best cook in town and proud of it’) and invited Brown over for tea and cucumber sandwiches. ‘I think Ian had a better time socially on this than he did on Lord of the Rings. He’s become a good friend and he was hysterical on set. He knew I’d done panto and kept saying, “Come on Wishy-Washy”.’ Besides McKellen, he made several friends for life (Freeman included), although he calls the gay scene in Wellington ‘non-existent… We still had fun, though’.

Eighteen months after that life-changing phone call, Brown checks off his list of firsts: first film, first helicopter ride, first time doing stunt training, first time in a gym. ‘I’d never realised what it was to be sweaty before,’ he laughs. He’s off on a global tour of Hobbit premieres, travelling on a jet that has all the characters’ mugs painted on it. ‘My face is by the emergency exit,’ he says. ‘I’ve been so wrapped up in the world, and at some point there’s going to be life after The Hobbit. But I’m not quite sure what that is yet.’
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