I've seen Bilbo — in three dimensions.
I was visiting old friends in the Stone Street offices and heard Martin Freeman was just round the corner by the permanent greenscreen, done up as Bilbo, testing his costume in front of the 3D cameras. Indeed, there he was in the open air, mostly oblivious to the camera, though turning this way and that as required. Martin improvised a hobbity gait, padding back and forth, testing his big hairy Hobbit feet, pointy ears and little tum.
Beneath the shade of a tent, in a sun hat, Andrew Lesnie was remotely controlling the two lenses within the mighty camera which digitally records in 3D. His screen showed the familiar 2D image but next to it, above the director's chair, was a large colour screen in full magical three dimensions, much as it will appear in the cinema — courtesy of the spy-glasses that transform the blurred outlines onscreen to the high definition exactitude of the 3D effect.
Three Bilbos simultaneously, two performances on screen and the actor beyond: which was the real one? Martin Freeman was transmuting into a character whose reality will soon be as authentic as his own.
Update: DS got to chat with James Nesbitt on being cast as dwarf Bofur in 'The Hobbit:'
You're over in New Zealand filming The Hobbit at the moment - how's that going?
"Good. We haven't actually started filming yet. We got here quite early - we were always going to spend a number of weeks mainly kind of getting fit because it's a huge project and will involve a lot of stamina and stuff. And also getting used to the different types of work we'll be doing."
How's Peter Jackson doing after his surgery?
"Peter got a bit ill but he's well and on the mend now so we start in a few weeks. It's been a fantastic experience. Obviously it's very sad here at the moment with the earthquake in Christchurch. It's been very keenly felt all over the islands. But Kiwis are a tight-knit group and everyone's offering a lot of support. But yes, it's terribly beautiful. It's a wonderful opportunity. It's great for me just to be involved in something this epic and to have the opportunity to work with all these great people. It really is something I'm very grateful for.
You said before you were having dwarf training - what's that been like?
"Yeah, it's good! I mean, we're all playing dwarves - we're playing Tolkien dwarves, Bilbo Baggins goes on this journey with 13 dwarves, so it's great. We're just really doing different things."
What have they been making you do?
"We're doing lots of horse riding and stunts and stuff. We're basically playing! It's a very good way to earn a living, it's great. They're working us hard I have to say! But they're very down to earth. It has such a feeling of being a little company, it just happens to be a little company of thousands of people! But everyone is enjoying it. Every day's a little treat."
Who is the best and worst at the stunts, horseriding and so on?
"Richard Armitage is very good at the old horse riding because of course he did it in Robin Hood, so he's very good at that. Of course he's playing our leader, so it's right that he's good at that. Aidan Turner and Rob Kazinsky, they're fit young men. But we're all shapes and all sizes and we all have our own skills."
Were you a fantasy film fan before you joined The Hobbit?
"No I wasn't really, to tell you the truth. But obviously coming out to do this now I've immersed myself in it a bit. It's funny - as a company, we watched the three films together, so we were in the cinema all together. It's a very exciting prospect to be watching those and thinking, 'Oh my God, I'm going to be in something like that'. It is a chance to be a kid again."The Hobbit movies are due for release in December 2012 and December 2013.