I don’t feel like I’m speaking with a member of a multi-million blockbuster film franchise when I’m speaking with New Zealand’s Dean O’Gorman. His role as Fili in Peter Jackson’s recent film adaptation of the Tolkien-created mythology that is The Hobbit is now golden fodder for fanfic writers around the world and with the third and final installment of the trilogy being released at the end of the year, fans are highly anticipating his return to the screen alongside what has become one of the most bankable casts in film today. Do you get any kind of ego or bravado when it comes to having a conversation with the man, though? Not an inkling. Returning to Australia for Oz Comic-Con in Melbourne, O’Gorman doesn’t need the lowdown on what to expect from Australian convention fans, he’s an old hand, having attended the OCC stops in April, as well as previous expos last year.
“Because the last movie is coming out,” he explains. “It’s a good time to jump over and meet the fans of the convention and then next year, who knows? I don’t know about next year…I’ll definitely pop over a couple of times. It’s closer than America! A four hour flight is way better than a 12 hour flight, that’s for sure.”
Having last caught up with O’Gorman in the midst of a crazy weekend last November, he was probably one of the most chilled out guests I had the pleasure of hanging with. Spending time on McLeod’s Daughters back in the day meant O’Gorman was based in Adelaide for filming, offering up quips about SA even I didn’t know off the top of my head. Doing what we Australians do all too often, I let him know we’re going to be claiming him as one of our own, especially if these frequent visits continue.
“It does feel like it!” he laughs. “It can be quite odd, spending so much time back and forth in Australia. It’s mainly because of these conventions, I didn’t realise there was as much of a fan base in Australia, so it’s good fun! I was a McLeod’s boy for about nine months, I think, but I lived in Sydney and Melbourne a little bit for almost three years, a long time ago. As soon as I left a while ago, I hadn’t really been back, so doing The Hobbit has been quite a good opportunity to come back and visit friends. I’ve got a few friends still over there, but obviously, I had to leave. It’s been nice.”
Of course, being part of one of the biggest film series’ of the last few years has prevented O’Gorman and his cast mates from discussing The Hobbit much in any capacity, though he does offer up little nuggets of information about the current film’s process which should excite many who are now counting down the months to the final film’s premiere.
“It’s going well, it’s close to wrapping up now.” he reveals. “We finished the principal photography last year, just before we’d spoken and now, there is just little bits and pieces to do. We’ve got some ADR coming up in a month and I’ll get to see not the finished film, but a lot more finished [version of the] film than I saw the last time! Then, I guess, once I’ve done that, we’ll be doing the final press circuit for the trilogy, which will be really strange, because every time the cast and the crew all get together we always say ‘goodbye’, but it doesn’t really feel like goodbye because we know that in a few months, we’ll be doing more work on it and we’ll see each other again. This time will be the last time. I think it will be sad too. I mean, I don’t remember how many years we’ve been on this journey for now, but it feels like a long time. It’s maybe four years? Four and a bit years, you know? I don’t know where the press junket is going and what’s happening with it this year, but that’ll be a last hurrah.”
Surprisingly, O’Gorman hasn’t been the only member of The Hobbit films who’ve made the trip out to Australia to meet fans while the series has been in filming or post-production. Stephen Hunter, John Callen, Mark Ferguson, Adam Brown, Jed Brophy and O’Gorman’s Dwarf brother/fellow ladykiller Aidan Turner have all made the trip out to meet with fans of The Hobbit and the wider Lord of the Rings universe, demonstrating the lengths this franchise has been willing to go to connect with a passionate and extensive fan base. Considering how close Australia is to Middle Earth, I mean New Zealand, it shouldn’t be so surprising that these visits exist, but again, with these actors being based as far as the US and the UK, the luckiness factor hasn’t escaped the fans out this way, nor has it gone over the tops of the actors’ heads either. It’s a mutual feeling.
“I’m pleasantly surprised about the reaction from Australians, you know?” O’Gorman admits, laughing. “I’m used to thinking that something out of New Zealand…Australians don’t care about! It’s so different to that, though. In a smaller way, I’ll be actually relieved when the third film comes out because, in terms of doing press and the many conventions I’d do afterwards, we can actually talk about it in its entirety. Peter [Jackson] did say when he was filming, he’d say he always had the films as a single film in mind. He would imagine people clear their day and sit down and watch the whole trilogy; it’s split into three, but it is one story and I think that the people who I have met who are fans of the film really can’t wait to see the last one. They’re asking me how closely it sticks to the book, what happens…You could argue that, because the book is already out, people know what happens but then, people also know that directors like to take liberties with the book. You never know what and which way it’s going to go. I like that, because I like having that as a secret to myself. I met Billy Boyd [‘Pippin’, Lord of the Rings] earlier this year and he was saying that for him, it was only once the third film came out that he felt like the reaction was the strongest. It was the trilogy that cemented it as being this big, epic thing in his mind in terms of how fans reacted to it, you know? It’ll be interesting to see how it goes.”
Reflecting on how epic The Hobbit’s press junkets and promo tours have been in the past few years, it will be bittersweet when the cast embarks on their final run of tours, but O’Gorman admits he’s loving being at home in Auckland for the present moment. While he’s been able to enjoy a healthy acting career thus far, the actor (and photographer) isn’t shy in commenting on the pace this industry travels at and how it can take its toll.
“There is nothing on the immediate horizon!” he says. “There are a couple of New Zealand films that I have been attached to, but there a no set dates in terms of the start of production. For me at the moment, I am back in Auckland, which I feel like I’ve only just arrived back to after years. I am building a back deck and I am planting gardens and things like that. Domestic life! When I was younger, I tried to run away from it and now I’ve been hankering for it. I mean, I’m sure a lot of actors feel the same way, but for me, I have to enjoy the quiet times because when it gets busy, it gets really busy. There is no time for anything else. Getting The Hobbit was really good because actors can feel anxious sometimes about when you finish one job, what’s next? The Hobbit really showed me that you never know what’s around the corner. I just take my down time and I do as much as I can for me, because I know that when the next job comes along, I’m not going to have any time and I’ll just be back to working long hours!”
This is your time, Melbourne fans of The Hobbit. Before it all kicks off for O’Gorman again, he’s expecting to meet you all and get amongst one of his former city haunts. Obviously a favourite of the convention circuit not only in Australia, but abroad as well, O’Gorman will be pulling numbers in, as he has done with each con he’s attended in the past, this weekend at the Royal Exhibition Building for sure. Noting the nature of conventions like Oz Comic-Con and how they can be perceived by some, O’Gorman is open about how well he’s been treated.
“I’d never done any of these conventions before,” he admits. “I didn’t know what to expect. Lots of people have lots of different opinions of them; I personally find they can be a lot of fun, more than I thought they ever really would be. They are quite fun and you know, Stephen Hunter lives in Australia, so he generally comes along with me and so it’s like a weekend away! It’s like a holiday! I really enjoy it and I do like getting feedback about work, because I think it happens rarely. I don’t know about Australia, but in New Zealand, even if people enjoy your work or have heard of what you do, you won’t get a lot of feedback because it’s not really in our nature for us to say things too often. It’s like, ‘I don’t want to say we’ve enjoyed it in case they get a big head’, which mightn’t be Australian, but it’s very common to New Zealanders – it’s a strange thing. Going to these conventions and getting to meet people and realising that there is an audience out there is really nice, because with film and TV…it’s fun, because it’s more about what you’re doing in the moment and the choices you make, but I think most actors would agree that it’s nice to have an audience that you are aware of, at some point. Otherwise, actors would do monologues to their mirrors in their bedroom and I don’t want to do that.”
Oz Comic-Con is coming to Melbourne this weekend, July 5th and 6th. Head to www.ozcomiccon.com for more information on how to meet Dean and the other guests on their way!