From Rambo to The Hobbit: Scots actor tipped for big things after playing a dwarf
IT IS one of the most eagerly anticipated films in recent times; a movie that before even filming has begun is guaranteed a massive global audience when its complete - and a Scots actor will be among the starring cast.
Veteran Graham McTavish could find he is an overnight success after The Hobbit, directed by Peter Jackson Picture: Getty Images
The veteran actor Graham McTavish, who appeared in the latest Rambo movie, was named yesterday to appear as a dwarf in director Peter Jackson's long-awaited prequel to The Lord of the Rings. JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit.
He will star alongside Martin Freeman, best-known for his role as Tim in The Office, who will take on the main role as Bilbo Baggins in the $500 million production, which is expected to hit the screens in 2012.
McTavish, who currently lives in Los Angeles, will take on the role of Dwalin the dwarf, one of Bilbo's companions in the plot to steal Smaug the dragon's hoard of gold treasure. His name may not be well known, but his face may be familiar to Scots. Glasgow-born McTavish, 48, has appeared in numerous Scottish stage, television and cinema roles over the years.
As well as roles with Dundee and Perth Reps, Glasgow's Citizens Theatre, the Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh and Musselburgh's Brunton Theatre, his television credits include 24, CSI Miami, Taggart, The Bill, Casualty and Red Dwarf, as well as appearing in the latest Rambo film.
Rumours about a film version of the Tolkien's 1937 novel have circulated since director Jackson's award-winning adaptations of the blockbuster The Lord of the Ring trilogy at the start of the previous decade.
It had been expected that the actor Ian Holm, who played Bilbo Baggins originally, would reprise the role for The Hobbit. However, in announcing Freeman as his lead, Jackson insisted there has "only ever been one Bilbo Baggins for us", and that the actor was "intelligent, funny, surprising and brave - exactly like Bilbo".
"There are a few times in your career when you come across an actor who you know was born to play a role, but that was the case as soon as I met Martin," he said.
The 39-year-old has had several big-screen appearances, playing Arthur Dent in cinema-adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Richard Curtis's Love Actually and Simon Pegg's police comedy Hot Fuzz.
Other roles will be taken by Spooks star Richard Armitage, who will play Thorin Oakenshield - leader of the dwarves; former EastEnders actor Rob Kazinsky (Sean Slater in the soap), who will also play a dwarf, and Aidan Turner, who has appeared in BBC3's hit series Being Human.
The Scotsman film critic, Alistair Harkness, said a part in The Hobbit would raise McTavish's profile considerably.
"If you've got a bit of star quality, it can be a launch-pad," he said. "It will certainly keep you going for a long while."
Mr Harkness warned, however, that a role in a massive film is not a guarantee of Holywood stardom.
"In many ways it's a similar thing to the Star Wars films," he said. "Harrison Ford became one of the biggest-grossing stars of all time, while a lot of the others just fell by the wayside."
Sir Ian McKellen is expected to reprise his part as Gandalf the Wizard, for which he received numerous awards and nominations, along with Andy Serkis, who played Gollum, and Hugo Weaving as the elf Elrond.
The production has been dogged by development problems. Although a dispute between actors' unions in New Zealand - where the three Lord of the Rings movies were shot - and the film's producers over the ability to negotiate work agreements has been resolved, they are already looking elsewhere to recreate Middle Earth.
They have been scouting alternative locations in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Australia and eastern Europe, and a spokeswoman for Jackson said an announcement on where the film would be shot was "probably a week or two away".
Fantasy world that has never lost its appeal
"IT IS good and should appeal to all children between the ages of five and nine".
This considered opinion of The Hobbit, from publisher Rayner Unwin's ten-year-old son, helped to propel a fantasy world into the public's conscience that has a cast a spell of successive generations of teenagers.
Certainly, JRR Tolkien's first novel was successful enough to warrant a follow-up, which eventually emerged in the mid-1950s in the form of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. But while the series had a strong following - the poet WH Auden was a fan - it was not until the mid-Sixties that the public took the books to their hearts entirely.
The Tolkien craze started on the campuses of the United States. Its heroic, mystical themes chimed with the mood of the time: The Beatles considered making a film of The Lord of the Rings with Stanley Kubrick, and the word hobbit found its way into the Oxford English Dictionary.
Several attempts were made to film The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings - both appeared in animated forms - but they were generally considered unfilmable until computer technology helped to bring the books to screen in 2001.
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