Tales of the unexpected
“I wanted Watson to have his respect and his dignity,” Freeman says. “But the congratulations I got were way and above the call of duty. I wasn’t prepared for people saying, almost immediately, that it was the best thing they’d ever seen on television. People really fucking said that.”
Cumberbatch’s Holmes is complex, worrying and mildly deranged. But the role would not work so well without Freeman’s complementary, introverted, unselfish performance as Watson. Everything about the man – his posture, his old-fashioned manners – speaks of the doctor’s time in the military.
“I was very keen on that side of it,” he says. “Basically, he would be the most dynamic person in the room if Sherlock wasn’t there. He is an alpha male who has sewn people up in Afghanistan. I watch a lot of fucking telly. And I like it when characters aren’t judged unfairly. People play characters as stooges and that’s not how it is. Hitler was not ‘a baddie’. Though, hang on. I’m not defending Hitler. Don’t write that.”
Bilbo in Neo-Nazi Shock!
“No, no. What I mean is that, in his own mind, Hitler was trying his best.”
Sherlock will not be back on our screens until some time in 2013. Before then we have the behemoth that is The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Speculation surrounding the project has been intense. At first, Jackson was set to produce two films directed by the great Guillermo del Toro: an adaptation of the 1937 novel, and a bridging story, taking us from the end of that book to the beginning of The Lord of the Rings. We eventually ended up with a trilogy of films. How much of that triptych is drawn form the source material?
“Erm, I think it’s all from the book. I don’t know. I don’t know what we are going to be filming next year. In all honesty, I don’t know what is to come. I only know what we’ve done.”
So he hasn’t seen complete scripts for the second two parts?
“Hell, no. You’re lucky if you see the script when you’re doing it. They are pretty last-minute about it. They are constantly rewriting to make it as good as possible.”
The Hobbit project is a pretty huge commitment for Freeman. Married with a son and a daughter, he must have thought twice before committing to a massive shoot in far-off New Zealand. It will be another two years before the final part, The Hobbit: There and Back Again, makes it into cinemas.
“The obvious part of you – as an actor – jumps at the opportunity,” he says. “Then you worry about all that. But Peter and the rest are so reasonable and nice about it. They are family people. They knew I had to see my family. But then people from New Zealand are as nice as you’ve heard.”
He will, however, have to endure cries of “Oi, Bilbo!” every time he goes out for a kebab.
“Well, the amount of people shouting ‘Tim’ did get to me when I was doing The Office,” he remarks. “But I later realised that they liked me. They weren’t shouting ‘you wanker!’ So that’s all good.”
What a sensible fellow.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is out now