Better Know a Hobbit: December 3 – 6, 2012

The Colbert Report Guest Line UpHello Hubsters and Hobbiters!

Yes, as we all know by now, it is HOBBIT week on the Report! The first film of the trilogy, An Unexpected Journey, officially premieres December 14th, in IMAX and HD, so fans will truly be able to feel as if they’re entering Middle Earth. (The next two, The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again, will screen in 2013 and 2014, respectively.) Stephen must feel as if his self-described “joy machine” has just kicked into overdrive. Does anyone remember Woody Allen’s Sleepers and the Orgasmatron? I think this will be the emotional equivalent of that physical experience for Mr. Colbert. I expect we’re going to see a blissfully happy host on the next four shows.

Here are two articles trumpeting what’s about to happen this week:

In the LA Times.
In Rolling Stone.

Because you know who most of these guests are, I’ve gone light on the bios and a little heavier on the links. And let’s enjoy these precious episodes as we count down to the holiday break.

And by the way–David Hallberg tweeted a picture of “fellow tights-wearing friend” Stephen at the Kennedy Center gala, where Hallberg was honoring ballerina Natalia Makarova and Stephen was toasting David Letterman.


 

 Monday, 12/3: Sir Ian McKellan – aka Gandalf, the Wizard

Sir Ian McKellanIan McKellan, like his X-Men costar (and now frequent TDS guest) Patrick Stewart, moves easily between the worlds of stage and screen, and Shakespeare and iconic sci-fi/fantasy stories. He has even guested on the popular long-running British soap, Coronation Street. Fascinated by acting ever since he was a child, McKellan’s career truly began to take off while he was a English student at Cambridge, where he received his first glowing reviews. (But kind of let his studies drop.) His first professional appearance was in A Man for All Seasons back in 1961, and from then on he has performed in works by almost every major playwright, classic and modern, and was elected to the council of British Actors Equity, taught theater at Oxford, received several honorary degrees, and was knighted by the Queen.

One of McKellan’s films that I particularly love is Gods and Monsters, in which he played James Whale, the director of the classic version of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, in the final days of his life, following a stroke; Brendan Fraser plays he hunky gardener he was obsessed with and Lynn Redgrave his housekeeper. He received both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe nomination for his performance, and I highly recommend it.

 

Visit his home page, where you can get a full bio, find out about his activism, read his writings, and more.

And this is his official Hobbit home page.

Like his official Facebook page.

Follow him on Twitter–where X-Men director Bryan Singer has just announced that McKellan and Patrick Stewart will appear in the next film of that franchise!

Visit his IMDB page.

McKellan is known for his ability to explain the nuances of Shakespeare. Watch him discuss  Macbeth’s “Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow” speech. Or take a look at his TV program Acting Shakespeare.

His King Lear was filmed for Great Performances on PBS.

He discusses his career, being known for playing Gandalf, and being gay in this interview on the contactmusic.com website.

He hosted Saturday Night Live.

New Zealand, where The Hobbit was filmed, is considering legalizing gay marriage—and if it happens, the openly gay McKellan hopes to get married there.

Read his interview in Vanity Fair.


 

Tuesday, 12/4: Martin Freeman, aka Bilbo Baggins

Martin FreemanYou may know Martin Freeman most recently from his wonderful turn as Dr. John Watson in the modernized version of Sherlock, where he plays opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. If you don’t, what are you waiting for? See it now!

Freeman has primarily worked in British TV, including an appearance on the Ali G Indahouse, the miniseries The Last King, and most notably, as Tim Canterbury in Ricky Gervais’s original version of The Office. He also appeared in the multi-star vehicle Love Actually; as Arthur Dent in the cult fave, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; and in the animated film The Pirates: Band of Misfits.

The Roman Catholic-raised (but not currently practicing) actor comes from a very creative family; all his siblings are involved with the arts—and one is a stand-up comedian. His acting career began at just 15, and two years later he went to train and London’s Central School of Speech and Drama. He sounds incredibly down-to-earth, and smart too, and I have a suspicion he and Stephen will get along brilliantly.

 

Sherlock costar Benedict Cumberbatch discussed Freeman in the most glowing terms possible. (He made Cumberbatch cry!)

Freeman spoke about getting the role of Bilbo Baggins. One of the most interesting tidbits in this story is that Jackson arranged the shooting around Freeman’s schedule so he could honor his Sherlock commitment.

Read an profile of him in the Independent.

Peter Jackson praised Freeman’s work.

Bilbo is a huge role—but “iconic roles don’t intimidate him.”

Listen to a short interview with him on YouTube.

Like him on Facebook.

He appeared on the Graham Norton Show. (You have to go through a bit to get to him–but do enjoy Uggie the dog–star of The Artist–first!)

Freeman also appeared in something called HIV: The Musical.


 

Wednesday, 12/5: Peter Jackson – The Director

Peter JacksonFor a while, to the consternation of fans of the first three Tolkien adaptations, it looked as if Jackson (who won the Oscar® for Best Film and Best Director for Return of the King) wouldn’t come through to helm The Hobbit. But in the end, as we know, he returned. Threefold, for a trilogy.

The New Zealand-born Jackson began his film career with small horror/comedies and animated films, all paid for with his own savings from working as an engraver; he even purchased the low-cost equipment he used. (For those who haven’t seen Meet the Feebles, a parody of The Muppet Show, well, it’s quite a trip. Uneven, but still a trip.) The New Zealand Film Commission eventually helped Jackson finance his work–really, there haven’t been too many directors from the country–and worldwide acclaim finally came with what still remains my favorite of his movies: the stunning Heavenly Creatures, based on a real-life murder case that took place in Christchurch, NZ. It starred Kate Winslet in one of her earliest roles, and included large-scale animated sequences to capture the fantasy world of the two teenage killers. (Though renamed in the film, Winslet is actually playing the bestselling mystery writer Anne Perry, who participated in the murder.) But obviously nothing could equal the notoriety Jackson earned for award-winning blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In addition to directing, Jackson often acts as a producer (including of Spielberg’s recent Adventures of Tintin film), and he has numerous projects signed up for the future, including one called The Dam Busters, with a script by the wonderful Stephen Fry.

 

Jackson talks about a cameo appearance by the character Smaug, the dragon—played by Benedict Cumberbatch, the Sherlock to Freeman’s Watson!

Like him on Facebook.

Read his Hobbit blog—complete with clips.

Here’s a lengthier bio on the Lord of the Rings site.

Read what he has to say about the craziness at the Hobbit premiere in New Zealand.

The Daily News raves about the film.

The Hollywood Reporter takes an inside look at the film.

I just had to—here’s a fun Onion spoof of Jackson and his Hobbit-mania.

Jackson’s wife, Fran  Walsh, has been a creative partner in his work, and especially the Tolkien films. She triesto stay in the background, but the New York Times printed a rare interview with her this Sunday.


 

Thursday, 12/6: Andy Serkis — aka Gollum

Andy SerkisEvil alert! Watch out, Stephen! Tonight Gollum is slithering into the studio. Well, at least Andy Serkis, who portrays the evil being, will be there. Serkis has actually specialized in playing “creatures”: in addition to Gollum, he was the big ape in Jackson’s King Kong and a chimpanzee in The Rise of Planet of the Apes. His own site (see below) refers to him as “the world’s leading motion capture artist.” But he also played the rock musician Ian Dury in the film Sex & Drugs & Rock and Roll, and his work has earned several best actor nominations from both film festivals and film critics associations.

In addition, Serkis has begun to go behind the camera to direct, mostly short films and stageplays—but he also served as a second unit director for Jackson on The Hobbit, and it seems he has something larger planned: an adaptation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm. (“Some animals are more equal than others.”) It seems like a natural progression from his interest in art, which he studied at Lancaster University—the same place he began his theatrical career. Serkis actually performed incredibly diverse roles on stages throughout England, from the emcee in Cabaret to Jerry in Some Like It Hot to the Fool in King Lear. The same is true of his film and TV performances—and one of my favorites is his role as the choreographer in Mike Leigh’s marvelous Topsy-Turvy, about Gilbert and Sullivan. He just sounds like an amazing man to me.

 

Visit his website.

Peter Jackson talks about a “more sophisticated” Gollum.

Watch a little clip of him performing Gollum to see how it’s done.

And here’s a Variety article on Gollum and the motion capture technique.

Like him on Facebook.

Read an interview with him in the Guardian.

Here’s another article in FT magazine.

The Chicago Sun-Times spoke with him about the Planet of the Apes film.

He read some of Gollum’s role to give a sneak preview.


 

And now, let’s check in with our good friend, Jon Stewart!

Monday, 12/3: Denis Leary

The stand-up comedian, actor, writer, producer and supporter of firefighters returns to The Daily Show—always a reason to celebrate. When Jon and Denis Leary meet up, it’s just never less than hysterical. As I’ve often said, Leary, the creator of the marvelous Rescue Me, deserved every Emmy® in the book for that show, and was never nominated. Not fair! By the way, this is his FOURTEENTH appearance.

Since he’s been on so often, here are clips of his very first visit to Jon, in 2001, and his most recent, in June 2012. All others are available on Jon’s guest page. ALL of them!

Want to celebrate a merry Christmas? Or a merry F&*$ING Christmas? If the latter, you can buy Leary’s video of the same name.

Visit his website.

His book is Why We Suck.

Follow him on Twitter. I do!

 

Tuesday, 12/4:  R.A. Dickey

If Stephen will get his fan-happy on with Hobbit Week, Tuesday is the day for Mets fan Jon. Jon loves the team, and R.A. Dickey is their most brilliant player–and one of the very best pitchers in the league. (And by the way, isn’t it time, come spring, for another Miracle Mets season? It’s been too long.) Dickey won 20 games for the team, managed several personal bests, and earned himself a Cy Young Award–the first knuckleball pitcher ever to win that coveted honor. He also was picked to play in the All-Star Game, for the first time in his career. And as if that wasn’t enough, he’s also got a book out: a memoir called Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity, and the Perect Knuckleball. (A big thank you to former Zoner Ann for giving me tips on Dickey–she’s a HUGE fan. All that’s right with my post is owed to her; all that might be wrong is entirely my fault!)

Follow him on Twitter.

He’s so good he was  the subject of a documentary: Knuckleball.

It’s contract time, and he’s just begun talks with the Mets–who are NOT to lose him!

Want the stats? Here they are!

Watch a video with Dickey when he won his Cy Young Award.

Dickey spoke honestly in his memoir about having been abused as a child.

He broke down what goes into his famed knuckleball on ABC News.

 

 Wednesday, 12/5: Alan Simpson

Alan Simpson spent 18 years as the Senator from Wyoming (even serving as the Republican whip). Since he left the Senate, he taught at Harvard University’s  John F. Kennedy School of Government; helped work on the Iraq Study Group Report; and now is co-chair of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, to which President Obama appointed him.

Read about his opinions on abortion, women, and homophobia on Huffingon Post. (Hint: Simpson does NOT like the “Rape Republicans.”)

He appeared on Charlie Rose.

Here’s an article about him in the New York Times.

 

Thursday, Governor Chris Christie

New Jersey native Jon welcomes the governor who royally pissed off Republicans by embracing President Obama’s work to help Sandy’s victims. While I’ve never been a big fan of Christie–whose name was top of the list as a VP candidate (I think he knew a loser when he saw one)–I admire him for caring more about the people of his state than party politics. New Jersey was hit hard, and getting the help was most important.

Visit his website.

Follow him on Twitter.

He visited Stephen’s one-time bestie, Jimmy Fallon.

According to the Washington Post, he’s the most popular Republican in the country right now. Except with the GOP honchos.


 

That’s all everyone! Enjoy your special week, and let me know which visitor from Middle Earth most excites you–and which of Jon’s guests.

Take care, and cheers.

  • Ann G

    I look forward to watching Stephen geek out over The Hobbit. And what a relief that I can safely watch the show again now that the election is over. I was suffering from politics overload for a while.

    I highly recommend Tuesday night’s Daily Show. R.A. Dickey is one of the best interviews in baseball, and he and Jon will have plenty to talk about. Random non-baseball fact about R.A.: he’s a really big Star Wars geek. We’re talking about the same level of geekiness as Stephen & LoTR. R.A. once showed up in the Mets clubhouse dressed in full Darth Vader costume (to “lighten the mood,” presumably after another dismal losing streak by the Mets). The fact that he even owns such a thing is awesome. If you’re a baseball fan at all, I’d also highly recommend his memoir. It’s brilliant. (P.S. – nicely done, Karen!)

  • karenatasha

    @Ann G

    Thank you, Ann! I am pleased to have pleased you. Especially as I spent most of my childhood growing up in the shadow of Shea.

    And thank you for that Darth Vader story! That’s pretty funny. I bet it worked too, and really cheered his teammates up.

    As for Stephen: I expect him to be in the highest spirits this week, with any politics being of the entirely necessary sort (breaking news stories).

  • Katt

    I do hope they go all out and Hobbitise the set, or Stephen does the show in Elvish. Elvish subtitles perhaps? I had no idea Elvish was widely spoken as it is, it’s amazing what you learn on Google.

    I am looking forward to Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman, they’re always good fun on talk shows. And of course, Jon and Denis are always great together, except for actually promoting whatever Denis is on for.

  • karenatasha

    @Katt
    That would be pretty awesome! We all know that Stephen has a pretty good collection of Hobbit-abilia, and I hope it gets prominently displayed. As for Elvish, I expect a short demonstration of one or more of the dialects, but probably not a lot. (As for the number of people speaking it, well–just think of the Trek fans fluent in Klingon!)

    Your line about “except for promoting whatever Denis is on for” made me laugh! It’s so true. The two of them just have a blast and you feel as if you’re just looking on at friends having a great time.

  • CN Helper

    I am so clueless about Tolkien that I fear I will be stumbling throughout the week. Please Stephen make the week funny for non-LoTR it-getters, for I am sorely lacking. That being said, how great that the show gets to focus on one of Stephen’s actual passions. This means end-of-the-year, non-political fun. Isn’t life after the Prez elections grand?

  • karenatasha

    @CN Helper

    Aw, don’t worry! It’s actually been years since I’ve read the books–since I was a child, really. I’m sure Stephen will be funny for everyone. The one thing about being the biggest LOTR geek in the world is . . . you know NO ONE knows as much as you! Therefore you have to scale it down just a bit. I do think those of us less familiar with the books/films will, however, miss some inside jokes. But there will be plenty left to laugh at, I’m sure.

  • karenatasha

    @karenatasha

    Oh, and, yes: I think it’s wonderful that Stephen is getting a full week to indulge his passion. (He’s also lucky his passion should be a ratings-getter.) The happier he is, the longer he’ll want to do the show!

  • CN Helper

    @karenatasha If it were a ratings-getter, that would be all the better.

  • karenatasha

    @CN Helper

    It will be. First of all, it’s received a load of press, and that usually brings in some viewers. Secondly, LOTR fans are . . . well, PASSIONATE. They’ll want to tune in.

    Now a question: someone tweeted about the Hobbit week on TCR . . . and TCR retweeted her. Now, as far as I knew, the TCR Tweet didn’t do that. Or is it just that they don’t follow anyone?

  • CN Helper

    @karenatasha That IS unusual. They usually retweet guests who are like “OMG! I am on TCR tonite!!” & c. That’s pretty cool. Oh yeah, they did retweet people’s reactions who were at Colbchella, but you were at that too, karenatasha, so you wouldn’t know ;)

  • Galadriel

    Ah, am looking forward to this (which is the least you’d expect, going by my avatar name). :)

    And I totally agree with Ann G. that it will be a lovely break from politics for Stephen and the Nation.

    Geek on, Stephen!

  • karenatasha

    @Galadriel

    I hope you enjoyed last night! But no women from the film…

    I am getting just the amount of politics I need from Stephen at the start, and am grateful to have a week with non-political guests.