Movie News / Tolkien News

Billy Connolly: Big Yin or Big Mouth?

Photo by Jemma Lambert,

From a “Got News Precious” contributor.

Billy Connolly, the 69 year old musician, comedian, actor, and professional scot who has been cast in the role of Dain Ironfoot, has caused something of a furore among Tolkien fans after some unguarded interview comments.

Cornered by (part of New York Magazine) at a premiere, Connolly was asked about returning to New Zealand to film his role, before being asked how many times he had read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings. Surprisingly, the Big Yin responded that he had never read either, before going on to express his opinions on Tolkien’s writing and Tolkien fans –

I could never read Tolkien. I always found him unreadable … I didn’t read [the books], and I normally don’t like people who have! The people who love it, they’re kind of scary. They talk all this gobbledygook and they think of it as the Holy Grail….invariably, there seems to be a sector of the press that is consumed by The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, and it’s indicative of that notion, that it’s the Grail. So whatever I say is rubbish, but then I become answerable for it! People get all upset, they get terribly upset about anything that has to do with it, as if it were real! It’s a story! Just relax! It’ll go away and you’ll be just fine. Don’t panic.

What do you think of Billy Connolly’s comments? They certainly are consistent with comments he made about Tolkien fans and hating the Lord of the Rings films in his “World tour of New Zealand” comedy-travelogue show. Do you agree with some Tolkien fans who have even called for the role of Dain Ironfoot to be recast? Do you think that Connolly is right in his assessment and people take it too seriously? Or perhaps it is all just intentional publicity seeking?

Whatever your opinions, let us know your thoughts on the furore in the comments below!

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  1. Makes me wonder why he accepted the role in the first place… but he’s just an actor. As long as he plays his part as directed and does the job well, I don’t care what he thinks about Tolkien. That said, his comments do not endear him to me, so they won’t make me want to follow his career beyond The Hobbit.

  2. I am not surprised. Most actors that do these kinds of movies are not fans and are just there for the money. Look at Harrison Ford? In recent times he bashes Star Wars and its fans more and more.

  3. trishlambert says:

    I agree with Diamond. To apply Connolly’s own logic, he’s just an actor, so relax already!

    His personal feelings about Tolkien’s work and its fans won’t get in the way of my enjoyment of his role in the movies. At least we know that anything he says about the film is likely to be rubbish–that’s true of other actors as well, but he’s the first to come right out and acknowledge it!

  4. At least he tried to read it, unlike some people who bash Tolkien (mentioning no names!)…

  5. It always angers me a bit when people suggest that it’s ridiculous to be invested in something because it’s not “real”. I defy them to give me a decent philosophical definition for what is “real”. And I rather imagine that people will be reading and discussing and loving Tolkien’s works long after I’m dead and gone.

  6. It’s perfectly fine to not enjoy Tolkien, he’s not everyone’s cup of tea and that is totally understandable. My problem lay with how utterly disrespectful of both Tolkien and his fans that Connolly comes off in this interview. Not endearing at all, like why even go there? You don’t enjoy his work, okay, weird seeing as you accepted this role, but fine. Connolly just didn’t have to be so nasty about it.

  7. He’s not that great of an actor. He’s obviously only using this opportunity for fame and money. I would think PJ would try harder to employ people (of the bazillions) that are fans of Tolkien.

  8. Mike (Imperius) says:

    I totally agree with you Knowfere. Actors who take the job without having the passion for really disheartening..really do wish PJ was more selective. Just a few weeks ago, I came back from a comiccon and actors like Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart were very open about them not knowing anything about Star Trek or even being interested in the sci-fi genre to begin with. I even though Stewart seemed a little ‘annoyed’ after I asked him to write an excerpt from STNG on a box of Earl Grey (tea..Early!) something he often said in the show…he was very dismissive when I asked him whether he actually drank Earl Grey. Guess my $75 wasn’t good enough. Connolly will be one of those same actors who takes the money and runs and then craps on the genre that got him famous and now allow them to entertain their personal indulgences 🙁

  9. Mike (Imperius) says:

    that got THEM famous rather..

  10. It really doesn’t bother me if he likes the books or the setting or if he doesn’t. As long as it doesn’t detract from the job he was hired to do. So it’s taken me a while to figure out what kept bothering me about this interview when I first read it.I think I found my answer.

    What bothers me is how he says he makes stuff up when answering questions (taken from the full interview) about Tolkien’s work. This just seems unprofessional to me. Usually when a fan, of anything really, asks these sorts of questions it’s because they are looking to connect with like-minded people and share something that’s been a positive experience in their lives.

    Simple answers like: “I don’t know”, “I just couldn’t get into it” or even “I’m not really a fan.” Are all perfectly adequate answer to those types of questions without debasing and discrediting both the person asking the question and the object of affection.

    So I’ll agree with Diamond, I’ll watch him in this movie and then I’ll have no further interest in his career.

  11. I will say that he made a good point on looking at the hobbit movie as a movie, and the book is the book. It’s the only thing that’ll keep me from yelling in the theater about inconsistancy’s between the two. I do like Connelly’s work though, and find that he is a pretty good actor, and I understand PJ’s including him in the movie, but I also think Connelly should of done some research into the role beyond just reading the script.

  12. “The wise speak only of what they know”
    ― J.R.R. Tolkien

  13. Whatever everyone thinks of Billy Connolly, at least he has the brass to tell it like he sees it, as always. That may not be what you or me would like it to be… but at least he won’t beat around the bush on it. And in my book that deserves applauding. I am not upset by his remarks, nor could I care less to be perfectly honest. Billy Connolly is a great comedian, a legend in his trade, but unfortunately hasn’t got a clue when it comes to appreciating this type of literature… which shouldn’t be held against him, after all, he is paid to act in the movie (not to adore Tolkien), which I’m sure he’ll be grand at. So, in short, I believe folks need to make a clear distinction between the personal feelings and preference of an actor and his performance.

  14. Bashing Tolkien – it’s Billy’s job to bash and be funny!! That’s how he makes his money. Besides, isn’t it wonderful that he has free speech!!! Personally, I know Middle Earth does not exist and is not real, but I’d rather live there than this world of violence. So what if I chose to opt out for unreal, it’s a lot nicer and lovely to boot!!

  15. Remember, sir Ian McKellan initially was never a fan of Tolkien’s work either. However, once he began to read the books to get a better feel for the role as Gandalf, he changed his tune.

    Hopefully, Billy Connolly will do the same and realize that the world of Middle-Earth isn’t a bad place.

  16. I wasn’t really into Tolkien until the movies. The movies got me curious so I started reading LOTR . . .then the Hobbit . . .then Silmarillion. Well, you get the picture.

    I rather like John’s quote from Tolkien. I can accept his not liking Tolkien. But at least try to understand the person you are playing and be honest about not liking him or understanding his work instead of making stuff up to please the fans. Making stuff up wouldn’t really fly in the face of anyone who really knew Tolkien’s work anyway.

  17. There are many works that are stories, like religious texts. That doesn’t make them any less important to those who hold them sacred.