This past December I was honored to interview Stephen Hunter, who plays Bombur in The Hobbit films. Since it was the holiday season, I went with a festive theme titled, The 12 Days of Bombur. It was just as it sounds, every day for 12 days, I posted a new interview question, all of them surrounding Stephen’s work on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
Several months have passed since, and I have had many emails asking if I could combine all 12 posts into 1. So, I have done just that.
In this interview, you’ll find out Stephen’s reaction when he landed the role of Bombur, who is favorite character is, just how dangerous that braided beard of his can be, details surrounding ‘The Night of the Eggs’, and more!
Without further ado, I give you: The 12 Days of Bombur – The Full Stephen Hunter Interview:
Arwen: What spurred you on to try out for the roll of Bombur the dwarf?
Stephen: Well I actually auditioned for Gloin – I think a few of the kiwis did. I felt good after the casting, I thought that I had a good chance of being one of the dwarves. Bomber was in the back of my mind I guess after that. As it turned out, he was the perfect character for me.
Arwen: When you found out you’d received the role, what was your response?
Stephen: I was in disbelief really. We were 7 months pregnant with our daughter, so there was a lot going on. I remember telling my partner “The Hobbit” and swearing a lot. She didn’t know what I was trying to say. Then I went for a big walk and calmed myself.
Arwen: Had you read ‘The Hobbit’ before trying out? If not, have you read it since taking on your character’s role? What was your impression of the book?
Stephen: I read it when I was about 8 or 9. In school, I think? Then again before the auditions came up, and after I had been cast. I loved it. I enjoy Tolkien’s writing and his very simple human themes. ‘The Hobbit’ is also easier and quicker to read the ‘The Lord of The Rings’ – that took me ages!
Arwen: Do you have a favorite character in the book and/or AUJ film?
Stephen: It would have to be Bilbo in the book and probably the movie as well. I love the way he begins to discover that he has a lot more to offered the world than he first thought. Martin really brings that alive so well.
Also in the movie, I love Radagast and Gandalf. Radagast is such a gentle and quirky character. And with Gandalf I think you see a lot more of his cheeky persona in these films. Sylvester and Ian bring a lot of themselves to these characters. And of course all my dwarf brothers – whom I love dearly.
Arwen: In the book, Bombur provides a lot of comic relief, however, in ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ he doesn’t have any lines. Will we get a chance to hear from him in the next two films?
Stephen: I was always taught that behaviour, and what you do, will always be more interesting than what you say. I’m lucky that Bombur has such a massive presence physically, and that Peter & Andy have both given me great physical moments to show the audience who Bombur is. So I guess we’ll all just have to wait until the second movie!
Arwen: Bombur is the largest dwarf in Thorin and Co., how long did it take you to don your Bombur costume? It looks like the suit would be quite heavy. How much did it weigh and was it hard to maneuver while wearing it? Did the awesome braided beard ever get caught in anything?
Stephen: It took a while for prosthetics at first – over 2 hours. But as we went along things got quicker. I think it was down to 1 hour 20 minutes by the end. The costume always took a little longer than most because there was so much more of it! The weigh wasn’t actually that bad – as long as I wasn’t carrying packs!
Some of the other dwarves had some quite heavy gear. Mine just looked heavier I suppose. Of course when it got wet, it was very heavy. It wasn’t too hard to move around in as it was pretty soft. The braid – or “strangler” as it’s affectionately known as usually only got caught on other dwarves…
Arwen: In a recent interview with Middle-earth News, Richard Armitage revealed the oak shield Thorin carries around in AUJ was an idea he’d come up with, which Peter Jackson liked and asked Weta to create. Do you have any similar stories concerning Bombur? Did you have any input into his character design or personality?
Stephen: There were little things – usually related to cooking and my love of food. But to be honest, the design team had done such an amazing job on Bombur, all I had to do was just wear it and add my own personality to him on screen. I guess it was my choice to have him eating almost constantly. I thought as much as he respected the journey, Thorin, and the Royal line of Durin – it still wasn’t quite as important to him as a nice meat pie or tea cake.
Arwen: One of my favorite scenes in AUJ was when the dwarves are in Bag End, feasting on the contents found in Bilblo’s generously filled pantry. In it, you see Bombur catching hard boiled eggs in his mouth. How long did it take you to get that shot? Where you sick of hard boiled eggs by the end? Was luck with you and the scene perfectly captured in a few takes?
Stephen: Ah yes, the night of the eggs! I think it was Jimmy’s (James Nesbitt) idea to throw the eggs at me. It only took about 3 or 4 goes really. And the reaction you see in the film is very real. It was just 13 guys having a huge food fight and the camera just happened to be rolling. I remember Andy tried a few things with that scene, including me just scoffing a bowl of eggs “Cool Hand Luke” style.
I ate over a dozen boiled eggs that night. Oh yeah, and when Graham McTavish tried to feed me tomatoes whilst standing behind me, he couldn’t see properly and just rammed them up my nose! I felt particularly sorry for Danelle, my hair & make up artist. She had to clean my hair & beard after all of that.
Arwen: Now that ‘The Hobbit’ films have been split into three parts, Peter Jackson has announced that there is still some filming left to be done. What is left to be filmed and when are you scheduled to go back?
Stephen: We were always scheduled to go back around June to do pick ups for Film 2, so nothing has changed much. There may be a bit more now, but I don’t expect we’ll be back there for longer than a couple of months.
Arwen: We know from the production videos you were very fond of the barrel riding scenes, saying you wished it was a theme-park ride. Any chance the extra filming to come holds more barrel riding scenes in your future?
Stephen: I doubt we’ll get back to the location next year, but there could be some green screen stuff. I can’t wait to see all that come to life in the film. I expect I’ll be blown away like I was when I saw all the Goblin cave scenes on the big screen.
Arwen: The breathtaking New Zealand scenery sets the stage for Middle-earth with it’s dramatic back drops and landscapes. Are there any particular areas you liked filming at more than others? Any you wish had been chosen that weren’t?
Stephen: I loved filming in the South Island. I had lived in NZ for the first 30 years of my life and had never really travelled it. We all drove ourselves around down there and it was a great homecoming for me to finally explore one of the most amazing parts of my own country. I would have loved to have filmed in Hobbiton.
The dwarves never got there until the day after the Wellington Premiere, when we did a press day and helped open the Green Dragon(drink beer). And although we got to Nelson – which was beautiful, it would have been great to head over the hill to Malborough and the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world.
Arwen: How was all the promotional touring for you? Did you get to meet many of your fans at the Wellington Premiere or the Royal Performance? Any fun fan moments or stories you’d like to share with all the #teambombur fans reading this? Are there any fun and memorable moments you shared with the cast during filming that you can tell us about?
Stephen: The Premiere Tour was unbelievable. I’ve only just got back so I’m still trying to process it all. The Wellington Premiere was amazing, and surprisingly relaxing considering it was my first red carpet. I met a lot of fans and signed as many posters & pictures & wizard hats as I possible could. New York was fantastic – although I think I was jetlagged the whole time, and London and the Royal Premiere was very special as we were looked after so well over there.
As far as fun and memorable moments go, there are just so many. Most involve my dwarf brothers in the trailer park or on set just clowning around like adolescent schoolboys. That continued on the Premiere tour as well, as you would have seen on some of the interviews.
We hope you enjoyed The 12 Days of Bombur – Full Stephen Hunter Interview! Many, many thanks to Stephen Hunter for sharing his thoughts and memories with us all, we are truly honored.
Follow Stephen on Twitter and us the hash tag #teambombur