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6 People Who Could Play Bilbo Baggins
Sound off on who you think can pull off Bilbo.
By Joe Oesterle
September 18, 2009
Still over two years away from the silver screen, Guillermo Del Toro’s vision of a pre-Lord of the Rings Middle Earth has been sparking passionate debates amongst Tolkien aficionados in internet chat rooms, message boards and Dungeon & Dragons gatherings all over Regular Earth. It should come as no surprise that much of the hubbub is over which actor will eventually be awarded the plumb role of the titular Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins.
Some of the names that have been floating around have been interesting (Steve Zahn), some have been loyal (Ian Holm), others have been absolutely horrifying (Jack Black), while still others are not just horrifying, but they come with serious technical problems (Robin Williams–his actual feet might be too hairy for the role.) Let’s take a look at some more likely choices to play the role of the easily flustered Bilbo, who was in the words of the immortal (or at least pretty old) Leonard Nimoy, “the bravest little Hobbit of them all.”
6. David Tennant
In Tolkien’s tale, Bilbo Baggins is in his early fifties, but Hobbits somehow manage to retain their innate cuteness well into middle age. Maybe there’s something to be said of living a life bereft of adventures, or maybe it’s all that Pipe-weed they smoke, but while David Tennant is only 38-years old, he does have the requisite puckish look, and there’s a twinkle in his eyes that betrays a life of comfortable respectability.
Thanks to his portrayal of Doctor Who, he already has a built-in fan of sci-fi/fantasy geeks, he’s a classically trained actor and he’s been in enough films that the average movie-goer may recognize him, and therefore feel comfortable with him.
Why we like him as Bilbo: He's not American and hasn't been overexposed
5. Daniel Radcliffe
Best known in some circles as a naked stable boy on Broadway, still others are familiar with Radcliffe’s work as the boy wizard, Harry Potter. There’s no doubt this young nude mage has talent, but he’s likely too well known in the genre, and possibly a little too young to take on the role of the Shire’s quest-conflicted bachelor.
Why We Don’t Like Him as Bilbo: He’s too damn rich already, and now we’re supposed to be happy that on top of his Rowlings cash he’ll get a boatload of glittering mithril coin? No chance! We’d rather see Gollum get his ring back.
4. Martin Freeman
Capable in dramas, comedy and sci-fi, Martin Freeman has to be a serious contender for the role. His portrayal of the charmingly hapless anti-hero, Arthur Dent, in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy endeared him to the odyssey crowd. His depiction of the charmingly hapless Tim Canterbury in the BBC comedy, The Office garnered him affection from the comedy intelligentsia. And his cameo as Declan in Shaun of the Dead gives him just enough action experience for the character.
Why We Like Him as Bilbo: He’s not American he’s charmingly hapless, and if we can’t get him, maybe he could recommend Simon Pegg.
3. James McAvoy
This Scottish stage and screen actor has an already established fan base in the fantasy/action adventure genre thanks to his exceptional work as Mr. Tumnus, the morally conflicted faun in The Chronicles of Narnia, and he’s appeared as Leto Atridies II in the miniseries, Frank Herbert’s Children of Dune.
Like Radcliffe, McAvoy may be a little too young to convey a convincing enough streak of Hobbity mid-life crisis, plus while he’s not an overtly pretty boy, he is still a little too good-looking to play credibly comfortable, yet secretly itch for a life of swashbuckling and treasure stealing.
Why We Don’t Like Him as Bilbo: He’s too young and not offbeat looking enough.
2. Tom Hollander
At age 42, Tom Hollander is the closest chronologically to take up the mantle of Hobbiton’s favorite treasure hunter. Hollander’s resume is probably the most impressive as well. The British thespian had a recurring role in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise as well as appearing in more traditionally respected movies such as the critically acclaimed (but incredibly tedious–there wasn’t a single elf or dwarf to be found in the entire movie) Gosford Park.
Hollander might just be the perfect choice for the role, but ironically at 42, he may be seen as too old to play the 51-year old Baggins.
Why We Like Him as Bilbo: He’s not American he’s possibly the best actor of the bunch and he actually attended the British preparatory academy, The Dragon School.
1. Mason Reese
Born in 1965 and standing a full 4 feet, 11 inches in stocking feet, former child pitchman, Mason Reese was destined for the role of Bilbo Baggins. The cherubic redheaded pre-teen was a regular on the Mike Douglas daytime talk show throughout the early to mid 1970s, and his undeniable natural charisma helped hype such brands as Dunkin Donuts and Post Raisin Bran.
Sadly, it’s doubtful that Mason Reese is even on Guillermo Del Toro’s radar, and while we can understand the hesitance of betting on a cultish ‘70s pop culture icon to carry a $300 million franchise, we have no doubt the little guy is still cheek-pinchingly adorable enough to warrant some sort of role in the film. Perhaps he could shill Middle Earth Be-Deviled Ham.
Why We Like Him as Bilbo: Because he is American. He’s Mason Freaking Reese, and he was destined to play this role.
Joe Oesterle is an award-winning writer and illustrator, but what he often fails to mention is that many of those awards were won on a New Jersey boardwalk. Pick up his latest books "Weird California" and "Weird Las Vegas" in any Barnes and Noble near you, and look for his next book, "Weird Hollywood," due out soon. www.JoeArtistWriter.com And be sure to check out his weekly animated rant: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yts0HonSd3I