When we ran into Billy Connolly last night at the premiere of Won’t Back Down, we wondered: Doesn’t he need to be back in New Zealand soon to continue his role as Dain Ironfoot in Peter Jackson’s newly three-part adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit? “Oh yes!” he confirmed. “I have to go back for that. I haven’t done [the battle scenes] yet. I have to get battle-ready! I ride into war on a wild pig!” So, how many times has Connolly read The Hobbit? “I’ve never read The Hobbit. Never.” What about Lord of the Rings? “Never read Lord of the Rings,” replied the 69-year-old Scottish actor. “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.”
How, then, does Connolly plan to deal with Tolkien fans who will lob at him obscure questions about The Hobbit for the rest of his life?
“Usually I just make stuff up because I don’t know what I’m talking about,” Connolly admitted. “But 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.”
“I mean, the scripts are brilliant, very good,” Connolly continued, “but I always disagree with people who think the movie should be like the book. A movie’s a movie, and the book’s a book.” And this movie’s going to be great, Connolly promised. “Martin Freeman is absolutely brilliant. That was one of the first things I saw. And I’m going to get into trouble again if I say this, but we’re filming faster [at 48 frames per second] than we normally would, with special equipment, and in 3D … Our 3D just makes it glow. It looks like a cartoon, but the people are real. And it’s shiny. And it’s real.” We thanked him for his time, and he laughed: “Make sure you make it clear you cornered me and forced me to talk so I don’t get in trouble!”