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So what’s it like to work on the set of an epic three part film, in New Zealand, with the incredible talents of Sir Ian McKellan, Martin Freeman and Sir Peter Jackson? Read the interview below to find out!
I got the chance to interview Mark Atkin. Mark plays Richard Armitage’s scale double on The Hobbit. Scale double actors are vitally important to the magical storytelling of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies. Without scale doubles, it would be difficult to put Hobbits and Wizards in the same room without everyone looking the same height. So, what is a scale double, and who are the unsung heroes of these films? Well, read below to find out!
1. Tell us a little about yourself. Where you grew up, films you’ve worked on, and how you first became interested in stunt/scale work? Where you’re living now?
A long story, so I’ll be brief. I was born in Sheffield, Yorkshire, England and then my family moved to Staffordshire, where I grew up and went to school.
I joined the Police Service in 1996, before moving to Hertford whilst being a member of the Metropolitan Police in London. I emigrated to New Zealand in 2008 having joined the New Zealand Police working in South Auckland.
I moved to Wellington, for “The Hobbit” and have lived nearby ever since.
2. Did you audition for The Hobbit, or were you asked to be in the film?
At the last minute I went to an open audition for short people and haven’t looked back since.
3. What was your audition process like?
It was an open audition for people 5’2” and below, a good friend of mine sent the link to me; and to be honest I thought it was a joke. It wasn’t the first time I’d been called a “Hobbit” or “Frodo” during my 15 year Police career.
I am actually 5’4”, so I was turned away at the door by an AD. I shook his hand, as that was a first for me being too tall and happily went on my way. I’d never been too tall for anything in my life before.
However, a very lovely lady came out and said I could audition.
Anyway. I was measured, photographed, put on camera and then interviewed. I thought it was the end of the whole thing.
A week later I received a call, I had been shortlisted and asked to travel to Wellington to take part in a three-day workshop. There were 35 of us and it involved stunt work, acting, mimicry and horse riding.
Someone had tried to steal my car, so I was traveling home on the bus a week later when I received the call telling me I’d been selected. I couldn’t believe it; as soon as the call ended I rang my sister in England to tell her the news. It must have cost me a fortune as I was on my mobile ‘phone, I also woke her up but she didn’t seem to mind.
4. Share with us what it means to be a scale double. Define your job/role on The Hobbit.
I was Richard’s Scale Double, so my role involved acting and some stunt work.
When I joined the production I had an intense Dwarf Boot camp along with the other scale doubles and the big guys. For me it involved acting, mimicry, sword training, stunt training and horse riding. I spent some time with Richard so I observe how he moved, and spoke with him about “Thorin’s” character.
Once filming began I continued with our training when I wasn’t required on set. However I would try to be on set as much as possible to watch Richard perform.
5. How much of the film would you say is you and the scale cast? 10%? 20% because it looks like a lot…
I can’t answer that! It’s all Thorin Oakenshield.
6. Walk us through a day on the set of the Hobbit. Stunt practice? Blocking? Movement work? Hair? Make-up?
All of the above! When I was required for filming it took some time in wardrobe and make up to become “Thorin” scale double. When I arrived on set I could be blocking a scene, watching Richard’s performance or straight into a performance of my own. The days I appeared in prosthetics were longer, but great fun.
As I mentioned earlier, If I wasn’t required on set I’d be involved in stunt training, acting and mimicry training or I would be watching Richard’s performances.
7. What is it like working with Peter Jackson? With Andy Serkis?
I worked briefly with Andy whilst he was “Gollum” and then he often directed me. He is so friendly; he’s always helpful and enthusiastic.
I was very nervous my first time on set, however Peter welcomed me and as he is so down to earth, set became a very comfortable place.
It was such an honour to work with both of them.
8. Did you and Richard have scenes together?
9. Did you have scenes with Ian McKellan, Lee Pace, Hugo Weaving… Actors that were meant to be taller than the dwarves?
I did indeed! I was very lucky to have performed opposite all of those wonderful actors. They inspired me and it was a privilege to see them in action.
10. How does it feel to be in a trilogy? 18-month shoot and then 8 weeks of more filming?
It’s amazing to be honest, “The Hobbit” has changed my life
11. How did it feel to see yourself on the big screen when The Hobbit was released?
I was very nervous going to our screening, I didn’t know what to expect, it was the first time I’d seen myself on the “Big Screen”. It was a great experience, but I’m sure I’m the only one who notices when it’s me up there.
12. What are some of your favorite on set and off set memories?
The first time I ever worked on a film set I walked into “Bag end,” I was greeted by Peter and then took my place next to Sir Ian – Fairytale stuff.
Going on location was great, I hadn’t traveled to any of those wonderful places before. I honestly believe people will think some of the locations are CGI, when they are right here in New Zealand.
13. What scenes are you most looking forward to seeing in The Desolation of Smaug? In the third film?
I’m looking forward to seeing Thorin and Gandalf’s first meeting, I can’t say anymore, so I’ll leave that to Richard. Of course the Battle of the five armies in the final film will be epic!
14. What have you been up to since filming wrapped?
I was part of New Zealand Opera’s production of “The Flying Dutchman” in Wellington and I’ve appeared in a few short films and TV commercials.
I’ve also qualified as a Personal trainer and spent a lot of time scuba diving. The day after our “Desolation Of Smaug” screening I’m off around the world for ten weeks.
15. What are your future plans?
I’m looking forward to continuing my acting and stunt career. I also want to qualify as a Scuba Diving instructor, as it’s something I love to do. I’ve also been accepted in to drama school here in Wellington, which I am looking forward to.
Thank you Mark for an insightful interview! The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug comes out in theaters today!
You can see Mark at HobbitCon 2 in April!
Mark is on Twitter and Facebook, give him a follow 😀