Lee Pace has had one of the better years an actor can have, what with Guardians of the Galaxy and now The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. “I have to pinch myself right now,” Pace told Movie Fanatic in our exclusive interview for the final The Hobbit movie.
We caught up with Pace and he talked about his joy, as a longtime fan of J.R.R. Tolkien, playing the Elven king Thranduil and how the effervescence of Peter Jackson is the most contagious thing about the legendary filmmaker.
Pace also chimes in about the addition of the Evangeline Lilly character, Tauriel, and having Orlando Bloom’s Legolas in The Hobbit trilogy when neither were in the books. His front row seat to how they added to this story is priceless.
Movie Fanatic: What will you miss most about playing in Middle Earth?
Lee Pace: We’re just celebrating this falling into place and it’s important to complete things and it’s been so much hard work for such a long time. Right now, it’s just kind of a moment of celebrating. But there will be a time when I will be sad about not flying to New Zealand and not being immersed in Middle Earth again. That’s exactly what it was. We were there. We were at this place where I can look across the set and there’s Ian McKellen dressed as Gandalf the Grey and you go to lunch and there are all the dwarves sitting around the table and they let the elves squeeze in [laughs]. There’s such a magic to the whole experience that none of us took for granted. We had such a good time making these movies. As artists, it was a unique experience and the real magic of it is it's a rare thing to have that.
Movie Fanatic: When you were growing up, or in college, did you read The Lord of the Rings or The Hobbit?
Lee Pace: Oh, yeah, I read The Hobbit when I was a kid and I read The Lord of the Rings when I was in high school. I have a distinct memory of that time in my life when I was reading those books. It’s interesting now, I wish I could remember how I pictured the story -- the way I pictured my character, for example. Now, it’s been replaced by the way that Peter Jackson imagined it. The thing that we came up with together with the character... it’s such a collaborative process making that character come to life. I really wish I could have taken a snapshot of my imagination to see how it was different and how it was the same.
Movie Fanatic: Tell me about that first time that you looked in the mirror in full makeup and costume for Thranduil. Given that you had a history with the pages of Tolkien, what were your initial thoughts seeing yourself in that world?
Lee Pace: So much of this movie is done in Peter’s kitchen where we all get together and talk through the character and what we think is interesting about it. The Elven king, on the page in Tolkien’s book, is thinly sketched in. But Tolkien continued to work on that story and we know now that Legolas was likely at that place and that there was growing evil around Middle Earth. The first scene I shot was in The Desolation of Smaug where the dwarves are brought into my throne room. And I think that me and Richard (Armitage, Thorin) shooting that incredible stand-off between these two kings, I was sitting in that incredible throne and incredible clothes, all the pieces come into place as to who this icy, complicated, isolationist elf is. It was like wearing a mask. I really enjoyed that and I hope I get the opportunity to do something like that again. I mean, it was like that for Guardians of the Galaxy too – feeling that feeling of characterizing something that is so different from yourself.
Movie Fanatic: You had a front row seat to this and I was blown away by Evangeline Lilly as Tauriel. Now, before people saw it they were taken aback by the addition of a new character to Tolkien’s world. But, what did you see that made it so special?
Lee Pace: I enjoyed that character and what I enjoyed most was that it wasn’t like she’s a woman elf. It’s just another character in this story. That’s important. She’s an assassin and she’s falling in love with someone she shouldn’t fall in love with and she’s a character that forces my character to look at the bigger world. The fact that they march off to battle this looming evil is completely at odds with what the Elven king desires to do. He’s a very old elf. He’s an elf that has fought in the great battles. He’s an elf that fought dragons, killed them and survived. In this moment, he is choosing to hide in this dark, corrupted forest and his son and Tauriel are reaching out into this world. You can’t tell a story with one character. For the Elven story to make sense you need this trio of characters who are at odds with each other. The Elven story is about unrequited love. It’s about heartbreak and each of these characters feels it in different ways.
Movie Fanatic: It may be hard to quantify. But, with the power and magic of Peter Jackson that we’ve seen on screen, what most impressed you as a collaborator, as a fellow artist, working together to achieve such an enormous goal?
Lee Pace: He makes it look easy [laughs]. He’s a fan of these stories. He’s a fan of these movies. He’s a fan of the fans. He’s very open with the process with the Peter Jackson video blogs that he made while we were filming. It’s like he’s having the best time making these movies. That’s the big secret to him. He just enjoys it.
Watch The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug online to get ready for the big finale!