Talking exclusively to Shadowlocked.com:
Sylvester McCoy is best-known to science fiction fans as the seventh Doctor in the BBC’s Doctor Who series, taking over the role from Colin Baker from 1987 to the cancellation of the original series in 1989. But there’s a very good chance that the Scottish-born theatre, film and TV actor may gain a whole new surge of popularity in the years ahead as he sets off to New Zealand to join director Peter Jackson and theatrical colleague and friend Ian McKellen to make two movies of Tolkien’s The Hobbit, wherein he’ll play the part of the wizard Radagast, a character from Middle Earth who was omitted from the original trilogy.
Here are the excerpts from his interview:
How long will you be [in New Zealand]?
Oh, six to eight weeks, the first time, and then I’ve got to go back another three or four times over the next three years.
What was the extent of your near-involvement in the original Lord Of The Rings trilogy?
I was up for the part of Bilbo Baggins, and it got down to the last few as these things do, and I was still very much in the picture. Not literally, though [laughs]. Finally it went to Ian Holm, but if he had been busy, I would have done that part. So they knew me from that, and they liked me, obviously.
Will you enjoy working with Ian McKellen again after working with him for so long with King Lear?
Ian McKellen and Sylvester McCoy, among others, in the RSC’s 2007 production of King LearYeah, it’ll be great. We were working very closely for nearly two years in King Lear. The fool, who I played, and the king, who obviously he played, are two roles that are very entwined. We travelled the world together and he introduced me to Peter Jackson personally – as well as the Prime Minister of New Zealand! [laughs]. It’ll be great. I’m looking forward to seeing him, and we’ve got some lovely scenes together.
From what sources is the character of Radagast being drawn for The Hobbit, because he’s not a major presence in the book itself and he was written out of the original trilogy…?
There were bits of Radagast in the original books; there were bits of him in The Hobbit and some bits in Lord Of The Rings. They didn’t use him in the film, so they’re taking bits from there. Also there were later writings in the 1960s, I believe, in which Radagast was also mentioned.
How do you approach a role like this in terms of preparation?
[laughs] I work instinctively really; I’m not ‘method’ that way. Any actor worth his salt uses all sorts of methods and means to get to the character. But really I just try and learn the lines and not bump into the monsters.
Do you feel these films can provide something special for Tolkien fans by giving extra background and coverage of characters like Radagast, who we don’t get to see as much of in the book?
Absolutely. It’s very exciting in that way. Having seen Lord Of The Rings, it’s an astonishing piece of work. How do they do it? To concentrate for years in putting it together – the energy and concentration and commitment. It’s extraordinary, isn’t it? Three huge epic films. I just look forward to being part of that. There are some great British actors involved, as well as Cate Blanchett, who I’m madly in love with! [laughs]
Will we be able to recognise you in the role?
I hope so, yes!
It’s not something that involves motion capture or heavy prosthetic make-up?
Not as far as I know.
Are you a fan of working with special effects? You’re fairly used to it by now, I should imagine…
Yes, I am. Funny enough, I was doing some stuff like that yesterday. Working with a green screen background, I had to recreate the inside of the TARDIS – and it wasn’t there [laughs]. Good fun, and all very silly!