A funny thing happened when Martin Freeman was cast as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: almost everyone on the Internet went ‘Well, obviously he’s the right person for the role’. Rarely do you get such a consensus online: when any classic role is cast there’s usually a cry of ‘he’s too young/old/English/Bolivian/short/tall/funny-looking/normal-looking/Un-Bolivian’ but almost the entire population of the world simply nodded and admitted – yep, Freeman is Baggins.
It’s more than just the fact he looks, well, quite Hobbit-y, he has a body of work that has made him one of the most likeable screen presences Britain has produced in a while. Early reaction to public and private screenings of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey are that he’s playing the role perfect, but until we can judge for ourselves with the film landing in cinemas today, here’s my take on the MF performances you need to see and those ones that are just awful.
We’ll start with Freeman’s best performances…
5. Bruiser (2000)
If you’ve never seen this BBC comedy sketch show, and chances are you haven’t, you’ve missed some of the best work of David Mitchell and Robert Webb. But showing equally impressive comic chops, and the first real appearance of that ‘Martin Freeman face’ (you know the one, where he looks somewhere between bewildered, distant and hypnotised), this is an utter treat for Freeman fans.
Whether it’s as a James Bond type unimpressed by his Q-branch gadgets “It looks just like a pen” “It is just a pen, isn’t it?”, a loner with his own Peep Show inner monologue, a drummer in the band ‘Pussy on a Stick’ or – most brilliantly – a chap trying to meet girls constantly thwarted by Sparky, his puppet friend, there’s some brilliant timing and nuances to his performance. One particular sketch, as a policeman struggling to break the news of a death to family friends, features one of the loveliest pieces of comic timing you’re likely to see. Get it cheap on DVD or check out most of the best bits on Youtube. And if many people didn’t watch it, at least it saw Freeman get introduced to one of the writers – Ricky Gervais, and that pretty much panned out okay for him.
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