Bye, Bilbo: Peter Jackson Mourns Passing Of Ian Holm
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Peter Jackson wrote a heartfelt tribute to Ian Holm, the great actor who, with his portrayal of the early ring finder Hobbit Bilbo Baggins, became an indelible figure in the tradition of Middle-earth. Jackson posted this on his Facebook page and here it is:
The wonderful Sir Ian Holm
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I am very sad about the death of Sir Ian Holm.
Ian was such a delightful, generous man. Quiet, but cheeky, with a nice wink.
In early 2000, before we started shooting our bilbo scenes for The Fellowship of the Ring, I was nervous about working with such a respected actor, but he immediately calmed me down. When he was in Bag End on the first day before the cameras started to roll, he took me aside and said that he would try different things in each shot, but I shouldn't be worried. If after five or six shots he hadn't given me what I needed, I should definitely give him a certain direction.
And that's exactly what we did. But unbelievable that his varied line readings and performances were all wonderful. He rarely needed instructions. He gave us an amazing selection in the cutting room.
We got into four very pleasant weeks when we shot the first 30 minutes of Fellowship.
One day, Bilbo had a report of his early adventures in front of an audience of enchanted three and four year olds sitting cross-legged on the party field at his feet. We started filming Ian's performance that tells the story - but we also needed perspectives on the kids who responded to various dramatic moments. But young children get bored very quickly, and Ian and I quickly realized that they couldn't hear the same story over and over again as we captured the different angles we needed.
I suggested that in order to get the children's attention, he should make the story a little different in each shot ... add extras, invent things ... as long as he gave us the essence of what was in the script. I told him not to worry and I would find out in the editing room.
However, we also needed the children to stay in place while moving the cameras quickly from one angle to the other. For a film set, "fast" means 15 to 20 minutes. While this was happening and no cameras were rolling, I whispered to Ian that he had to entertain her. I helpful suggested that he "tell them different stories between shots". And that's exactly what he did. After a few hours we shot everything we needed.
When the kids were led away from the set and the crew moved on to the next sequence, Ian said that he had never worked so hard in his life!
Over a decade later, we hoped that Ian would play Bilbo again for the opening scenes of The Hobbit. Fran and I had dinner in London with Ian and his wife Sophie and he told us that he was very sorry but he could not. In addition to our shock, he confided that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's and he couldn't remember any lines. He had difficulty walking and certainly could not travel to New Zealand. He was always a private individual and told us that he had basically retired but hadn't announced it.
This was a blow because we had found a good way to hand over the role of Ian as Old Bilbo to Martin Freeman as Young Bilbo. I described it to him and he liked it. I also told him how my mother and an uncle had endured Parkinson's for years and I was very familiar with the effects of the disease.
At that point, our dinner - at which we thought we were describing the new scenes he was supposed to do and Ian thought he was going to explain why he couldn't - suddenly turned into a think tank with Ian, Sophie, Fran and I'm trying to find a process that will allow Ian to play bilbo one last time.
We shoot the films in New Zealand - but how come we came to London and did his scenes near home?
At the end of dinner, he nodded slowly and said, "Yes, I think I could do that." But I knew he was doing it just as a favor to me, and I held his hands and thanked him with tears in my eyes.
We started shooting in New Zealand with Martin Freeman as our young Bilbo. Martin admired Ian Holm very much, but had never met him. However, Martin very generously agreed to wear prosthetic makeup to play Sir Ian Holm at Old Bilbo for some New Zealand wide-angle shots we needed, and he held his mannerisms very well.
A few months later we returned to London, took our bag end set and filmed Ian's footage with a tiny crew, as we promised. Ian's beautiful wife Sophie was by his side every day, helping him and us.
Within four days we filmed everything we needed. Elijah Wood and Ian had become friends of Lord of the Rings again, and Elijah was on the set every day in London, giving Ian additional support.
In the finished film, I hope that the audience sees only Ian Holm, who repeats Bilbo. But what I experienced on the set was a wonderful actor who made his last appearance. It was incredibly brave of him to do that and very emotional for those who saw it.
We will always be very grateful to Ian for this. During our time together, Fran and I loved him so much and we really enjoyed his company.
To celebrate the end of the shoot, Ian and Sophie invited Fran and me to their house for dinner. It was a nice night full of humor and fun. Ian and I found that we both had a strong mutual interest in Napoleon and chatted about him for hours.
A year later, when the first Hobbit film premiered in London, Martin Freeman, who was easily hit by stars, finally met Ian Holm.
Watching Ian Holm taught me so much - since Ian was his usual quiet self, it just kind of happened. It was a privilege to work with him and a blessing to know him.
I've always loved Ian's appearance in the last scenes of Return of the King.
"I think I'm pretty ready for another adventure."
Farewell, dear Bilbo. Have a good trip, darling Ian.
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