Between his two stints in Taranaki, Stephen Hunter has been to Middle Earth and back again.
The Sydney-based actor, who played Bombur the dwarf in The Hobbit trilogy, was in New Plymouth this week on the judging panel of Tropfest NZ.
The last time he was here was 1998, when he was general manager of Radio Taranaki.
You may also remember Hunter as the man who builds a giant flying fox into the sea for his son to upstage the neighbours' bach in the 2010 Toyota advert.
It was his physical and comedic qualities in this performance that made his casting agent think Hunter might make a good dwarf.
Hunter missed out on a casting in the Lord of the Rings so when the opportunity came to try out for The Hobbit he jumped on it.
"I thought, there's 13 dwarves, surely there's a role for a Kiwi. I thought if I can't get a role as a dwarf I might as well quit acting."
Although a huge Tolkien fan, Hunter is a slow reader.
"It took me about a year and a half to read the Lord of the Rings.
"What got me hooked was the special features."
His favourite scene to shoot was one filmed on the Pelorus River in Marlborough.
"We were in these barrels floating down this river thinking, ‘this is pretty cool'.
"If that ever becomes a ride I want a lifetime pass."
Working with the likes of Sir Ian McKellen and Martin Freeman was brilliant, but the best part was getting to know the other Kiwi boys, he said.
"That was the hardest part about finishing, you've got all your mates there and then suddenly it's like, ‘See ya!' "
However, he remembers being starstruck the first time Freeman sat down next to him.
"I'm a massive fan of The Office."
Despite playing the role of a dwarf, Hunter wasn't required to put on any weight because he wore a fat-suit and full-face prosthetic. He had to do some weight training mainly to ensure he didn't get hurt while jumping around in character.
"Dwarves are quite stout, even the big ones are meant to be great runners and fighters."
Even so, he didn't lose any weight over the course of filming.
"The catering was awesome."
He was able to channel his love of food and cooking into Bombur, as Peter Jackson gave actors a lot of freedom in adding their own personalities to characters.
He had never judged before and was looking forward to the experience, having been involved in Cash Cow, a finalist in Tropfest Australia last year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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