The Hobbit at Plymouth Vue and Reel cinemas
MARTIN Freeman is on the cusp of major league movie stardom, so you'd imagine he'd be feeling on top of the world about his good fortune. Not a bit of it.
The actor has been in the public eye in Britain for more than 10 years, and he laments: "People have been annoying me in restaurants for a long time, and now it'll just be all over the world. Yippee."
Freeman, who shot to prominence as Tim in Ricky Gervais's The Office, might not be embracing the fame game but he's going to have to get used to it – and sharpish – with the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in which he has the starring role of Bilbo Baggins.
Based on the 1937 fantasy novel by JRR Tolkien, it's been painstakingly brought to life by the visionary director Peter Jackson.
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"I'm getting a glimpse of that external reaction to it now," says Freeman, a youthful-looking 41-year-old. "I mean that level of fame obviously is something very different to what most people will get to experience, but my life doesn't feel any different yet."
Freeman comes across as friendly and thoughtful, if a little caustic at times.
That could simply be his sense of humour or perhaps a protective reflex given that he describes himself as "a very, very private person".
So private that he doesn't want to confirm how many children he has (a Google search reveals he has a son and daughter with his long-term partner Amanda Abbington). What he will say is that he that doesn't want his kids to see him as anything other than their dad.
"I want to keep my children absolutely out of it until they're of an age where they can decide," he says.
You can understand he may be a little defensive, given that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is just the first of three films from the team behind The Lord Of The Rings trilogy.
The following movies, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug and The Hobbit: There And Back Again, will be released in 2013 and 2014 respectively.
Set in the fantastical Middle-earth, the tale begins 60 years before the events of The Lord Of The Rings, and sees a young Bilbo Baggins swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug (voiced by Freeman's Sherlock co-star Benedict Cumberbatch).
New and old faces pop up along the way. Andy Serkis returns as Gollum, while Sir Ian McKellen reprises his role as wizard Gandalf the Grey, who appears out of the blue to task Bilbo with his audacious plan.
They're soon joined by a band of 13 Dwarves led by the legendary Thorin Oakenshield (Spooks star Richard Armitage) and a host of other new faces.
Together the eclectic group embarks on a journey that takes them from the comfortable safety of Hobbiton into the great unknown, through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs.
It's the stuff of every child's fantasy but Freeman admits he only read the novel two years ago.
"I just didn't grow up with it. I'm a fan now and see what it's about but it just wasn't in my universe then," says the Hampshire-born actor.