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Last Updated: Monday, 25 April, 2005, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
Freeman's big screen challenge
By Caroline Westbrook
BBC News Entertainment reporter

Martin Freeman and Mos Def
Martin Freeman plays Arthur Dent alongside co-star Mos Def (right)

Having found fame as the mild-mannered Tim in The Office, actor Martin Freeman is now taking on the role of Arthur Dent in the new film version of the Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy.

Although he has appeared on the big screen before, with small roles in Love Actually and Shaun Of The Dead, Martin Freeman has been better known for his TV and theatre work until now.

He gets the chance to play a big screen leading man for the first time in the new film - with his performance as "everyman" Arthur Dent already attracting comparisons to the character of Tim in The Office.

Yet Freeman seems genuinely surprised at the similarities between the two men.


"I honestly don't see the connection between Arthur and Tim," he says, "apart from the fact we look the same, of course.

"I suppose we can only be ourselves, and whatever part we're playing, we can only access it through our own emotions and vulnerabilities, so it's always going to have a flavour of oneself."

One thing he is certain is that his portrayal of Arthur is quite different from actor Simon Jones' interpretation in the BBC TV series.

For one thing, Freeman is a little more down to earth in his approach to the character.

Martin Freeman shot to fame playing Tim in The Office
I'm more interested in human stories, and of course Hitchhiker's is rooted in an almost mundane human story
Martin Freeman

"I could have pretended to be posh, but I think having the last surviving person from Earth being very upper middle class wouldn't have been as accessible as having someone who didn't look and sound like that," he says.

"My brief to myself was be real and funny and that's what I tried to do. I didn't want to play it like a nice polite sketch show, or a parody of a stiff-upper-lipped Englishman.

"He is a man who loses his planet in the first 10 minutes of the film, and that should matter. But at the same time it wasn't a kitchen sink drama, so I was aware of that," he adds.

Freeman admits he was a fan of Hitchhiker's when he was growing up.

"I was familiar with it all," he says. "I wasn't familiar with the radio series, but I remember the TV series and I was in and out of the books growing up."


However, he was reluctant to revisit the show prior to stepping into Dent's trademark dressing-gown.

"For me, Simon Jones was Arthur Dent and I think he will be for a long time to come.

"So that cast a long shadow and for a long time was the reason I didn't think I was right for the part," says the actor.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (1980)
Simon Jones (r) played Arthur Dent in the 1980s BBC TV series

"I didn't think it would be of help for me to look at it again, I knew I had to play it my way. It's more likely I would look back at it now and reference it out of interest."

Although the film has attracted the attention of Hollywood, Freeman remains modest ahout any impending brush with Tinseltown - and is adamant that Hitchhiker's will not spawn a whole string of big-budget roles.

"It hasn't given me a taste for action movies," he says. "That's not why I got into being an actor.

"I'm more interested in human stories, and of course Hitchhiker's is rooted in an almost mundane human story.

"Arthur is a pretty unremarkable character who just finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time," says Freeman.


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