A&E's Interview w/ Phillip Glenister
Who is Hobbs?
He's a warrant officer and a gunner. His rank is kind of in between officer and midshipman, I guess. He's in control of the gun crew. He's been serving under Captain Sawyer since he was probably a boy, so he has an incredible loyalty to Sawyer, which causes a lot of friction between himself and Hornblower and Hornblower's friends.
So he has the most experience with Sawyer's bravery and his more heroic qualities. How does he communicate that to the crew?
By ignoring them, and not doing as they want him to do. (Laughs) He just takes orders from Sawyer. He's like a sort of butler almost. I think he has a grudging respect for Hornblower. He doesn't really feel that anybody can live up to what Sawyer achieved. So he sees Hornblower as this young upstart, coming in and actually being really rather good at his job, and he's a bit taken aback. But he does see Sawyer beginning to lose the reins. It's time for a younger man to take over, and like Sawyer, he finds that very difficult to let go of. But eventually, he comes round and sees all the qualities in Hornblower that Sawyer has, or had. Through a series of events, he begins to appreciate that, and see that as a way of going forward, and that he can be a part of it. And he would like to be a part of that.
What is it about Hornblower that slowly has Hobbs doing a turnaround?
Well, he does see qualities in Hornblower that he's seen in Sawyer. I used to say to the director, "Andrew, what do we want here?" And he would be like, "I think we'll go for grudging respect." So I'd do lots of grudging respect looks towards Ioan. But there's only so many grudging respects you can do really. So I'm up to five, I think, at the moment. (Laughs)
What is the matter with Sawyer? Why are things going so awry?
Oh, I think ageand having gone through all the adventures and experiences that Sawyer has gone through, I think anybody would lose it after awhile. And he doesn't know when to step down. Power becomes such an aphrodisiac. People don't know when to say no. I think that's inherently Sawyer's problem that he can't let go of the past.
So has Sawyer become a tyrant? Does that make Hobbs one too?
I don't think they're tyrants at all, and I don't think they're victims either. Before I took the role of Hobbs, I read the script, and my first impression was that there's a kind of a father/son relationship there, with Hobbs and Sawyer, which obviously is a very, very strong bond. And the influence that Sawyer has had over Hobbs in that kind of fatherly, nurturing way is immense. I think there's a lot of growing up that Hobbs has to do. He's quite naive in that respect. I don't think he has encouraged Sawyer to cling to the past. It's not going to help matters? He sees the other side.
In the meantime though, there's almost utter chaos on the ship, which Hobbs seems quite content to perpetuate.
Yeah, he's a troublemaker. I think he's trying to pull the wool over Hornblower's eyes. He wants to see Hornblower fail, to prove a point to himself, and to Sawyer. I think he's frightened at the competition, quite honestly, and he knows that Hornblower is a good lieutenant.
But despite his dark side, wicked side, is Hobb's ultimately a sailor first?
Oh, he's a sailor. Yes, he's a very good sailor, a good gunner. He's strong, he's in control, he's not frightened of a battle. He'll put himself on the line to save others, which comes across in the story too. In that respect, you can't fault him as a sailor. But he's just got a grudge.
Let's talk about Hobbs' relationships with Wellard.
Hobbs is a bully towards Wellard, he's horrible in that respect. It's great fun doing the scenes. It's always good fun. Poor Terrence is a fabulous actor. He's only 21, and he has a terrible giggle when he's trying to be serious. So, we have good laughter in the scenes. Hobbs is like that school bully kind, really nasty sort of streak, picking on the small guy. I can't defend Hobbs there, he's just an out-and-out bully, and he should be shot. (Laughs) But Wellard gets his own.
When Sawyer is relieved as captain, a number of the crew desert, but Hobbs doesn't. Why not?
Because he can't leave the captain, basically, despite everything. Hobbs has a line where he says, "I haven't served him all these years just to walk out on him now." That bond is that strong.
Then, when Hobbs comes around in the end, do you think he is seen in a more flattering light?
That's the wonderful thing about the part. It's lovely to have a character that's not just one dimensional, just out-and-out nasty. They are great fun to play, but it's nice to have a journey. Hobbs does have a very clear journey. He has a beginning and a middle and an end, which is fantastic.You can play different emotions and things. And you've got somewhere to go and something to look back on. Eventually, he reaches full circle, and he comes out a stronger, wiser, better person for it.
In the courtroom, Hobbs has a chance to turn people in. It's a lot of power for a guy like this.
Yes, he does. There's a scene before, where Hornblower comes into the room and quotes something about Sawyer, a very complimentary thing about Sawyer, and then leaves. Then following that, in the courtroom, Hobbs quotes Hornblower, which is a kind of pivotal moment. I don't want to give too much away, but it represents the full turnaround of Hobbs.
There's a very critical scene shot in tunnels. What was it like working on that?
They were quite cool. They were one of the coolest places, but they were very spooky. And I couldn't get over the size of them. I mean it seemed like this whole sort of underground kind of village or city of tunnels that just went on and on and on. They were extraordinary. How they built them! Something else.
Tell me about how you prepare for such a physical, action-packed role.
(Laughs) You don't. That's the thing. I don't think any of us were quite prepared for the physical side of it as much. It's the closest thing I'll ever come to shooting an action movie! Everything is covered from every angle. There's a lot of special effects going on, which, is not the most interesting thing for an actor. But when you see it all cut together in the final thing, it looks extraordinary. Watching the way it's being shot has been quite an eye opener.
So much of the story itself is based on recollections, flashbacks. How does that figure into your job?
That's not too bad. Most things you shoot are out of sequence. It just is part of the norm. The great thing is, we had all the storyboards up on set, so we could refer to things that had happened previously, things that were going to happen, just by seeing these drawings. Which just jolted your memory into action, and you sort of get on with it.
What's next for Hobbs?
He's got a deal to do a six-part TV series for the BBC. (Laughs) No, sorry ... I don't know. I have no idea. I don't know where the next yarn is set. Hopefully somewhere glamorous and groovy. Antigua would be nice. West Indies, maybe. In the storyboards, Hobbs is bald. So I reckon the next thing for Hobbs is a haircut. (Laughs) I think the producers envisioned him bald and thuggish.
How is it working with the director, Andrew Grieve?
Working with Andrew's been hell. I mean, you think James Cameron was bad! Oh! No, he's a good director to work with. He's interesting because he's very good at the action stuff, Andrew. But he's also very good with actors. He's very open to ideas. You can get away with murder, which is brilliant.