His heroic archer role in The Hobbit has been the making of Welsh actor Luke Evans, writes Des Sampson.
"In all honesty, I should have given up this acting lark years ago," suggests Luke Evans, as he settles down to discuss his role as Bard the Bowman in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.
"I've definitely been tempted because there were three occasions in the last 10 years where I didn't act for a year and ended up doing anything, just to survive, like working as a doorman, busking and being a secret shopper at Harrods. It was pretty disheartening and I could have easily lost hope. But I'm so glad I didn't because I would have missed out on so many great experiences, including The Hobbit."
His big break came after a decade of bit parts in West End musicals and plays, when Evans appeared in Small Change at the Donmar Warehouse - one of London's most respected theatres - and was spotted by a talent scout. Within weeks he'd secured his first film audition, appeared as Apollo in the remake of Clash of the Titans and enjoyed a bit part in the Brit flick Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, about singer Ian Dury.
"I'd been doing theatre for nearly 10 years and been in musicals like Rent and Miss Saigon, but no one had ever noticed me before - until that play," he reveals. "It really did change my life, because it was the first time a casting director had seen me and thought: 'Who's that? He could be a film star.' I'd already resigned myself to never appearing in films because I was 30 and hadn't got a single audition, but then I got lucky and was in the right place, at the right time, with the right role, in the right theatre, with the right person watching me."
If that role changed his life, then The Hobbit - where he plays the dragon-slaying hero Bard the Bowman, in The Desolation of Smaug - has completely transformed his career. It's a part that's propelled him to roles in Fast & Furious 6, The Three Musketeers, the forthcoming Dracula Untold and a remake of The Crow, where he stars as Eric Draven, Brandon Lee's fatal, final role.
"Being involved in The Hobbit has been a huge boost for me. It's really put me on the map and helped me be taken more seriously as an actor," he says. "It's also one of the most incredible experiences of my career because not only is it The Hobbit, which in itself is an immense thing, but also I got to work with some great actors and alongside Peter Jackson.
"But, best of all, it was in New Zealand which was like being on another planet because it's so far removed from the rest of the world and so different from anywhere I've been," he says of his 18-month sojourn. "It was like living in a little Middle-Earth bubble, especially for me because of the time difference with the UK: it meant I didn't speak to any of my family or friends for months on end because they'd be asleep while I was awake and vice versa.
"But that meant that my whole focus, while I was there, was The Hobbit, so it became a really immersive experience," explains Evans. "I just completely fell into that world and it became quite scary to leave it - and New Zealand - at the end of filming. That was a really sad moment for me. Overall, though, I just feel privileged to have been given a role like Bard the Bowman, a hero in Middle Earth, and to work with people like Peter. The whole experience has been quite unbelievable, really."
Another unbelievable experience he enjoyed, while in New Zealand, and one Evans admits he'll never forget is having the chance to see Wales play in the Rugby World Cup while he was there.
"I come from a country that lives and breathes rugby and I didn't think there would be anywhere else in the world that could be the same. But New Zealand takes it to another dimension," he says, smiling fondly at the memory. "It's extraordinary how much passion Kiwis have for the game. It really made me feel like I was back home, in the Welsh Valleys. That was the icing on the cake of a truly unforgettable time in my life."
Who: Luke Evans, rising star who plays Bard the Bowman
What: The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
When: Opens at cinemas on December 12