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The Men of Lake-Town
Hungry, exhausted and unarmed, the Dwarves are in no shape to mount their final assault on the Mountain. But dim hope arrives in the form of a barge man from the nearby city Lake-town, who comes upon the ragged Company while collecting the empty barrels that float down the river from the Woodland Realm. Though he meets them with the tip of his arrow, the wise Balin convinces Bard to help.

Luke Evans joins the cast as Bard, a man of Lake-town who represents much more than meets the eye. "Bard is a memorable character from the book, but in our film, this humble barge man is in some ways an enigma," Jackson states. "His job is way below his skill level; he has a remarkable talent that he doesn't reveal, which comes into the story later on. So, Bard was an interesting character to cast because we're telling our story from the Dwarves' point of view for a while, and to them, he's an enigma. So we wanted an actor who can bring an edginess to the role, and Luke Evans ticked all the boxes. Luke brought all of the dangerous qualities but, ultimately, when he needed to, he can become a pretty amazing action hero as well."

Though Bard doesn't know the Dwarves' true mission, he knows right away that he doesn't trust them, and has reason to fear what they might be up to. "Bard has three children, and they are living hand-to-mouth in this city," Evans says. "He wants his children to be alive and safe, and will do whatever it takes to protect them. If he can clear an issue without there being any bloodshed, that's what he will do. But he's dealing with bombastic Dwarves, whom he knows he can't control."

Evans was thrilled to learn that not only had he landed the role, but that his native Welsh accent would be incorporated into the fabric of the Lake-town itself. Jackson's own affinity for Wales inspired him to use it as inspiration for the city of Dale, whose residents fled to Lake-town when it was destroyed by the Dragon's fiery breath. So in the film, Dale's descendents all speak with a Welsh dialect. "Dale will always be Wales to me, which is really nice thing," Evans says.

"The terrible tragedy that happened to Bard's ancestors makes for a very interesting character and a very different kind of hero," Boyens remarks. "There's an instinctive quality about him, and it's not because he's the biggest or the strongest. It's because he has decency and true courage, and an empathy for those around him. The stakes are much higher for him because he has children and is driven to protect them. And it just so happened that we had these two wonderful young actresses, Peggy and Mary Nesbitt, who came down to New Zealand with their father."

Peggy, and her younger sister Mary, are the daughters of actor James Nesbitt, who plays the Dwarf Bofur. Playing their brother, Bain, is John Bell, who turned 15 and grew more than four inches in height over the course of shooting. This presented a challenge for the costume team, who creatively cheated by adding cuffs to his costume as he grew out of it. "I've gone through about three pairs of boots, I think," Bell laughs.

Though Bard is able to support his children on his meager earnings, he lives amongst people who are desperate for a change of fortune. Jackson describes Lake-town as "a bit like a factory town when the industry has all gone away. There's a sense that all the wealth and the glories of the past days are no longer there, which has allowed for the unsavory politicians, such as the Master of Lake-town, to get a footing and exploit the misery of these people to some degree. He has an assistant Alfrid, played by Ryan Gage, and between them they run this rather miserable little backwater town."

While his people scrape and starve, the unscrupulous Master of Lake-town sits on a lavish stockpile of food and a cache of riches, which couldn't be more different from Bard. "Bard is a very savvy, street-wise character, and that is why he has survived for as long as he has, much to the dislike and upset of the Master," he says. "The Master keeps the people on the verge of starvation so that they are weak and they can't revolt, but Bard always seems to be one step ahead of him. In some ways, Bard becomes the light in this very dark world that they live in."

To play this consummate politician, the filmmakers enlisted beloved British stage and screen star Stephen Fry. "To say Stephen was perfect for the role would be a little rude, I think," Jackson smiles. "But there is a lot of ironic humor and a sartorial edge to the Master in the book, and we carry that over in the film, so Stephen just seemed like a natural. He's such a great actor that he was able to capture both the Master's urbane, well-spoken, charming side, and also make you feel his venality and greed, which is so completely different from who he is."

As far as the Master's concerned, Fry allows, "he's a heroic and rather important leader. He believes that the people love and respect him, and that nobody suspects he's greedy or corrupt at all. I think at some point he was a very charismatic figure who either through intelligence or natural cunning got himself elected and kept the place going. It's all been about taxation and making sure that Lake-town is kept free of war."

Crass and gluttonous, the Master's once regal finery is now frayed and molded, forcing the costume department to painstakingly break down and destroy a luxurious selection of fine fabrics. "Picture a stained glass window of beautiful medieval brocade that is now just kind of sludgy and a bit burnt--it's just a mess," costume designer Ann Maskrey describes. "The effect paints The Master as vulgar, filthy, very unkempt, and somewhat ridiculous."

Styling the Master and his liege Alfrid was pure, unbridled fun for the makeup department. "There was a discussion with Peter about making the Master as revolting as we could," says King. "So we did our best to give him a bad comb-over, rotting teeth and wispy facial hair. And for Alfrid, we gave Ryan Gage greasy hair, bad skin, and blackened, filthy teeth, which were painted with a special tooth enamel each morning."

Because he's always looking for an opportunity for profit, the Master suspends his isolationist tendencies when rumors begin to swirl about the strangers hidden away in Bard's home. "The Master is annoyed by people like Thorin, who want to go off on quests and fight things; nothing but harm comes of people like that," Fry comments. "He believes it'll only bring perdition on their heads, and thinks it would be much better to just keep a lid on it all and keep anybody out who has ideas of going up mountains and disturbing Dragons. But there is a prophecy that Laketown lives under, which is that Thorin and the others will come and restore its prosperity when the Mountain once again rings out with Dwarves hammering away at the gold."

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