Does Stephen Colbert know the world of J.R.R. Tolkien?
Was Faramir the first Prince of Ithilien? Are the Dúnedain descended from the Númenóreans? Does Beorn the bear defecate in the woods?
Seriously, does he? We don’t know the answers to any of these, but we’re willing to wager all the gold in Erebor that Stephen Colbert does. He’s that big of a fan. Which is why we asked him to write this week’s cover story for the release of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, the final film in Peter Jackson’s second Tolkien trilogy. It hits theaters next Friday.
Colbert is probably best known for his iconic, indelible role of “Lake-town spy” in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. (Oh, and we guess also for The Colbert Report, which airs its final episode on Dec. 18, and for his new job as the upcoming host of The Late Show.) But for our cover, he got to enact a childhood fantasy and dress up as three of the films’—ahem—more prominent characters: Gandalf, Legolas, and, of course, Bilbo Baggins. “Just me and a few of my friends got together to play dress- up,” Colbert writes in EW. “Lucky for me, my ‘friends’ are the wardrobe department for The Hobbit. The original costumes and wigs were flown in from New Zealand just for me. They didn’t even fly the costumes out of New Zealand for the actors! They had to wear them there!”
In a hilarious essay, Colbert discusses his relationship with the books, how he hosted The Hobbit panel at this year’s Comic-Con, and his enduring obsession with everything Middle-earth. “Tolkien’s work has been a lifelong haven for me—truly a light in dark places when all other lights went out,” he writes. “For an awkward teenager, Middle-earth was a world I could escape to. Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth also gave me a world to escape to, but by the time his films came out, I was rich and famous and didn’t really want to escape my life anymore. Still, great movies.”
This week’s issue also includes a Q&A between Colbert and Peter Jackson, as well as features on Doctor Who and Inherent Vice director Paul Thomas Anderson, so be sure to pick up one (or two or three) of the collector’s covers.