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Exclusive Feature: Richard Armitage Talks “The Hobbit” and Why He’s Not Into Happy Endings
THE MAKINGS OF A KING. A commanding gentleman from the North of England, Richard Armitage only seeks out acting roles that take him to the edge. He speaks with
Though you will likely recognize Richard Armitage from his days playing action-hero roles on acclaimed British TV exports such as “Spooks” and “Strike Back,” he is now moving to higher ground. This winter, he returns as the awe-inspiring warrior King Thorin Oakenshield in director Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies.” An actor who knows what he likes, the strapping Armitage has a penchant for dark and challenging roles, which allow him to give a powerful and adrenaline-charged performance. Born in Leicestershire in the north of England, the relentless Armitage still believes he has a long way to go in the field of acting. We look forward to watching him climb to very top.
DA MAN: Richard, you’re starring in the momentous final installment of “The Hobbit.” Without giving too much away, what do we have to look forward to?
Richard Armitage: It’s the last piece of Peter Jackson’s explorations of Tolkien’s works about Middle Earth, so expect the big finale before the curtain falls. There is a big clue in the title, but rest assured that a pretty spectacular battle is coming your way. As for my character Thorin, he is spiraling downwards but will rise again like all the best tragic heroes in literature.
DA: What have you most enjoyed about playing Thorin Oakenshield, the King of the Dwarves?
RA: I’ve enjoyed the duality of playing a troubled being that is weighed down by the burdens of his past yet hopeful in searching for a lost treasure and the chance of reclaiming his throne. Thorin has to overcome fear of failure but also the dreaded dragon sickness, which makes him lust after gold over everything else. However, he has one of Tolkien’s most legendary weapons on his side, the “Orcrist” sword, and, boy, does he know how to use it!
Outfit and bowtie by Tommy Hilfiger, pocket square by Hugo Boss, cufflinks and ring by Tiffany & Co.
DA: You’re nearly 190cm in height, was it tough to envisage yourself as a dwarf?
RA: Yes, I laughed when they told me I was going to be a dwarf. I still can’t see Thorin as vertically challenged, which has actually been key to understanding him because he’s a legendary warrior that stands head and shoulders above those in Middle Earth, metaphorically. What’s more, we spent nearly two years acting like much bigger versions of ourselves so that when Peter Jackson worked his digital magic, we didn’t look like children, but heavyset, bison-like warriors.
DA: Incredible. And can we ask how long Thorin’s hair and makeup took?
RA: The first attempt was six hours, but the brilliant and highly skilled Tami Lane (on prosthetics) and Jennifer Stanfield (hair and makeup) got it down to two and a half hours in the end.
“People like to dress me up as James Bond, but I’m happiest in jeans and a T-shirt”
DA: What has it been like working with illustrious director Peter Jackson?
RA: Peter fights for something beyond excellence, he moves cinema forward. It’s an uncompromising style and I found myself in a place of intense creativity, with a lot of pressure to go beyond what I thought I was capable of in order to find Thorin. Peter guided me, listened to me, laughed at me, broke me and made me look better than I really am. We tried to make Thorin aspirational for all his fatal flaws, we wanted him to be “great” in the true sense of the word, someone we would remember and who was worthy to be spoken about in Tolkien’s universe for years to come.
Outfit and pocket square by Tom Ford, ring by Tiffany & Co.
DA: You spent two years shooting in beautiful New Zealand. How was this experience?
RA: Incredible, beyond words. I still sense New Zealand. I remember the sunrises of Paradise in the south and the fiery sunsets of Nelson in the north. We were so often at the mercy of the weather, like when a descending mist stranded half of the crew, but also the wonderful human elements, such as when I ended up trying to speaking Maori to a native Maori crowd!
DA: You’ve previously appeared on British TV shows such as “Spooks” and “Strike Back” that have become popular globally. What made these shows so successful?
RA: Both had their fingers on a political pulse, with great characters in impossible situations. It’s all about a great story being well told and a good helping of gripping action and engaging locations on the side.
Outfit by Tommy Hilfiger, tie by Valentino, pocket square by Saint Laurent
DA: It seems you often play commanding, masculine roles. Is there a part of you that identifies with such characters?
RA: I aspire to them. I’ve realized over the years that I like to look at fallibility, rebirth and inner conflict. When that is presented from within the commanding presence of a powerful man (or dwarf), it garners a certain dramatic tension. It’s why Titanic that sinks and towers that fall fill us with such terror. I’m not really into fairytales and happy endings. I think it’s why I die a lot on screen and only got married once. We live in a paternal world, and hacking away at the foundations of the seemingly indestructible is very satisfying.
DA: So with this in mind, we take it we won’t be seeing you in any romantic comedies?
RA: I always feel like a fake when I read that material, I’m just better at the other stuff that involves melancholia and irony. I look better in the dark!
Shirt and coat by Burberry London, trousers by Burberry Brit, scarf by BOSS by Hugo Boss, ring and bracelet by Tiffany & Co., shoes by Mezlan
DA: You’re one of a growing community of English actors now living and having considerable success in the US. Why do you think this is happening?
RA: Perhaps it’s connected to the last question. Brooding distain, dark humor and irony, all provide great contrast to that “all-American” feel-good factor, but it’s always about balance. I also think there is a great literary tradition in Europe: script first, picture later. It can be the reverse in the US. Again, it’s about a good balance of opposites.
Subscribe to the magazine or click here to find out where to pick up the December 2014/January 2015 issue of DA MAN for the full spread on Richard Armitage with more interviews and high-resolution images.
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Filed Under: Celebrities, Global Tagged With: Actor, Boss, British, Burberry, Burberry Brit, Burberry London, Dwarf, english, hugo boss, interview, Mezlan, peter jackson, richard armitage, saint laurent, Spooks, Strike Back, The Hobbit, The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies, Thorin Oakenshield, Tiffany & Co., titanic, Tom Ford, Tommy Hilfiger, valentino
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