Richard Armitage Interview: ‘I’m Always The Slightly Dour One Who Doesn’t Get A Punchline’
The actor on playing Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit.
Last December, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson took us back to Middle Earth with the first of three films adaptated from J.R.R. Tolkien's precursor novel The Hobbit.
Posted 9th April 2013, 12:24pm
With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey now available on DVD and Blu-ray, we've been catching up with the stars following our interview last December with the merry band of dwarves who accompany Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) on the quest to slay Smaug the dragon. Read our interview with Gollum himself Andy Serkis here. We recently chatted to their fearless leader in the form of British actor Richard Armitage, who plays warrior dwarf Thorin Oakenshield.
Armitage, known for his television roles in Robin Hood, Spooks and Strike Back, tells us about Thorin's penchant for singing, Jackson's innovation, and whether his dour character will cheer up for the next two films The Desolation of Smaug and There and Back Again (short answer - not likely).
How did you feel about Lord of the Rings?
I was a huge fan of the movies, but prior to that, a massive fan of the books. These were books I probably read between the ages of thirteen and fifteen a number of times, so yeah, a huge fan!
Did you have any hesitation in accepting the part, with the big undertaking of going to New Zealand?
No hesitation at all. This had been a project a long time in pre-production, and everyone knew about it. Of course I loved the Lord of the Rings movies, so the chance to go and work on The Hobbit with Peter, I didn't even think twice about it.
How was working with Peter Jackson?
Incredible. He's a very collaborative director, visionary and pushing the boundaries of technology, which is something I wanted to be a part of. He's not afraid to experiment with a new form of filmmaking. That experiment will continue through movies two and three, as what happened with the Lord of the Rings films; the movies leapt forward so much, and that's because of how Peter works with Richard Taylor at Weta. Very exciting.
There was Dwarf boot camp, but there was singing in the movie, so was that something else you learned at boot camp?
I suppose an extended version of the boot camp was when all the dwarves went into the studio and started singing. But because I had to work on that little bit of singing on my own, we did work on a sound for him. I didn't want him to sound like he was any kind of trained singer, he was just somebody who had a voice. The dwarves were notoriously good singers though... it was very nerve-wracking! You know, there's nothing like a male voice choir; the bass sound in a male voice choir is very rousing, I think.
I would describe Thorin as something of a sourpuss in this film. Was there any envy of the other dwarves getting funny lines and getting to do silly things?
That's the story of my life! I'm always the slightly dour one who doesn't get a punchline. That's the story and that's the character. He has a burden to carry, and it's very difficult for him to be relaxed and jovial. But we did look for those moments.
Will they be coming up in the next two films?
Relaxed and jovial? Quite the opposite! If anything, he becomes more tightly wound as the situation becomes more oppressive for him, and more dangerous. Less gags for Thorin, I think! We'll try and find something.
How was gearing yourself up in the morning for the make-up, wigs and costume?
It is something you get used to. Going back this year for ten weeks, I was thinking about it last night, and one of the awful things is having to get all that stuff on again. For the first few weeks it's very uncomfortable and it feels alien to you. But after a while, it's part of staying in character and it focuses you. If you're thinking about this stuff on you it pulls you out of character. So the closer you stay to character, the less you care about the stuff you're wearing.
Did you have to learn a new way of sword-fighting after working on Robin Hood?
I worked with Mana Davis, my stunt double, on a training regime to facilitate some of the moves the Orcrist would make, because it's a big heavy sword and it flows in a certain way. I'm still doing those exercises in the gym now in preparation for this year. It's very much about the back and the shoulders and making it look like it's heavy, but elegant.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey was released on DVD, Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D and Digital Download on 8th April.
The first in a trilogy of films based on the enduring masterpiece The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey follows title character Bilbo Baggins, who – along with the Wizard Gandalf and 13 Dwarves, led by Thorin Oakenshield – is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome Dragon Smaug.
Their journey will take them into the Wild, through treacherous lands inhabited by Goblins, Orcs and deadly Wargs, as well as a mysterious and sinister figure known only as the Necromancer. Along the path, the unassuming Bilbo Baggins not only discovers depths of ingenuity and courage that surprise even himself, he also gains possession of a “precious” ring tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways he cannot begin to imagine.