Richard Armitage Interview For ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ – Talks Thorin & Dwarf Camaraderie
‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ follows the journey of title character Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman), who is swept into an epic quest to reclaim the lost Dwarf Kingdom of Erebor from the fearsome dragon Smaug (Benedict Cumberbatch). Approached out of the blue by the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellen), Bilbo finds himself joining a company of thirteen dwarves led by the legendary warrior, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage). Their journey will take them into the Wild; through treacherous lands swarming with Goblins and Orcs, deadly Wargs and Giant Spiders, Shapeshifters and Sorcerers. Although their goal lies to the East and the wastelands of the Lonely Mountain, first they must escape the goblin tunnels, where Bilbo meets the creature that will change his life forever…Gollum (Andy Serkis). Here, alone with Gollum, on the shores of an underground lake, the unassuming Bilbo not only discovers depths of guile and courage that surprise even him, he also gains possession of Gollum’s “precious” ring that holds unexpected and useful qualities … A simple, gold ring that is tied to the fate of all Middle-earth in ways Bilbo cannot begin to know.
From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson, ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ is the first of three films based on ‘The Hobbit’ novel by J.R.R. Tolkien. The trilogy of ‘Hobbit’ films are set in Middle-earth 60 years before Jackson’s ’The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy. The release schedule for the three ‘Hobbit’ films are as follows: ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ is set for a December 13th release; ‘The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’ arrives in cinemas December 13th, 2013; and ’The Hobbit: There and Back Again’ concludes the trilogy on July 18th, 2014. My other interviews for ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ can be found through the following links: Andy Serkis #1, Andy Serkis #2, Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage #1, Martin Freeman, Aidan Turner, Dean O’Gorman and James Nesbitt, and Cate Blanchett and Hugo Weaving (more to come).
What was your reaction when it was official that you got the role of Thorin? Considering that he’s such a revered character for millions of people around the world, I can imagine that could have been a tad scary?
Richard Armitage: (Laughs) Yeah. The excitement building up to an audition where you think, “I’ve got to get the job, I’ve got to go in and get this job!” And you do all of this work, you get really excited about the casting, but then when the phone rings and they offer it to you, you think, “I’ve now got to go and play this!” That was the scary bit (laughs). You’ve got to own the responsibility of everyone who has ever read this book and has Thorin in their head, you’ve got to take on that mantle and not disappoint them. That’s when it gets scary (laughs). I was excited and incredibly fearful.
And here you are, at 6ft 2 and you’re playing a dwarf. While dwarves are shorter than many other of the races in Middle-earth, they sure don’t act that way….
Richard Armitage: Definitely. Because of my height, at first I was like, “Really?!” But I suppose once you start investigating the character and dwarves you realise that their size is not of any importance to them. It’s important to Peter Jackson, who’s trying to create a look for the film and to mix races together. But dwarves really don’t associate with many other folk, and they particularly don’t associate with elves because of this ongoing antagonism. They live in pretty much isolation, so they think they are massive, they build huge monuments to themselves – they have big egos (laughs). We spent most of the shoot as bigger versions of ourselves, so it all seemed to slot into place strangely.
On screen I thought the camaraderie between you and your fellow dwarves was wonderful. What was that like to develop?
Richard Armitage: We were together at the very beginning, before any of the other cast arrived. We did a dwarf boot camp together, and we trained together – it was like training for a military operation. And there’s all sorts of ages and skills amongst the dwarves, so the camaraderie came from looking after the slightly older members, working out what the hierarchy was. We rode together, we done archery, sword fighting, wrestling, we spent time in the gym together – we drank in the pub together (laughs). Lots of eating and drinking, what dwarves do.
Your character and Martin Freeman’s Bilbo Baggins have arguably the key relationship in this story, in how that dynamic develops and changes – and how they change each other to a agree. How was it working opposite Martin in that capacity?
Richard Armitage: I’ve always been amused and fascinated by Martin Freeman’s work. It was great to see him inhabit Bilbo and bring a little bit of Martin into Bilbo Baggins as well. It just came to life. There’s so much humour, I love that scene with the trolls where he’s negotiating with them about the cooking of a dwarf. I watch it and belly laugh at his comic timing. I think he’s an absolute genius, I could never get close to anything like what he does, but I’m happy to sit there and enjoy his work. I think he’s amazing. It is a wonderful relationship in the story, I really enjoyed working on that with Martin.
And unfortunately you didn’t get to work opposite Andy Serkis in his performance capture as Gollum, but you did get to work under his direction on Second Unit. How was that?
Richard Armitage: I thought going onto Andy’s set, “He’ll understand what actors go through, he’ll have sympathy.” But, no (laughs). No sympathy at all, he’s absolutely ruthless (laughs). What I love about both Andy and Peter Jackson as directors is that they have a kind of childlike imagination, which is sort limitless. Whereas most adults start to limit themselves, they think way outside of the box. It was as fun and as creative working on Second Unit with Andy as it was with Peter, and they’d kind of cross over sometimes. Pete would come onto Andy’s set and they’d watch it together, negotiate. It was so much fun working with Andy.
You got to work alongside some tremendous actors in ‘The Hobbit,’ I can imagine a number that you admired growing up. Are there any actors in particular that have helped inspire your acting career?
Richard Armitage: I suppose James Stewart was somebody that I admired. Also Gary Oldman, he was somebody that really inspired me because I’d often watch movies with Gary in and not really realize it was him – even when he wasn’t covered in prosthetics or wearing costume. He manages to disappear into his roles, I really hope I might be able to achieve something like that.
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