“Agonistes” is borrowed from the Greek and means “struggler” or “contender.” It is used as an epithet following someone’s name, the most famous example of which is “Samson Agonistes,” the dramatic poem by John Milton.
Richard Armitage has been and is to this day, a contender in the entertainment game, race or struggle. He’s yet to reach the pinnacle of his chosen career. At times, he breaks out of the pack, wins the set, achieves a knockdown; but his overall standing doesn’t change. A case in point is what didn’t happen after “North and South.” By all reasonable expectations, the impact he made as a result of that performance should have catapulted him into numerous roles for BBC and other British production companies, if not on to the big screen. Yet, for two years not much happened, except a few isolated and small roles like “Malice Aforethought,” “The Inspector Lynley Mysteries,” a mediocre and short-lived medical series, “The Golden Hours,” and a small role in a small film, “Frozen.” Things picked up markedly in 2006 with “the Impressionists” and “Robin Hood.” From then on he had regular work in ever- growing roles, finally starring as John Porter in “Strike Back.” He was was not just a contender, but a strong contender.
Yet, Richard Armitage wasn’t the favorite. At least not the favorite of those who do the casting in the film industry. From 2006 to 2010 there was no appreciable level of recognition outside the U.K and apparently no one was knocking at his door with film scripts.
Then, in 2010 came the announcement of his casting as Thorin Oakenshield in “‘The Hobbit,” – a tremendous breakthrough. Here was a starring role in three big films, sure to be heavily promoted and guaranteeing him a place in the spotlight for the next four years. It seemed like the contender’s struggle for dominance could be over.
But it isn’t over. Because as I write this today, there is no upcoming project that we know of for the contender. The struggle continues.
Every time I read or hear some interviewer ask what his next project is, I cringe as Richard Armitage responds that he has nothing up right now. I know these are old interviews. But the situation hasn’t changed. I wince when I look at His IMDB page or his fan sites and see nothing listed under “current projects.” And frankly, I just don’t understand it.
Every move Richard Armitage made once he was cast in “The Hobbit” was right. His performance was good; cast and crew had nothing but the best things to say about him as a colleague and a friend; he comported himself perfectly at interviews, premieres, ComicCom, photo shoots. He was golden.
Furthermore, the excuse that he’s not well-known or recognizable outside the U.K is obsolete. His visage as Thorin Oakenshield is immediately recognizable. He, himself is recognizable in New York, in Canada, in Japan- wherever he goes. The increased web presence is proof that his fan base has been hugely expanded.
Nor can those in the industry claim that “The Hobbit” didn’t show enough range for them to make any decisions regarding Richard Armitage. He has a diverse body of work for them to inspect and assess.
It isn’t the schedule, because there have been breaks throughout the three year period from 2010, and now, the work is completed until the promotional tours start for the DOS. And anyway, other Hobbit actors have announced new projects.
Maybe there is something in the works and we just don’t know about it. Maybe Richard Armitage is spending his off-time reviewing scripts, deciding whether he wants to do a BBC mini-series, waiting for something to be green-lighted.
Hundreds, if not thousands of fans hope so.
In the meantime, Richard Armitage remains the contender, the struggler.