Leading by Example – Richard Armitage on Set

Guest blogger KatharineD tells us who said what when it came to working with Richard Armitage in his personal quest to lead not only dwarves, but men.

Richard Armitage’s exceptional commitment to The Hobbit project was noted early on, even before production began. Amy Hubbard, the UK casting director, had this to say in Weta Chronicles: Creatures and Characters,

What Richard does in the film – playing northern English, speaking in a voice register lower than his own, and playing a noble leader of thirteen – is one of the most committed performances I’ve ever seen. He chose to stay in character on set, which is only sensible given the transformation he was making. I know he won’t mind me saying that Peter saw potential in Richard that hadn’t been fully exploited before. Richard was due to appear in another season of Strike Back, for Sky. He turned down that opportunity to make himself available for The Hobbit. His commitment to the films, pulling out of a sure-fire job for the chance of appearing in a project that was 90% likely to go into production, but wasn’t 100% green lit at the point of casting him, was an inspiration to all of us. And, I believe it was a much needed boost to the filmmakers’ morale during a marathon casting process. Richard really deserves credit for that. He’s a hero on screen and in life. Other actors made similar sacrifices, but Richard made this one very early in the casting process.

Philippa Boyens is another who observed Richard’s dedication to the role, when speaking to Warner Brothers Canada,

He worked really hard to get to the heart of his character, to understand what motivates Thorin and how he feels. I think he achieves it beautifully.

During the extra features for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition, Philippa revealed that Richard wasn’t afraid to stand up for his character,

He’s always trying to get more of the flavour of Thorin into the storytelling, the Thorin of the book. He does his homework, so you’ve got to be on your toes. He really knows his stuff. *

 Of course commitment wasn’t the only requirement for taking on the role, there were specific qualities that the team needed Thorin to embody:

Peter Jackson: For Thorin, the leader of the dwarves, we wanted somebody who was going to have authority.* 

Philippa Boyens: One of the things we knew the character needed to have was innate strength- that’s what we saw in Richard. *

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There came a point early on during dwarf boot camp where Richard Armitage, the actor, had to step up and show he could be a leader- prove his mettle by taking charge of his company. The other dwarf actors had to believe wholeheartedly that he had it in him to display genuine leadership skills. In his own words, at the Go Pop interview in Sydney,

The first day we went outside, our movement director Terry Notary…took me aside, and said, ‘Look. You’ve just gotta take control of this, because you’re gonna be the leader’. So, no one knew we were gonna do it, so we went outside and I started barking orders at everybody and getting them all to run up and hide in the woods….there was just a look of shock on everyone’s faces of, ‘what are we doing, who does he think he is?’

When Jed Brophy was interviewed by TheOneRing.net, he was effusive in his admiration,

I was lucky enough to train alongside Richard Armitage a lot during the early part of the shoot and again on location, and he inspired me to train the hardest I ever have for anything. He is so strong mentally and physically, and like his character I felt compelled to follow him.

Graham McTavish is another who welcomed having a tough comrade by his side, as he told TORn,

When I was standing opposite Richard, I was standing opposite somebody who was, like me, encased in all this stuff- we knew how that felt for each other, and when we were being asked to go that extra mile in a scene, by Pete, we would be able to look at each other for the support that we would need to be able to do that.
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It must be a source of some considerable satisfaction, to hear of older actors with many years of experience in the industry, make special mention of a fellow actor’s particular skills and admirable qualities.

Peter Hambleton:   Richard’s devotion to the job is very, very deep and very impressive, so he takes it all very seriously, but he also has a very kooky sense of humour. Richard is amazing- it’s genius casting, and I think it’s pretty clear when you see him on screen, he’s delivering the goods beautifully. *

John Callen:  I don’t think you’ll find many actors who are capable of being more focused than he is. *

Jed Brophy, explaining Richard’s need for quiet time away from distractions, to find Thorin,

Richard’s process is that he has to have this time to have it in his head before we start shooting, so quite often we’d be sitting around telling jokes, and Richard would be off on his own preparing. He would isolate himself because he was isolated as a character.
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A final note from Jed, when asked by Sebastien Sigaut who his favourite actor is,

Richard Armitage, and I say that because I really admired his work before that, but also watching him on this project. I just fell in love with his acting- I think he’s one of the best actors I’ve worked with.

* quotes taken from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition extras

39 thoughts on “Leading by Example – Richard Armitage on Set

  1. It is just wonderful to read all these glowing references for RA – how could one not admire someone who takes his job so seriously and uses his talents efficiently and graciously at the same time. Also, the fact that so many people are willing to give him such high personal praise makes me think that he must be a decent guy… Ok, I better stop gushing.
    Once again thanks for compiling all these quotes, Katharine. I don’t think I had read the first one before, and it was very insightful. Great detective work, as usual, and very much appreciated.

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  2. My heart bursts with appreciation for this lovely man. He makes us all proud to follow his work, to support his career and – as he has phrased it in the past – to have an Army of women who stand behind him. I truly hope Into The Storm is a box office success, if only so that more doors are opened to him when he proves he can “open” a movie. He deserves a shot at the best scripts in town. Like Phillipa Boyens said about the audition, “We didn’t cast him just because he was gorgeous.” Thank you, Katherine for putting this post together!

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  3. Thank you Katharine! I had forgotten about Amy Hubbard’s wonderful comments about Richard and about the untapped potential in him to play Thorin. She must have worked with hundreds and hundreds of actors, so it means a great deal. Also love the comments from his fellow dwarves 🙂 always feel a thrill when they talk about him as their leader on and off the set. More and more I think Richard should hire Jed as his agent and PR person (if JB ever wants a career change).

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    • Cheers, Fabo. Amy Hubbard’s words seem very genuine- Richard must’ve really left a lasting impression on her. Shame she’s not in Hollywood, where she could have a quiet word in a few influential ears! As for Jed, there were even more quotes I could’ve used, but it was getting out of hand!- when asked who he’d like to work with again, he of course named RA, ‘any time, any place, any part, I’d be there.’

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  4. I have to say that Richard Armitage is generous with his praise about his co-workers as well, and seems to find it easier to praise them than to accept theirs. Thanks for this post Katharine. It brings me back to our first project together, when I mentioned that the expressions about Armitage from his colleagues was one of the main reasons that got me to look at AUJ in a new way.

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    • Thanks, Perry. I like Richard’s quiet way of crediting the work of his fellow cast members and crew when he talks about his work. He always refers to them by name, and gives them their due.
      Yes, I remember all our chats about The Hobbit and your initial misgivings- glad you came around!

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  5. Thank you for sharing all the positive energy RA gives and receives. May it ricochet around the universe and enrich all of us as well.

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    • Indeed, Kathy- all the while colleagues have nice comments to make about RA, I’m happy to gather them up and distribute them- the feel-good vibe is a nice byproduct.

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  6. Thanks Katharine, it’s so nice to read about how RA is respected for his professionalism and for his human qualities. I’d like so much to see Jed and Richard together in a new project, As Jed said: anything, anywhere, anytime 😀

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    • It’s great to see that many good qualities have been mentioned, when you read back over the two articles I compiled, and it gives a well-rounded picture of a highly respected man.
      Jed did mention wanting to do a Western, with RA, Viggo and Bernard Hill, so there is that, if anyone in Hollywood is listening in to our discussions.

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        • Who’d wear the black hat, though? Good guys all of them- Bernard would make a good saloon keeper, Viggo and Jed are expert horsemen, of course,so they’d be off chasing up outlaws,while RA was the cool-as-a-cucumber, straight-talking sheriff.

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          • Well, we can guess who’d volunteer for the baddie role, can’t we? 😀 Thanks for putting these together, Katharine – they’re such a pleasure to read, and as you say, give a rounded picture that is really impressive.

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            • Well, I’ll admit he looks good in black, and a classic Western shoot out between Richard and Viggo could be fun!
              Glad you enjoyed reading all those fine quotes. My research skills must be slipping- haven’t found an unkind word said about him yet…..!
              Love the Brits and their humour- Miranda Raison (Jo on Spooks) once said:
              ….. He’s really difficult, he’s really demanding ….. I need a bigger trailer – he has a rider – he has to have you know all the blue M & M’s picked out – so yeah he’s really tricky and very short and quite fat – so I don’t think he’s going to be very photogenic.
              ….. He’s lovely – he’s much more sort of introverted, and yet he is considered – he really does character work and he knows Lucas back to front.

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  7. Thanks Katharine D xo. Lovely post. I simply couldn’t resist reading this even though I am supposed to be trying to give up RA for Lent. My RA Lenten Fail Fund has increased yet again!

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  8. Thank you, KatharineD, for the beautiful collection of reminders as to just how this particular actor stole my heart and fired my muse, again. His commitment, skill, and decency as a person bleed through even when he’s playing not the nicest of characters, and that others who worked with him confirm it makes me proud for him and of him.

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  9. Oh what a treat to read this. Thanks so much for compiling this wonderful tribute to his work. He’s an amazing person. He’s capable of blowing people away time and again. I’m only baffled by the seeming lack of roles coming his way. But we don’t really know what’s going on in his current silence, do we? So I’m willing to wait and pray that the heavens have great roles coming his way. He certainly deserves to be able to create some more great art.

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  10. Thank you for collating these Katharine. It doesn’t matter how many times I read what his fellow actors and others have said of him, it still gives me a thrill to see the high esteem in which he is held. Truly a man worthy of our devotion as someone said once…I think it was Larry Curtis from TheOneRingNet.

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