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.
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. *
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.
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.
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