Side Dish: Conventional Dwarves

Richard Armitage   Comic Con July, 2012

Richard Armitage Comic Con July, 2012

To acknowledge our Hobbit actors out and about at conventions today, Richard Armitage and Andy Serkis at Wonder Con, and ten dwarf actors at HobbitCon, here’s a retrospective of some of their previous convention appearances. This is a follow up to A Gathering of Dwarves. Neither Richard nor Andy will be promoting The Hobbit on this occasion, but it’s fair to say, it’s their roles in Peter Jackson’s Middle-earth movies for which they are both best known, at an event such as this.

Richard Armitage made his first ever convention appearance at Comic Con in San Diego in July 2012, only a week or so after finishing principal photography for The Hobbit. What a baptism of fire- Hall H, the biggest stage there is, with the biggest audience reach. Armitage was in good company for the wild ride- Andy Serkis, Ian McKellen, Martin Freeman, and Elijah Wood, shared the panel, as well as Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens.

Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Peter Jackson, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman Comic Con July, 2012

Ian McKellen, Richard Armitage, Peter Jackson, Andy Serkis, Martin Freeman Comic Con July, 2012

The other Hobbit actors began making convention appearances in early 2013, with two Armageddon events being held in early March in New Zealand- Dunedin and Christchurch. These were attended by Dean O’Gorman, Jed Brophy, Peter Hambleton and William Kircher. Fans were tentative in these first Q&A sessions, unsure of what to ask, and how their questions would be received. The actors too, were finding their way in these early fan encounters. Dean won over fans with his down-to-earth personality and laconic sense of humour.

Dean O'Gorman Armageddon Christchurch March, 2013

Dean O’Gorman Armageddon Christchurch March, 2013

William Kircher, Dean O'Gorman, Peter Hambleton and Jed Brophy  Dunedin  March 2013

William Kircher, Dean O’Gorman, Peter Hambleton and Jed Brophy Armageddon Dunedin March 2013

HobbitCon was held at the Maritim Hotel in Bonn, between 30th March and 1st April, 2013, and was the first convention experience for a number of the actors who attended. All embraced the event wholeheartedly, and reportedly enjoyed the festive atmosphere. Peter Hambleton told TheOneRing’s Greendragon how events like HobbitCon really opened his eyes to the passion of the fans. All up, eight of the thirteen dwarf actors attended. Here’s an excellent first-hand report of all the events.

Jed, Stephen, Dean, Graham and Adam in Bonn, Germany  March, 2013

Jed, Stephen, Dean, Graham and Adam in Bonn, Germany March, 2013

Adam and Jed quiz Graham about his horse riding skills

Adam and Jed quiz Graham about his horse riding skills

Graham with Dwalin's arm

Graham with Dwalin’s arm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dean and Mark

Dean and Mark

Rendition of Misty Mountains

The actors close HobbitCon with a rendition of Misty Mountains

Supanova Melbourne was held in mid-April, with Graham McTavish, Stephen Hunter and Dean O’Gorman making the trip to Australia.

Stephen Hunter, Graham McTavish, Dean O'Gorman   Supanova Melbourne April, 2013

Stephen Hunter, Graham McTavish, Dean O’Gorman Supanova Melbourne April, 2013

The cast all headed back to New Zealand in late May to film pickups for The Hobbit. On 2nd June, Armageddon Wellington played host to a whole line up of dwarves, with only Armitage and Ken Stott not taking part. The actors appeared tired, but happy to greet the fans en masse.

Hobbit cast on stage at Armageddon Wellington June, 2013

Hobbit cast on stage at Armageddon Wellington June, 2013

Hobbit cast at Armageddon Wellington

Hobbit cast at Armageddon Wellington

During the filming period, Adam Brown, Jed Brophy and Aidan Turner flew to Sydney to attend the Supanova convention, on 22nd and 23rd of June.

Aidan Turner at Sydney Supanova  June, 2013

Aidan Turner at Sydney Supanova June, 2013

Not long after Hobbit filming was completed, Dean and Aidan attended Boston Comic Con on 3rd and 4th August, the first time the two had exclusively shared a Q&A panel. They proved to be very popular with the fans, who enjoyed their close, brotherly bond,  and amusing anecdotes.

Dean and Aidan Boston Comic Con  August, 2012

Dean and Aidan Boston Comic Con August, 2013

If the current enthusiasm amongst the cast for pop culture conventions continues, fans can look forward to many more years of interactions with their favourite dwarves. It’s a great excuse for cast members and Hobbit fans alike to reconnect.

A Gathering of Dwarves

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While Richard Armitage gets ready to catch a flight to the US, to take part in the wonders of Wonder Con, most of his fellow dwarf actors are heading off for the long haul flight to Bonn in Germany, to take part in the three-day celebration of cinematic Middle-earth, HobbitCon.

The Kiwis will have their complete dwarven contingent in attendance, with all seven making the twenty hour plane journey to Europe. Enjoying a much shorter hop are Adam Brown, Graham McTavish and Ken Stott, who’ll be flying in from the UK. On this occasion, Armitage’s character Thorin will be represented by his scale double, Mark Atkin.

Adam Brown, Aidan Turner and Jed Brophy. Sydney Supanova, June 2013

Adam Brown, Aidan Turner and Jed Brophy. Sydney Supanova, June 2013

Over the last twelve months, it’s been a treat to see these actors happily embrace the convention circuit, eagerly taking up the opportunity to connect with fans, and to catch up with their cast mates. Here in Australia, we’ve been particularly fortunate-  last year Dean O’Gorman, Graham McTavish and Stephen Hunter proved popular in Melbourne, while Adam Brown, Aidan Turner and Jed Brophy entertained us in Sydney. John Callen joined Dean and Stephen in Perth and Adelaide just recently. I figure we’re set for many years of varying dwarf combos gracing our shores, since we’re only a short distance away for many of them.

I’ve watched a few videos of Q&A panels, and attended one myself, and what’s immediately apparent is the ease with which these actors interact- they have a jokey vibe that’s fun to watch, and a down-to-earth attitude to this new-found attention from fans. Right from the start, before we really knew who these guys were, we could sit back and enjoy their teasing banter. Two videos spring to mind- the chat with the reporter from Entertainment Tonight , that first introduced us to the notion of a naked dwarf calendar, and the hilarious ‘Quizzing the Dwarves’ Q&A session recorded by IGNWith a vibe more akin to a group of rowdy schoolboys than trained professionals, this was eight minutes of yelling, gesticulating, and moments of exaggerated embarrassment – the dynamics were fascinating, and a simple joy to behold. Regrettably absent from the group were Richard Armitage and Ken Stott, and I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing to see Richard interact with his fellow dwarf actors, with a very recent, all too short interview at the Empire awards providing our only glimpse.

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‘Quizzing the Dwarves’ IGN December, 2012

The first HobbitCon, held last April, proved to be a resounding success with the fans and actors alike- all expressed a desire to return for a repeat experience. This was a unique event, being held in a hotel, and centred around one movie franchise only, with fans able to freely mingle with the star guests. The actors were clearly there to have a good time, and approached the event activities in a relaxed and jovial mood. Cast members regularly invaded each other’s Q&A sessions, taking delight in asking pointed, embarrassing questions, such as casting aspersions, for instance, on Graham McTavish’s horse riding skills. Adam Brown discovered that his faux pas in naming ‘Galadriel’ as Gandalf’s sword in the IGN quiz would prove to be a source of lasting mirth. Fans lapped up every new morsel of on-set trivia, and were also treated to some improvised ‘true or false’ storytelling, which included Dean O’Gorman’s hilarious, ‘stuck in a letter box‘ re-enactment.

The opportunity to socialise with the cast in the evening; chatting, drinking and dancing, was a bonus, and fans happily reported later, on the friendly atmosphere, and the obvious close bond between the dwarf actors. At the close of the convention, fans were surprised with a moving cast rendition of Misty Mountainsa memorable moment to conclude the event.

It’s a testament to the cast, and their lack of actorly ego, that fans who’ve encountered the various actors at events all round the world, unfailingly remark on their good-natured interactions- the eagerness of the cast members to express gratitude for the fan support, and the obvious pleasure they derive from this fun adventure they’ve been fortunate enough to be part of.

HobbitCon April, 2013

HobbitCon April, 2013

Hang around awhile, and meet Gary Oldman while you’re there, Mr Armitage

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We all know now that Richard Armitage has somehow found a way to stretch time, and squeeze more into his schedule than should be humanly possible. A few spare hours over a holiday long weekend?-zip down to London from up North,  hop on a trans-Atlantic flight, and do a quick appearance for the comic and movie-loving fans of California at Wonder Con.

I’ve had a look at the Wonder Con schedule, and Saturday is the day to spot the big names on the heavy-hitting panels if you’re a movie fan. Warner Brothers are doing their stint from 11AM- 12.30PM, and are promoting Godzilla, Edge Of Tomorrow, and of course, Into The Storm. The only movie of the three to bring cast members to the panel is Into The Storm, which, apart from Richard Armitage, will include several of the younger cast members. No doubt the teenagers in the convention crowd will approve, and Warner Brothers will be hoping to get some advance buzz happening, ahead of the movie’s release in August.

After Richard finishes his own panel, he might want to hang around in the Arena, and listen in on the Twentieth Century Fox presentation. It will feature, amongst others, the new X-Men movie (no mention of cast members in attendance), and also Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, with stars Andy Serkis, Keri Russell, and Gary Oldman making an appearance.

Gary Oldman

Gary Oldman

Here’s a great opportunity to catch up with an old friend, and hopefully also make the acquaintance of a much-admired fellow actor, who Richard may or may not be filming a cameo with in the near future- how’s the rest of your 2014 calendar shaping up, Mr A.? Another big name British actor appearing in the afternoon is Sean Bean, promoting a new American drama TV series he’s set to star in, Legends. Richard and Sean could compare notes on their tally count for dying on screen, with Sean Bean no doubt laughing derisively at Richard’s relatively paltry total.

Not a bad day’s work, all in all. Now, get that man back to the airport, there’s another film that needs to be finished, after all.

IMDb- what’s in a number?

Richard Armitage's IMDb page, 22nd December, 2013.

Richard Armitage’s IMDb page, 22nd December 2013.

Quite by chance today, I was looking up some information about a movie on IMDb, and happened to click on ‘rank’ in the top right hand corner. What I discovered is that if you then click on, ‘view rank on IMDbPro’, it takes you to a complete cast listing with each actor’s actual Star Meter number. It’s entirely possible that I just never knew this before, or maybe it’s a recent computer glitch, and access to non-subscribers will get shut down soon, but this led to some fascinating discoveries.

Now, I’m not looking to make this a competitive fandom thing where, ‘my actor guy is higher ranked than your guy’, even if only because the rankings fluctuate from week to week, but I was honestly astounded by how highly Richard Armitage ranked compared to others in the cast, when I looked up The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug. When you think of all the pretty big name actors in that particular cast, it may surprise you to know that Armitage  (189) only ranked lower than two others- Benedict Cumberbatch (52), and Evangeline Lilly (68).

I’d honestly love to know how this shakes out- what has Richard Armitage, for instance, done to rank higher than Martin Freeman (319)- the Hobbit himself, who, although absent from promotional activities for the DVD release of DOS, has been seen in a well publicised trailer for a new TV series, namely Fargo?  Do Armitage fans look up news articles about their man more frequently than say, fans of Orlando Bloom, Lee Pace, Luke Evans or, to be fair to both sexes, Cate Blanchett? All are busy, working actors with an established fan base, yet, for this week at least, rank below Armitage, as does Sir Ian McKellen, who has a new X-Men movie coming out next month.

I’m in no way suggesting that Richard Armitage doesn’t deserve this particular place in the IMDb chart, quite the contrary, but I’m curious to know how much publicity it takes to make a difference here, in a profession ruled by popularity and public perception. Since Armitage has only recently added to his list of projects on IMDb, it’s obviously other factors that have kept his ranking at such a steadily high level. Personally, I’d award him extra brownie points for every time he’s had to sit down for an interview and articulately answer a variation on the same set of questions, including the height of dwarves, the application of prosthetics and working on a green screen set.

We’re fortunate in the Richard Armitage fandom to have regular IMDb update reports on Armitage’s own ranking, as well as all his current projects, provided each week on tumblr by Sahraobsessed. Scroll through the blog entries, if you wish to track Armitage’s ranking fluctuations.

An odd surprise for me in all this, which really shouldn’t be one at all, is just how large those ranking numbers get- to state the obvious, there are an awful lot of actors out there, all of whom have an IMDb listing, that largely fly beneath the public radar. If I’d been able to screen shot the entire cast, you’d see numbers well into the hundreds of thousands.

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Cast listing for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug showing rankings for 14th April, 2014

There’s plenty to ponder here- the vagaries of the rankings, and how they manifest in terms of public profile. If you rank in the top 50, your photo is displayed in the list of ‘trending celebrities’, further enhancing your already high place in the awareness of the movie going and TV watching public.

Lego Thorin Gets His Own Starring Role

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Lego mini Thorin gets his own chance to shine in the new LEGO : The Hobbit video game, which has just been released. This new adventure game follows the story of The Hobbit, using actual dialogue from the movies- hence you get to hear Richard Armitage’s voice, as his mini Thorin runs around the Lego version of Middle-earth. The game features scenes from the first two movies, recreating Hobbiton, Rivendell, Mirkwood, Laketown, Erebor and the rest. There seems to be a good dose of humour in amongst the puzzle solving as you travel on your epic quest with Bilbo, Thorin, Gandalf and the company of dwarves.

Yahoo Movies have released a scene from the game, featuring our intrepid party facing Smaug:

https://movies.yahoo.com/video/lego-hobbit-cut-scene-smaugs-154045913.html?soc_src=copy

Capturing the Artistic Spirit

What do Richard Armitage, Aidan Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman and Andy Serkis have in common, besides all appearing in The Hobbit movies?

Aidan Turner as Rossetti in Desperate Romantics

Aidan Turner as Rossetti in Desperate Romantics

I recently started watching the TV series Desperate Romantics, to see Aidan Turner in period costume- I needed visuals to tide me over until he appears in Poldark next year. For anyone not familiar with the 2009 BBC series, it tells the story of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, with Turner portraying Dante Gabriel Rossetti. It started me thinking about Richard Armitage playing Claude Monet in The Impressionists in 2006, which led me to wondering who else might have something similar on their cv. I had a vague recollection that Benedict Cumberbatch had played an artist, and sure enough, in 2010 he starred as Vincent Van Gogh in Van Gogh: Painted With Words.

Richard Armitage as Claude Monet

Richard Armitage as Monet in The Impressionists

I next went looking on Martin Freeman’s imdb page, to see what he might have hidden away, and couldn’t quite believe that there was another artistic find- in 2007, Freeman starred as Rembrandt van Rijn, in a movie titled, Nightwatching. A quick look at Andy Serkis’ filmography revealed that he too, like Cumberbatch, had portrayed Van Gogh, in this instance in an episode of Simon Schama’s Power Of Art series for the BBC in 2006.

Five projects about very famous artists, starring Hobbit actors, all in a five year period from 2006-2010.

Monet painting Wild Poppies, Near Argenteuil

Monet painting Wild Poppies, Near Argenteuil

In 2006, Richard Armitage appeared as Claude Monet in the three part BBC series The Impressionists, which used archive letters, records and interviews from the time to reconstruct the origins of the Impressionist art movement. It depicted the friendships of a struggling band of artists committed to pursuing a new type of art, namely Monet, Cezanne, Degas, Bazille and Renoir. The actors were tutored in the authentic painting technique of their character, so Armitage was able to accurately portray Monet racing to capture the light for Impression, Sunrise, and to be shown painting the famous Wild Poppies, Near Argenteuil as it had been in 1873. The series was partly shot in Provence, Normandy, and at Monet’s garden at Giverny, and Armitage made sure to visit Paris, to view Monet’s paintings first hand.

Desperate Romantics, a colourful, somewhat fictionalised retelling of the Pre-Raphaelites, depicted the creation of certain well-known art works, including Aidan Turner’s portrayal of the lesser-talented, but roguishly charming Rossetti, painting Bocca Baciata. The six-part series dealt with the tangled love lives of the Brotherhood as much as their art, also featuring founding artists John Millais and William Hunt.

Benedict Cumberbatch in Van Gogh: Painted With Words

Benedict Cumberbatch in Van Gogh: Painted With Words

Van Gogh: Painted With Words, a BBC drama-documentary, was presented by Alan Yentob. Benedict Cumberbatch, in his portrayal of Van Gogh, voiced the artist’s own words, sourced mostly from the many letters he wrote to his younger brother Theo. Andy Serkis delivered a typically intense performance as the driven Van Gogh, in the documentary series, Power Of Art, presented by the well-known British historian Simon Schama. It too used Van Gogh’s letters to his brother to document the artist’s periods of mental upheaval, and examined in detail his Wheatfield With Crows, painted in 1890.

Andy Serkis as Van Gogh in Simon Schama's Power Of Art

Andy Serkis as Van Gogh in Simon Schama’s Power Of Art

Martin Freeman as Rembrandt in Nightwatching

Martin Freeman as Rembrandt in Nightwatching

Nightwatching, a 2007 film directed by Peter Greenaway, starred Martin Freeman as Rembrandt, and was based around the creation of his most famous work of art, The Night Watch, depicting civilian militiamen who wanted to be celebrated in a group portrait. The film was described as featuring Greenaway’s  trademark neoclassical compositions and graphic nudity, and The Guardian review made mention of the ‘fiercely intelligent performances’ Greenaway elicited from Freeman, and Eva Birthistle as his wife Saskia.