Side Dish: Andy Serkis- Man of Many Faces

Andy Serkis/ Gollum

Andy Serkis/ Gollum

Andy Serkis is to be recognised at Cinema Con this week for his pioneering work in the area of performance capture- he’ll be receiving the Vanguard Award for his role in developing the new art form, beginning over a decade ago as Gollum in The Lord Of The Rings. Serkis is on record as saying he wants ‘mocap’ to be recognised as simply acting, but it’s good to see him being acknowledged for this line of work, which also includes the title character in King Kong (2005), Caesar in Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011), and the follow up, soon to be released, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), as well as playing Captain Haddock in The Adventures Of Tintin (2011).

Serkis is a multi-talented man, a keen saxophone player, rock climber and cyclist, who’s initial ambition wasn’t to pursue acting, but rather a career in visual arts. He grew up in London, his mother English, and father Iraqi, of Armenian descent. While studying at university, he chose theatre as a secondary subject so he could design posters, which led to him getting involved in designing and producing plays. Having agreed to act in a couple of productions, he then changed his major subject to acting, as well as learning set design.

Working backstage at the local playhouse earned Serkis his Equity Card, where he stayed on as an actor, gaining experience in productions from Brecht to Shakespeare. He continued to work in theatre after moving back to London, and started to pick up small roles in television, such as The Darling Buds Of May, in 1992, and Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist in 1998. He had a small part in a mini series I especially like, Shooting The Past in 1999.

Serkis describes how the work he was called on to do for The Lord Of The Rings back in 1999, turned into something else entirely,

Originally when I went off to work on The Lord Of The Rings, I got a call from my agent saying that I was just going to do a voice. But I couldn’t really approach it like that. To get Gollum’s voice, I had to play the character. I told Peter that was how I’d like to do it, and when he was watching me moving around on set he said, ‘Stop everything. We are going to record Andy’s performance, and then we are going to experiment with performance capture.’

What began as Serkis creating a performance twice, once with the other actors in a scene, and again, alone on a ‘mocap’ stage, had evolved, by the time of The Hobbit, into a sophisticated, integrated process, which encompassed Serkis’ own movements, expressions and voice, overlaid with a ‘digital skin’.

Andy Serkis as Caesar in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

Andy Serkis as Caesar in Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes

In a fascinating article, Andy Serkis comes across as a man of enormous enthusiasm, one who throws himself wholeheartedly into any project he undertakes.  For King Kong, he spent hours observing the behaviour of gorillas at London Zoo, and for Caesar the ape, he’d go out running on all fours, to get used to the motion. In a straight performing role for which he won an award, he had to learn to walk with callipers, to portray Ian Dury in the 2009 biopic, Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll. 

In 2011 Serkis co-founded the Imaginarium, a digital studio, which was to specialise in the creative use of performance capture technology. Not long after, he received an email from Peter Jackson, asking him to stay on in New Zealand after completing his two week’s work as Gollum on The Hobbit, and take on the role of second unit director, a challenging new direction for his career. This called for a rapid change of plans, putting on hold the development of his new company, but was an opportunity too good to pass up. With that valuable experience behind him, Serkis has just been announced as taking over the director’s job for the new Warner Brothers’ live action version of The Jungle Book. 

Andy Serkis has done acclaimed work in many straight acting roles, including an Emmy award nominated performance in the BBC TV series Little Dorrit, but continues to be best known and loved for roles in which he himself is unrecognisable, most famously his utterly memorable performance as the creature Gollum.

 

Finding Your Inner Warrior Dwarf

Thorin at the Battle of Azanulbizar

Thorin at the Battle of Azanulbizar

When Richard Armitage took on the role of Thorin Oakenshield, as part of his research he naturally reread The Hobbit, and he later told James Rocchi at MSN Movies,

  ‘Tolkien described Thorin as a legendary warrior and a very important dwarf, which were two descriptions that terrified me.’

One piece of the puzzle of assembling the character came in an unexpected way, as Armitage explained to journalist, Sharon Eberson a few days before the NY premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in December 2012. He had been asked to lead the response at the Powhiri ceremony that was to take place at the start of filming The Hobbit, to welcome visitors, and to bless the soundstage. His immediate response to the request had been to refuse, and to pass the honour over to the person who seemed the more obvious choice, namely Martin Freeman, the titular head of the cast.

   ‘I absolutely didn’t want to do that. Philippa came to me and said, ‘will you do it?’, and I said, ‘of course not. Martin’s the Hobbit, Martin should do it’.

Armitage had then been told the speech had to be delivered by a warrior, therefore it was the actor who played Thorin Oakenshield, King under the Mountain, that would most appropriately perform that role. This was a matter of solemn, cultural respect, and not a task that could be handed over after all.  One can well imagine Armitage echoing his audition lines, ‘why did it come to me?’, thinking he had more than enough on his plate already, preparing for the start of the film shoot. The short speech, part of which was to be spoken in Maori, was to be delivered in front of the assembled cast and crew, and would be filmed for posterity.

   ‘I was more nervous about that than I was about filming. I learned this piece, but I was terrified by it. But I actually ended up using that speech every day as part of my vocal warm up. It’s funny, because I didn’t realise I was doing it at the time, but I just watched what those warriors do, and the way they commit to their culture. And I thought, that’s what the dwarves are about. I used to say it every day, scream it every night, try and wreck my voice a bit.’.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition special feature

Richard’s role in the ceremony began by accepting the Maori challenge, or wero, to come in peace, picking up a branch off the ground while maintaining eye contact. It must’ve been quite intimidating, having to stand and face the challenge  at close quarters, complete with threatening gestures and grimaces, almost certainly unlike anything he would’ve been called on to experience before.

It’s not surprising, knowing what we do of how Armitage prepares for a role, that the fierce pride displayed by the Maori warrior would have immediately resonated with him, and that he would go on to apply that sense of pride to his vision of the dwarf prince Thorin. Anyone who’s ever witnessed another traditional Maori custom, the haka, or war dance, as performed on the rugby field whenever the New Zealand All Blacks play, will know how fearsome a sight it is, and not to be taken lightly.

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The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition special feature

Richard earned a great deal of respect for his own part in the Powhiri ceremony, determined to do it justice by perfecting the Maori part of his speech, and by treating it all with due solemnity. The image of Richard Armitage standing proudly, representing the welcomed visitors, is a memorable one, and, thanks to the release of the first production video, was for many their first glimpse of the actor who was to play the mighty warrior dwarf, Thorin.

The Hobbit Production Video Number One

The Hobbit Production Video Number One

A recounted battle scene in An Unexpected Journey gave us the first glimpse of Armitage as warrior, with stirring images of the young Thorin  at the Battle of Azanulbizar, prompting these memorable words of recollection from fellow dwarf, Balin,

‘We were leaderless, death and defeat were upon us. That is when I saw him; the young dwarf prince, facing down the Pale Orc. He stood alone against this terrible foe, his armour rent, wielding nothing but an oaken branch as a shield…..Azog the Defiler learned that day that the line of Durin would not be so easily broken. Our forces rallied and drove the orcs back…….I thought to myself then, ‘There is one I could follow. there is one I could call King.’

Richard Armitage talked about his memory of filming this first battle scene, a defining heroic moment for his character, during which he put his shield through his lip at one point, spending several takes with his mouth authentically dripping with blood,

    ‘We did some fighting…..it was a great day walking onto second unit, and he [Andy Serkis] had Orcs on this mound, and he was rallying them to start this battle cry, and wind machines going, and blood everywhere. It was a really good day.’

Thorin faces down Azog at the Battle of Azanulbizar

Thorin faces down Azog at the Battle of Azanulbizar

The Hobbit will unfold another great battle sequence in the final film of the trilogy, There And Back Again,  namely the epic Battle of the Five Armies.  Shooting took place during the extended pickup filming in June-July 2013.

Armitage gave some insight into the effect it had on him, filming such intense scenes,

‘We were shooting some of the battle scenes, and fighting at a level of rage that I’ve never done before. I was adrenalised, and swinging swords around, and I found myself- the placid person that I am- very angry all the time.’

He went on to share a fitting analogy to describe a particular moment during the battle,

‘One of the things- talking about Shakespeare…..- that I admire about Richard III, is that he rides across the battlefield to fight, single-handedly, for his kingdom, for his crown. In the Battle of the Five Armies, Thorin is going to do something like that.’

The final word goes to Jed Brophy, who was asked recently which scene he was most looking forward to seeing in There And Back Again, and had this to say,

‘I think the Battle of the Five Armies, and in particular, our charge out of the fortress. We had been waiting two years to do that scene, and on the morning we filmed, Richard Armitage turned to me, and the gleam in his eye said it all. He said to me, ‘we’ve waited two years to do this, and I can see you are ready.’ He was so much our King in that single moment.’

Only The Dwarves Were Small

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Dwarves might be small, but everything else on The Hobbit was BIG. A 266 day film shoot was a huge undertaking, and required a great deal of effort by a great many people, before, during and after filming.

The statistics make for mind boggling reading; it was estimated that 3,000 people were employed- one thousand on the studio payroll, one thousand at Weta Digital and roughly another thousand at Weta Workshop, Park Road Post and casual contractors. There was a welcome flow-on in spending to other businesses around New Zealand such as:

  • 6,750 domestic flights
  • 93,000 bed nights
  •  1,800 rental cars
  •  1,650 work vehicles
  • $9 million spent on construction materials
  • $1.5 million on food suppliers

By 31st March 2013, spending on The Hobbit, prior to pickup shooting was reported at US$ 561 million.

Now for the fun stuff- the weird and wonderful stats from The Hobbit shoot, coutesy of Tourism New Zealand

  • 32 polystyrene trees to make up Mirkwood Forest.
  • 165– the number of people it took to portray the dwarves, including  actors, doubles and stuntmen.
  • 263 beards made for the production.
  • 547 travelling weapons for the 13 dwarves.
  • 752 wigs
  • 3,000 props recorded in the furniture catalogue for Lake Town.
  • 11,862 prosthetics manufactured.
  • 140,000 cups of coffee made during the duration of filming.
  • 170,000 punched aluminium gold plated coins in Smaug’s lair.

One hobbit, 13 dwarves, 60 second unit studio crew, 95 musicians to record the score, 115 drivers to transport cast an crew to locations, 250 craftsmen in the Art Department, 450 main unit studio crew, 1,200 extras

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Dwarf Company- Where are they now?

As we now know, Richard Armitage is currently in Leeds, England filming his new film, Urban And The Shed Crew, and has a new audiobook, Hamlet, due for release, but how have his fellow dwarf actors fared since completing filming on The Hobbit? I thought it would be good to see what they’re all up to now.

Many of the Kiwi actors have returned to their first love of performing on stage, picking up where they left off three years ago. James Nesbitt and Ken Stott have teamed up again for the new TV series The Missing,which has just begun filming in Belgium; Nesbitt takes the lead role. Mark Hadlow has the most unusual role of anyone- when he’s not on stage, he’s taking care of preparations for the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th Anniversary, which takes place in 2016.
Other than spending time in LA, presumably hunting up work, Adam Brown has been focusing his energies on a task every bit as demanding as any dwarf boot camp training, namely completing the London Marathon in mid-April.

Jed Brophy:
The Offering (2013)    Short film
An Unseasonable Fall Of Snow (2014)  Play by Gary Henderson. With son Riley Brophy, at the BATS Theatre, Wellington.
Untitled ghost/ horror movie by Jason Stutter (2014)
The Ballad Of Maddog Quinn (2014) directed by Matthew Inns.  A sci fi western.

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                                                   Jed and Riley Brophy   An Unseasonable Fall Of Snow

Graham McTavish:
Plastic (2014)  Steve Dawson   Heist movie
Realiti (2014)  Mandrake   Scifi movie filmed in New Zealand
Outlander (2014)  Dougal MacKenzie   Period drama TV series filming in Scotland.
The Stolen (2014)  Bully   Period drama set in New Zealand.

Graham McTavish as Dougal MacKenzie in Outlander

Graham McTavish as Dougal MacKenzie in Outlander

Aidan Turner: 
Poldark: (2014) Ross Poldark   Lead role in the BBC period drama TV series, soon to begin filming in Cornwall, England.

James Nesbitt:
Babylon (2014)  Commissioner Richard Miller   Drama TV movie directed by Danny Boyle. Filmed in London.
Gold (2014)  Frank   Offbeat comedy movie filmed in Dublin.
The Missing (2014)  Tony   Eight part TV drama series. Starz/BBC production, currently filming in Brussels.
My Name Is Emily (2015)  Irish drama movie.

Stephen Hunter:
Ca$h Cow: a 63% True Story (2013)  Ken    Australian short film
Field Punishment No. 1 (2014)   Aussie Bill   Period drama TV movie filmed in New Zealand.
A Skype EXchange (2014)   Gill (rumoured)   Australian short comedy film.

Ken Stott:
Uncle Vanya (late 2012-13)  Vanya   Play by Chekhov staged at The Vaudeville Theatre, London. Co-starring Anna Friel.
Man Up (2014)  Bert   British Comedy/Romance movie   Stars Simon Pegg, Rory Kinnear, Olivia Williams and Harriet Walter.  Filmed in London.
The Missing (2014)  Ian   Drama TV series- with James Nesbitt

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                                                                               Ken Stott as Vanya

William Kircher:
Caffeine Warriors (2014)  New comedy play by Tom Scott, set and performed in a coffee shop in Wellington.
Performances at festivals with his band, California Dreamers.

William Kirchner

William Kircher

Peter Hambleton:
Shortland Street (2013)  Alisdair Rolleston   Drama TV series.
Equivocation  (May- June 2014) Play written by Bill Cain   Hambleton to direct. To be staged at Circa Theatre, Wellington

Mark Hadlow:
When The Rain Stops Falling (March 2014)  Play by Andrew Bovell . The Court Theatre, Christchurch.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit  (March 2014)  Play by Nassim Soleimanpour  at The Court Theatre, Christchurch
MAMIL (Middle Aged Men In Lycra)  (2014)  One man show
Creative Director for the 75th Anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy in 2016.

Mark Hadlow

Mark Hadlow

John Callen:
John is on the Artistic Board at The Actors’ Program, a year long drama course based at The Auckland Performing Arts Centre. John teaches screen technique and screen direction.

Dean O’Gorman:
The Almighty Johnsons (2013)  Anders/Bragi   Dramedy TV series. Third and final series.
Currently in Los Angeles.

Adam Brown:
Minimus (2013) Short film
Haribo Starmix commercial (2014)
Running the London Marathon mid-April 2014.

Candida Brady: The Face Behind Blenheim Films

KatharineD digs deep into the background and credentials of the moving force behind Richard Armitage’s new project.

Now that we know Richard Armitage is taking on the role of Chop in the movie Urban And The Shed Crew (thank you for confirming, imdb), it’s time to find out a bit about who’s behind this project, namely film maker Candida Brady, the English creative director from Blenheim Films. We’re all hoping for a high quality production, and everything I’ve discovered certainly points to that being the case.

Candida Brady

Candida Brady

Candida Brady comes from a very creative family, all members being heavily involved in the arts. Her mother is TV scriptwriter and prolific romance novelist Charlotte Bingham, who, amongst other work for television, wrote three early episodes of Upstairs Downstairs with her husband, Terence Brady. He himself is an actor, writer and painter with a long list of credits to his name. Brady’s brother, Matthew, is a ballet producer who founded his own dance company.

Candida (b.1965) trained as an actress, but then turned to journalism, working as a feature writer for the Daily Mail, and later The Sunday Express, as well as spending time as a news reporter for Selina Scott’s show on BSkyB. Documentary film making had always been her ambition, so, with that aim in mind, in 1996 she founded Blenheim Films with her husband, Titus Ogilvy (son of English actor Ian Ogilvy), an experienced producer and cinematographer. Blenheim began as a small production company, operating from a garden shed in the Oxfordshire countryside.

The company’s first production, Waiting For Marco, was a four-part TV series following the trials and tribulations of six months in the life of one of Marco Pierre White’s restaurants. In 2006, Blenheim Films approached the International League For The Protection Of Horses (ILPH) in Britain, to make a series of programs about the organisation’s work in investigating cases of reported cruelty and neglect of horses. This was a subject about which Candida felt strongly, having been around horses in her rural upbringing and it led to the 12 part series, Horse Patrol.

In 2009, Blenheim produced Madam And The Dying Swan, a film which tells the story of the four ballet dancers who have danced the original steps of The Dying Swan. Beginning with Anna Pavlova’s famous rendition of the solo, it documents the life of Dame Ninette de Valois, the founder of The Royal Ballet, and highlights how, in 1980, de Valois passed on to ballerina Marguerite Porter, the version of Pavlova’s solo she had notated in 1913. The film shows Porter teaching the steps to her chosen successor, ensuring the dance would stay true to it’s original form. The film was narrated by noted actress Samantha Bond, and was given a screening at The British Film Institute in August 2012 as part of a special event, Anna Pavlova On Screen. The screening was followed by a Q&A with Brady, Ogilvy and the dancer Marguerite Porter.

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The British Institute Press Release

Blenheim’s next project was the far more ambitious, Trashed, a documentary about the global problem of waste disposal. This was where Candida Brady really came into her own, tackling a huge project that reflected her description of herself on twitter- Film Maker, Homemaker, Trouble Maker. Jeremy Irons, the award winning actor, had worked with Blenheim previously on an ongoing ten year project, Medicine Man, about HIV/Aids, and was looking for another worthwhile project. As he told Leo Hickman, in an extensive interview for The Guardian in December 2012,

“I wanted to help create a film on a subject of real social importance. Candida Brady and I talked over various possible subjects, but none, we felt, compared to the problem of waste, which affects us all, and which, despite all the evidence and research, is not being seriously faced……Apart from being the face on screen, I was also able to help with raising the finance.”

Brady spent two years extensively researching and filming Trashed, taking on multiple roles of producer, director and writer. Jeremy Irons came on board as an executive producer, as well as being the narrator on the ground. During April 2011, Irons and the film crew visited Iceland, Vietnam, Brazil, France, Beirut, and San Francisco. As stated on the film’s website, Irons sets out to discover the extent and effects of the global waste problem, as he travels around the world to beautiful locations tainted by pollution.

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Irons managed to convince his friend Vangelis, the Academy Award winning composer, to write the score for the film. The Director of Photography was Sean Bobbitt, the cinematographer on Steve McQueen’s acclaimed Hunger, Shame and Twelve Years A Slave.

The subject matter was of personal importance to Brady- to ascertain the links between waste and the environment because,

“As a lifelong asthmatic I have always been interested in the effects of pollution. But it was meeting an environmental doctor (who saved my life), that opened my eyes to the direct effects the environment has on our health.”

The film’s website has extensive links to related organisations and environmental initiatives.

Blenheim was invited to show Trashed as a special screening at The Cannes International Film Festival in May 2012. David Gritten, film critic for The Telegraph, wrote a short piece titled Candida Brady: the new Brit at Cannes. Brady’s proud father Terence, recalling his daughter as a young, asthma-prone child, wrote a piece on his blog just prior to Cannes, admiring Candida’s tenacity in chasing the necessary finance, and for taking great care in making a documentary on a subject about which she was passionate.

Titus Ogilvy, Jeremy Irons, Candida Brady at Cannes 2012 Sensacine.com

Titus Ogilvy, Jeremy Irons, Candida Brady at Cannes 2012. Source

Trashed garnered considerable notice, dealing as it did with a serious, topical issue and, having such a well-known actor as the face of the film naturally helped it’s publicity. Irons was eager to promote the film and it’s subject matter, attending many screenings as it aired at over forty film festivals large and small around the world in 2012-13, often including a Q&A session afterwards. The film won a number of international awards, including, at the 25th Tokyo International Film Festival, the Earth Grand Prix Special Jury Prize.

In March 2013, Brady and Irons took the film to the Zero Waste Conference at the European Union in Brussels, and Irons was a featured speaker at The New York Times Energy For Tomorrow conference in April that year. The film was also shown at several Parliamentary assemblies, including the British Houses Of Parliament, and the French National Assembly. Matthew Chapman of The Huffington Post urged everyone, but especially NY City Hall, to go see the film and take note of it’s findings.

It seems clear that Candida Brady, the creative force behind Blenheim Films, is willing to devote considerable time and resources to making films about subjects that resonate strongly with her, and deliberately takes on the combined roles of producer, director and writer to ensure the quality and vision of the finished product. She gathers a talented creative team around her, to help complete the film making process.

Mr Armitage- I’d say you’re in good hands.

Mystery Solved? [ETA – No Question Mark Necessary]

Here we were all wondering when  this never before seen photo was taken. Guest Blogger KatharineD. has the answer.

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The Great Gatsby ball at the Roxy in Wellington seemed a good bet – but how to explain beardless Richard Armitage in mid-June 2013, when pick-ups for TH were in full swing?

The only plausible answer was that the photo was taken in early 2011 before Richard grew his own beard, so I did some digging around and found out that the venue was indeed the Roxy Theatre, but the event wasn’t a charity ball, but the cinema’s grand reopening after extensive restoration work had been carried out.

There’s a lovely story behind all this. It was originally the Capitol Theatre, built in 1928 to screen silent movies. It operated as a cinema through to the early 1960’s, when it was converted into a suburban shopping mall. The mall eventually closed down, and the building sat empty for several decades. It was purchased by one of Peter Jackson’s film companies, with the aim of turning it back into a community cinema.

The restoration project was taken on by Weta Workshop founder Richard Taylor, his wife Tanya Rodger,  and Jamie Selkirk, a long time colleague of Peter’s, who was one of the editors on The Lord Of The Rings. The work was extensive, retaining the original Art Deco facade, but completely rebuilding the interior, with two cinemas, a restaurant and bar, all in 1930’s style.

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Weta Workshop contributed sculptures and artwork to the interior decoration. Here is a page of photos from the Roxy’s website- scroll down to see the restoration work in progress. The reopening event took place on 30th March 2011, not long after the start of principal photography on The Hobbit, and the theme was 1930’s style.

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I haven’t been able to find any official photos of Richard or William Kircher  at the event, but it all fits. Peter Jackson is dressed as a 1930’s super hero, Rocketeer, and might that be Richard Armitage’s hand holding the hat on the right of the photo?

Here’s the link from the NZ Dominion.    Here’s the photo:
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[ETA – Confirmation – check out the floor in this photo. It matches the location of the photo with Richard and William]
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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