Happy birthday this week to John Howe and Richard Armitage!

Richard Armitage, Thorin Oakenshield, dwarven king in exile

Richard Armitage Richard Crispin Armitage was born on 22nd August 1971 and raised in Leicestershire. At 17 he joined a circus in Budapest for 6 weeks to gain his Equity Card. Armitage returned to Britain to pursue a career in musical theater. He appeared on stage in various musicals, including Cats as Admetus and Macavity.

his first major television role was John Standring in the 2002 BBC drama Sparkhouse. “It was the first time I went to an audition in character. It was a minor role but it was something I really got my teeth into… I couldn’t go back. I knew I had to approach everything the same way.” After this he took a variety supporting roles in the TV productions of Between the Sheets, Cold Feet (series 5), and Ultimate Force (Series 2).

A few of his many roles since then include police officer Lucas North in the acclaimed series Spooks, notorious villain Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood and John Porter in Strike Back. And, of course, he’s our tragic hero Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit!

This week, Richard turns 42!

If you missed TORn’s interview with Richard last year, check out what the man himself had to say about his role as Thorin.

I looked mainly through Tolkien – I looked at all of his work, looked to mainly the dwarves, coz he writes about dwarves in general … In terms of preparation, it kind of happened by accident coz I was doing vocal work, coz I wanted him to sound a certain way. I wanted to pitch my voice lower, I wanted him to be able to speak quietly but resonantly … and I ended up using Henry V, Richard III and Macbeth as soliloquies that I could use to get some vocal production going.

But I found in all three of those characters [aspects of Thorin] … the whole idea of the rallying cry of a leader on the battlefield is very much Henry V; the self hating deformity of Richard III was sort of relevant; and also the Macbeth figure when it comes to the gold lust – this man who believes he is doing the right thing and gets corrupted by something which ultimately destroys him … I just felt that those three figures were all going to be pretty useful for me to have in my head.

Part One | Part Two

Richard Armitage is Thorin Oakenshield.

John Howe, Tolkien illustrator and conceptual designer

John_Howe_2003 John is, of course, one of the chief conceptual designers for The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings films. Born in 1957 in Vancouver, John’s been drawing since a young age and studied at the Ecoles des Arts Décoratifs de Strasbourg.

He’s responsible for translating some of Tolkien’s iconic scenes and characters from prose into visual art. This week he turns 56!

Even the Weta folk are in awe of Howe’s skills, as designer Paul Tobin explained to TORn at San Diego Comic-con.

[Alan Lee and John Howe] are incredibly experienced. They’re so gifted with their pencil. I was just about to reduced to tears one morning when I was working up a design for some elven armour and John was on the same brief. We were given the brief in the morning, to come back in the afternoon and show where we were at. And this was pretty early on, I’d only ever met John very briefly.

And I showed him my work-in-progress — a digital painting. Then John unrolls this A1, poster-size pencil sketch of an elven warrior … nearly life sized. And, literally, I was nearly tearing up — I can’t compete with that. That’s the difference between me and someone like John.

Morgoth and Ungoliant before the Two Trees of Valinor by John Howe.

Alan Lee, Tolkien illustrator and conceptual designer

alanlee1.jpg Alan Lee, born on August 20, 1947, is the other half of the conceptual design team on Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. An English book illustrator, he was born in Middlesex, England and studied at the Ealing School of Art.

This week Alan turns 65!

Some of Alan’s most notable illustrations for the works of J.R.R. Tolkien include the centenary edition of The Lord of the Rings (1991), a 1995 edition of The Hobbit, and the famous first edition of Narn i Chîn Húrin: the tale of the children of Húrin which was first released in 2007.


Aragorn and Eowyn by Alan Lee.