With the Home Video release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (which becomes available this week in Australia, Brazil and parts of Europe), Richard Armitage has been busy giving interviews, as we’ve been posting over the past week or so. He found time to sit down again with staffer greendragon, and they chatted about finding Thorin’s voice one last time, what he’s working on now, and what it was like to fill (literally!) those mighty dwarven boots… Here’s what he had to say:
greendragon: Congrats on The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug’s win [for Best SciFi/Fantasy movie] at the Empire Awards!
Richard Armitage: I know! It was funny when they were saying ‘Scifi/Fantasy’. I think it was SciFi OR Fantasy – I was like, ‘Are we Science Fiction? I don’t remember any spaceships in The Hobbit…’ [laughs]
GD: They just lump it all together! It was nice to see that some of you were gathered at the Awards, and it looked like everyone was having a great time. James Nesbitt did a great job of hosting.
RA: Yeah it was really good to see everybody. I think Luke [Evans] came, but he had to disappear because he was doing some reshoots so I didn’t manage to catch up with him…
GD: So we’re all excited for the Home Video release of The Desolation of Smaug; and then with convention season kicking off, everything’s gearing up for the final film. How does it feel to be moving in to the final leg of this epic journey you’ve all been on?
RA: Well, I know for sure that we’re not going to be filming any more material for the third film. That was something which was a bit up in the air; but there is a bit of sound work to do – a bit of ADR post production voice stuff, which I’m really looking forward to doing, and to seeing the cut of the film. You know, it’s been a while since we were in New Zealand, so I’ve kind of forgotten what we did – so it will be nice to go back and see how that’s shaping up. But I think it will be quite a nostalgic event. It’s probably going to be the last time that Middle-earth is seen on the big screen. Peter’s intention to have six films which sit all along side each other will be contained in that one event at the end of the year – so it wouldn’t surprise me if we see some old faces back on the red carpet, in celebration of fifteen years of Peter’s work!
GD: It certainly feels like a big deal for the fans – as you say, fifteen years of Middle-earth as Peter Jackson has envisaged it. People are going to be quite sad, I think, to feel that things are coming to an end.
RA: Yes! I mean, what are you guys going to write about when there’s nothing Middle-earth to talk about?! [laughs]
GD: You know, there’s always something! We might end up seeing a Hobbit symphony, like The Lord of the Rings symphony… There are always events popping up. Tolkien hasn’t been around for a while and we’re still talking about him!
RA: Maybe there’ll be a Silmarillion as well, who knows?
GD: Who knows what might happen? Is it going to be quite strange, though, to come back to doing Thorin’s voice again for the ADR work? As you say, it’s been a while; in some ways, presumably, you must have moved on from the role, with other projects in mind and other things going on in your life…
RA: Yeah. It’s interesting because I did a certain regime of voice work to try and find Thorin’s voice, which I’m really pleased that I did, because now I can go back to my tapes and repeat that work, and hope that Thorin’s voice comes out. It’s not so different from my own voice, but there’s a certain pitch and gravel to it that I’ll need. It takes a while to get back in to; but hopefully I’ll be able to do it!
GD: When you do move on from this role, when it is all over with The Hobbit films, what do you think will stay with you from this, both in terms of your life experience, and in terms of aspects of the character? What do you think will be with you in twenty years?
RA: I think the actual memory of filming it; going to the other side of the world for such a long time… I mean, I still wake up and think that I’m in the house that I stayed at in New Zealand, and that I can hear the sea… Everything about it – it was such a sensory experience. Walking through the studio gates at 4am when it was dark, and leaving when it was dark; seeing all the new sets; every time we walked on set… I just don’t think it will ever leave me. And you know, the process of getting into the character, and putting on the prosthetics; it’s deeply embedded in me, because we repeated it so many times. Putting on the boots and walking as Thorin… I kind of wish I had those boots, I wish I’d kept them!
GD: Do you feel an ownership of the role? If you were reading The Hobbit, would you sort of feel, ‘Oh, that’s me I’m reading about’?
RA: You know what, I feel like there is a sort of nod [in the films] to the character in Tolkien’s book… but my very first impression of The Hobbit [book] probably hasn’t changed. The version that we played of Thorin is very much about Philippa Boyens’ brilliant screenplay; so it sits somewhere between the two. I will probably pick up Tolkien and be reminded of what Philippa, Fran and Pete did with it; which I think is great, because their job is not just to put the book on screen, but to develop all of those ideas and take us into another world.
GD: Talking of ownership of the role – what do you think about the fans who do such amazing cosplay, where they dress up as the characters? I know one lady who does an absolutely brilliant Thorin; I wondered what you think when you see these folks with incredible costumes on which they have lavished hours of work, and they come out as dead ringers for the characters.
RA: I know! And a lot of them are women – and they’re growing their own beards and everything! It’s kind of amazing that they can do that… [laughs] No, I’ve seen a few bearded ladies… I think it’s brilliant. I’m always immensely impressed at the workmanship, and the way that they’ve looked at the costumes and copied them – I think it’s pretty amazing. And I’m sure it’s one of the reasons why the costume design is so detailed – because they know that people will look at it in that kind of detail, and study it.
GD: With regard to what’s next: each time we’ve spoken, you’ve had various potential irons in the fire but nothing that’s grabbed you as being the next big project for you. Do you have anything coming up which you can tell us about?
RA: I’m doing a British independent film at the moment, which is called Urban and the Shed Crew, which is based on a book written in 2005 about an ex social worker who is having trouble with his own life, and spiralling into drink and drugs, and he befriends a little eleven year old street kid, and they have this journey together. It’s a really beautiful story, and it ticks a few boxes for me: it’s based on a really interesting piece of literature, but also based on living people, who have been working with us on set. I don’t know what the movie will be – it may just end up at the festivals – but I’m having a great time making it, and I get to play opposite a really brilliant eleven year old kid, who is teaching me how to act!
GD: Kids often have a natural instinct for it, don’t you find? They don’t overthink it…
RA: Well sometimes they do; sometimes kids are highly coached. But this little boy is very, very natural and really instinctive, and it’s great – it’s like a little ‘back to school’ for me!
GD: Are we likely to see you at any conventions this year? I’m hoping we can persuade you to come to DragonCon in Atlanta…
RA: Well I have to find out when they are – I haven’t heard of anything in the imminent future. I think we’re definitely going to go to [San Diego] ComicCon; we’re definitely going to be there this year.
GD: Thinking about going forward – having had this experience of being in a huge franchise with an enormous fan base, would you be reluctant to undertake a project again which has such a following already in place, or has it been an experience that you would enjoy repeating?
RA: Oh yeah – I would do it again in a heartbeat! It’s so exciting to be part of something; especially when it’s one character playing – I mean, I think this is quite a unique experience, that it’s one character over three films, but playing through one journey. I think that’s quite remarkable. Yeah, I’d love to do another big franchise like this.
GD: Good – I’m glad we haven’t scared you away!
RA: No way! No way!
GD: One of the fans asked me to say to you how proud they all are of the work that everybody has done. I certainly know that many of the fans feel a kind of ownership of what Peter Jackson and all of you have created in Tolkien’s realm; there’s a great deal of love for it, and many people have said to me, ‘I just want an opportunity to tell them how proud we are of what they’ve done!’
RA: Oh good. I mean, that’s very heartwarming – because they’re the people that we know will be watching in so much more detail than everybody else. You’ve got to play and create your character in that much detail, because I know that people will be seeing it like that, and seeing it again and again… With the DVD release, they can watch it to their heart’s content! And I know they will; so it’s good to know that it’s being seen and appreciated.
GD: One last thing I’m interested to ask you about – I keep reading about your fascination with Richard III, and that you have interest in making a film about him. I just wondered what truth there is in any of that?
RA: It was an idea that I had a while back. But my interest in it is really a hobby, of reading biographies, and I was once working with a script writer on something. I don’t know whether a documentary would be of interest… it’s difficult, finding something which is going to be commercially interesting, and for an audience – I don’t know how many people would be that excited about him… My interest in him doesn’t necessarily have to manifest itself in a piece of work. Even if it’s me going back on stage and playing him; it’s purely a hobby for me.
GD: It’s a fascinating topic – particularly when you consider how Shakespeare has painted him into one particular corner…
RA: Yeah, I mean Shakespeare really created a bit of a pantomime and put him at the centre of it. It’s a brilliant thriller, but I don’t know how biased Shakespeare was… Well, I do know how biased he was, because he was writing for a Tudor monarch! But I think there’s a tale to tell. I think the BBC maybe are investigating doing a project about Richard, but we’ll see. I think there’s always room for a new take on it; and there’s plenty of literature out there. The Daughter of Time [Josephine Tey] is such an interesting book, and that would be worth exploring.
GD: Well, thanks Richard – it’s always good to chat. Hopefully we’ll talk again around the release of The Hobbit: There and Back Again.
RA: I’m sure we will see each other sometime in November, on our vast press tour! Take care!