Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit, has been talking to Dominion Post about the role, getting into character and fame.
Talking about the audition for The Hobbit Richard says,
“I thought, first of all, I’m six foot two [1.8 metres] and Thorin’s an old guy. Maybe they want me to read it for a general audition.
“But then when I read what they’d done with the audition speech I realised that they were looking for something quite different. They needed someone who could play a warrior, who could play a young Thorin and old Thorin and also to bring the idea of somebody who could return to his full potential to become a king. That’s when I sat down with Peter and we talked through the journey and the arc of the character – and then they offered it to me. I had to pick myself up off the floor.”
He then had to wait several months before the shooting started,
“But for those few months it was on a knife edge and the day we had the powhiri [in Wellington] to kick off the shoot was an amazing moment, I have to tell you.”
The cast had six weeks of dwarf boot camp before the cameras rolled,
“It was literally boot camp because we were wearing massive boots every day. We really got to know each other as actors first and then we started working on the characters. That was a real gift. If everyone is working away from home, even the Kiwis, you are thrown together and everything is invested in what you’re doing. You don’t go home at night to your life. You move your life to make the movie and that only benefited the story because that’s exactly what these dwarfs had done.”
Richard found that it took some time to get into the character of Thorin,
“Initially, when you get all that gear on you it feels alien to you. Deep down somewhere you feel very small inside this big machine. But, actually, after a while you start to emerge through the costume and the prosthetics. I couldn’t do Thorin without that gear on.
“Sometimes you’d be asked to rehearse without [a] costume in your trainers and I found it really difficult to do. Sometimes they’d say, ‘You don’t have to wear the boots because the shot is only from the waist up’ and I’d be like, ‘No, no, I need those boots now. I can’t play him without them’.
“That’s what’s been great about a character like Thorin, which is such a transformation. As the different costumes emerge they represent a different part of Thorin. I kind of move slightly differently in each costume and towards the end of the third film the character’s physical shape drastically changes from the beginning. But it’s really interesting. It’s been a great visual journey.”
When asked about life after the first film is released, Richard says he hasn’t dwelled on it very much, being optimistic that he won’t be recognised often, due to the prosthetics and makeup used to transform him into Thorin.
“Because 60 per cent of Thorin’s face belongs to Weta [Workshop], I might get away with it. People might recognise my chin.
“I haven’t really thought about it. At the moment I just want people to really enjoy the film and enjoy the character. If that means they want to come up and say, ‘Hi’ then that’s good. They might want to throw tomatoes at me in the street – but fair enough.”