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The One Ring Forums: Tolkien Topics: Movie Discussion: The Hobbit:
Shakespeare, performance capture and getting back on stage - Richard Armitage talks to TheOneRing.net

News from Bree
spymaster@theonering.net

Nov 25 2013, 11:38am

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Shakespeare, performance capture and getting back on stage - Richard Armitage talks to TheOneRing.net Can't Post

Richard Armitage from ONTD photoshootAs readers will know from this post last week, Richard Armitage recently took the time to chat with TORn staffer greendragon. As ever, Armitage was gracious and erudite. His respect for his fans is evident, and he seems always ready to acknowledge their support, and share some time with them if possible.


The interview covered the topic of getting ready for the upcoming release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and whether there might be even MORE pick ups next year in New Zealand. Also discussed at length was Armitage's theatre training, and his approaches to the craft of acting. His first love, it seems, is classical theatre; and fans can expect to see him back treading the boards sometime in the not too distant future. Here are the highlights of what he had to say.



GD: How does it feel to be gearing up for Middle-earth Madness again?


RA: It feels like a millisecond passed since we were doing it the last time! It's great; I mean, it's like a whole new adventure because, you know, seeing little snippets of the movie and then at the World Wide Fan Event actually sitting through twenty minutes of the work that Pete's been doing down in New Zealand since we finished pickups; it's really exciting! So many new characters to explore; and feeling that fan response again was amazing.


People were so excited at the Fan Event - and that 20 minutes of footage was incredible!


It's great isn't it? Yeah - I was really pleased that he was able to treat the fans to that. He's really good at that kind of thing - you know, giving them a little gift.


When you were doing the pickups earlier this year, what was it like finding your way back to the character? Was it hard, or did you just pick up where you'd left off?


DoSThorin02Do you know what? It was harder than I thought it was going to be. You always underestimate putting on the wig and the costume, you think, "Oh I'm just going to be able to snap back into it." But actually, it took about 48 hours; that sounds like nothing, but the very first day of filming I had a really long scene, which took two days to shoot, with Ian. And I couldn't find his voice again! I was going into my trailer and doing voice work to try and pitch the voice right. Luckily I wasn't moving around, I was sitting down, so I mean, all the ideas stay with you, and obviously I'd made quite a lot of notes, so I'd sort of swotted up beforehand, to try and remember where we were. The good thing about it was, a year on, having seen the movie and understanding the character a little bit more, I feel like there was a bit of germination that had happened. So there was another layer that I could add to the character. That went through all of the pick ups; whenever we were going back into scenes, there was a little bit more understanding of where the character had been, and where he was going to, which I felt was really useful, to giving it another dimension.


Do you think you are likely to find that there are more pickups next year? Once Sir Peter has edited this all together and he's looking at the third film, do you think he's likely to say, "Actually I need you to come back?"


We have nothing official at the moment; but knowing Pete, knowing what that third movie needs to be like, you know, his taste and what he's aiming for, I have no doubt in my mind that we'll be going back to do more stuff. Probably on a voluntary basis!! [laughs] On the last day of the shoot, he [PJ] put his arms around me, and he gave me a big hug and said, "See you next year." And I was like, "What, do you mean for the Premiere?" and he went, "No, no; we'll be back here again..." And I would go again and again for him; you know, it's such a rewarding experience working with him. He really pushes you to the limit, and it feels so good to have gone further than you think you can. It's a little bit like running through the finishing line, and then having to keep running. It's a good feeling.


It's interesting; your castmates I've spoken to have said the same thing: "Oh yeah, we're sure we'll have to go back, but we wouldn't want it any other way!"


Yeah - it's true. It's been a long journey and I think it's going to get longer! [laughs]


You have an interesting theatrical training, in that you had both the experience of learning 'on the job' and learning in the college situation [at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art]. Could you say a bit about what you see as the pros and cons of both those ways of learning the craft of acting?


I was out in the business quite young; well, not by today's standards in terms of acting, but at the time, I was working at about 16, 17, in musical theatre, and going to open auditions, queuing around the block to get seen in groups of six; and finding a singing teacher, getting a dance class - that kind of thing, just to get working and really learning about theatre skills, like you say, on the job. And I realised that kind of - what's called "tits and teeth" performance - just really wasn't stimulating me; and I began to be fascinated with text and Shakespeare and more classical works. I was going to private lessons with an acting coach, looking at those kind of ideas, and that's when I decided that I was perhaps on the wrong path. So I went back to retrain at LAMDA, and I did a classical theatre course for three years, because I really wanted to immerse myself in that voice and text-based training. I came out and went to the Royal Shakespeare Company; that was really my goal, and I achieved it.


I seems to me that one can't be at the Royal Shakespeare Company and not learn a lot. 


It's incredible what you do learn; and what you don't realise you've learnt, as well. You know, I use a lot of Shakespeare, particularly with The Hobbit for example; knowing that text, being able to bring some Shakespearean ideas to something, to make it feel epic - but truthful, as well. So it's amazing the things that I learned that I didn't realise had gone into my long-term memory, if you know what I mean.


We talked about that a bit last December; about the Shakespearean roles that had given you thoughts about where Thorin comes from, and what drives him and motivates him.


Andy Serkis Mo-CapYes; but also you know, that earlier training, the physical stuff, has become really, really useful in terms of coordinating the fights, and the stamina needed to train; and also creating a physical life for the character which is beyond the brain, you know? It's a different manifestation; and I'd like to take that further, and even go into performance capture, and really change the body. One of the movies that I just love so much is the new Planet of the Apes movie; and Andy Serkis' work, that kind of thing, I just think is fascinating, because you get absolutely to use all of those physical skills that you've picked up along the way.


Thinking about Thorin and his physicality and his mentality obviously you've got a lot of the backstory there for you in the book, and in the appendices. Did you feel that there were gaps that you had to fill in; did you create extra back story for yourself?


Yeah. I went in search of stuff and then I'd find ideas. I was really trying to work on the relationship between Fili, Kili and Thorin, so I wrote a biography a little bit about what happened on the battlefield at the Moria gates when he was fighting alongside his brother [Frerin, who was slain at that battle], and also the conversation that he had with his sister [Dís], who is obviously the mother of the nephews [Fili and Kili], when she was saying to him, "Don't take them to war!" (I've got a feeling Tolkien wrote something about that; I'm not sure whether Tolkien wrote it or whether I wrote it - it's all morphed into one now!)


[GD note: pretty sure this conversation between Dís and Thorin is entirely RA's creation; we know very little of Dís from Tolkien. I for one would be fascinated to read RA's composition!]


Creating those kind of conversations which would have happened - I felt that was important. The relationships with my father and my grandfather, which are prominent in Thorin - I had to fill in a few of those gaps. Also, the dragon sickness or the gold lust which Tolkien talks about - actually playing a sickness like that required a little bit more development in terms of what it was going to be. Would it be a mental illness, was it going to be a physical illness; making choices about that! So yeah, there were a few bits and pieces that I had to expand upon.


I love the scene in the Extended Edition of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey where Thorin overhears the reservations which Gandalf and Elrond are discussing about the dragon sickness; that Thror and Thrain both succumbed, and how do we know that Thorin's not going to succumb. It was so true to life; I thought it was just like if one had parents and grandparents who've had Alzheimer's, and you're facing that fear; it just seemed very real, very true.


Yeah. Actually, that was at the end of a much longer scene, which I played with Bilbo on those steps, where I talked about where I was born, and seeing fireflies on the roof; being born in darkness, underground; and then it cuts to that overheard conversation. And you realise that his childhood has been quite claustrophobic and insular, in terms of his upbringing and being raised as a prince, very much under the control of his father and his grandfather. I really worked hard on a very close relationship with Thror, because what I felt was that when we do get into those moments with the dragon sickness, later into movie three, I wanted Thorin to have been very, very close to Thror when he was going through that. Like he was almost nursing him through it, so he's seen evidence of what it was like; so when it starts to manifest itself in him, he knows exactly what's happening to him, and it's terrifying.


When you're creating a role like this, I'm curious about how much of yourself you bring to the role. We're talking about real experiences in real life, which one references. Do you ever feel that you're bringing too much of yourself, and that you need to step back and distance yourself a little?


You know, at drama school I had one teacher who used to say to me"Don't bring the role to you, take yourself to the role." Which is a bit of a paradox - because what he meant by that is don't make a character into yourself, but go to the character. But in going to the character, you have to bring bits of yourself; you know, my voice will be in the character, the way that I move, the way that my mind connects with thoughts and movements, will all be in the character. So you can't really leave yourself out of it completely.In terms of personal experience, this [Thorin] is quite easy to just use my imagination, because obviously you've got the book; and I'm not a dwarf, I don't live in Middle-earth! Other characters which are much more similar to me and my life, and are contemporary settings - you have to work harder to separate yourself from them.


But there are things where you absolutely have to draw on your own experience; and sometimes that's not even a literal experience. It can just be a sensation or a feeling, or your relationship to an event; my view on nobility for example, and what it really is. And those are the moments where I think, "No, I absolutely am going to bring my ideas to the table on this one." What I consider to be greed, for example - I thought a lot about that when I was preparing the role, because it's where Thorin and I differ in our opinion about reneging on the deal with the men of the Lake; that fact that he promises them something and then reneges on that deal. I disagree with Thorin about that; but I have to play him, so it's kind of good to have that paradox.


So in some ways, from what you're saying, if the role is closer to you - it's a human role and it's contemporary - you have to be careful that it isn't just you, that you distance yourself. Do you think in some ways that in fantasy, where it's a completely created world, it is easier to find a truth, than in something which is much more mundane, and closer to your daily life?


RA B&WAre you saying my daily life is mundane?! [laughs] No, you're absolutely right. Weirdly enough though, it's funny because sometimes if it feels like too much "acting", it can really pull you out of character. That was the thing about Thorin; there were times when I really felt like I was acting; and I'd go to Pete and say, "Can we go again?", because it just felt like I was "doing" the character. The moments which are the most real and the most moving were the moments where I just wasn't acting; I was just inhabiting what was literally another being, a whole body of clothing and a whole new face. All of that thing - you sometimes felt like you were inside of it. But there were times when I absolutely didn't feel like that, and I was just all him. It's hard to describe.


It's the Stanislavski point, isn't it - that the more you're aware of what you're doing, the less effective it is.


Yes, absolutely. And the thing about film making as well, is that you do get the chance to disappear for a second. In a way, that's why a lot of the time I would walk away from the group of people and stand and face the wall; because I didn't want to break in to something which I'd found, whether it was the concentration, or just an understanding or the belief in the scene. So I think I got a bit of a reputation for being anti-social, because I'd be standing in the corner facing the wall like a weirdo, trying to stay in the scene! But it was just my way of feeling like I wasn't acting when the cameras were rolling.


Thinking about going forward and what's coming next, do you think you will return to the theatre, or maybe go back to music theatre? What are you envisaging for yourself?


You know what? I'm not ruling anything out; and I'm actually reading so much stuff at the moment. It probably won't be music theatre, but - and I say this every time, and I think it really winds up the fans - but I have a very strong desire to get back on stage. I've been hunting for the right play; because it's been a long time. I'm going to find something which I really want to do, and I'd love doing. And it will probably be something classical I think. I'm looking at quite a lot of smaller, independent movies with less special effects, as well. But yeah, I'm not ruling anything out.




(This post was edited by dernwyn on Nov 25 2013, 11:13pm)


Kim
Valinor


Nov 25 2013, 6:15pm

Post #2 of 23 (300 views)
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Excellent interview! [In reply to] Can't Post

Another really interesting read, thank you greendragon!


Thranderz
Rohan


Nov 25 2013, 6:21pm

Post #3 of 23 (287 views)
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A great interview! [In reply to] Can't Post

RA just seems like such a nice guy and I'm excited about the fact there might be more pick ups. I'm glad RA is excited about that too! Wink

I simply walked into Mordor.


Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Nov 25 2013, 6:22pm

Post #4 of 23 (294 views)
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This entire interview was interesting [In reply to] Can't Post

Thank you Greendragon, for asking some really thoughtful questions. I think a lot of us were wanting to hear more about how RA found his way to the Thorin we see on the screen. I find the process each actor uses fascinating. This interview seemed like a conversation between friends. So enjoyable to read!

Just one thing... Next time you interview Mr. Armitage, can I carry your notebook? Pencils? Tape recorder? Extra batteries? Blush

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings




Cirashala
Grey Havens


Nov 25 2013, 8:24pm

Post #5 of 23 (251 views)
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very interesting interview [In reply to] Can't Post

but do you think you could somehow edit out the gobbledegooks or whatever those odd characters are?

I got the general gist of it, but it was pretty difficult for me to read Unsure

Race is meaningless. We all bleed red-no matter who or what we are. What matters is the heart. For each race has those with good hearts and those with bad hearts. You have a good heart. You do not deserve to die.


Magpie
Immortal


Nov 25 2013, 8:29pm

Post #6 of 23 (245 views)
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the gobbedly gook is a glitch ... [In reply to] Can't Post

caused by posting articles written for the home page using Word Press also to the message boards. It can't be avoided or prevented. It happens and then someone fixes it.

When the mods (on the message boards) catch it, they edit it. If you want them to catch it sooner rather than later, you can post a request for clean up on the Feedback board. Be sure to provide a link to the post with your request. They are 100 times more likely to catch your request posted on Feedback than they are in this thread. You can consider it a service for all the other people who can't read it easily. :-)

Alternately, you can go to the home page to read it. It always looks fine there and, for me, I often prefer to read Home Page articles on the Home Page because the formatting in general is better than here on the message boards.


LOTR soundtrack website ~ magpie avatar gallery
TORn History Mathom-house ~ Torn Image Posting Guide

(This post was edited by Magpie on Nov 25 2013, 8:31pm)


Skaan
Lorien


Nov 25 2013, 8:30pm

Post #7 of 23 (235 views)
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Try reading it on the front page [In reply to] Can't Post

I also had a bit of trouble reading this untill i found out (too late, ofcourseTongue) the article on the front page doesn't have this problem.


Brethil
Half-elven


Nov 25 2013, 8:49pm

Post #8 of 23 (236 views)
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Great interview Greendragon! [In reply to] Can't Post

Intrigued by the stage idea. I should love to see him decide to stay in town and perform on/off Broadway. Cool

His point about him understanding and using 'taking the character to yourself or taking yourself to the character' is probably a part of why his roles stand out so much and seem like distinctly different people, not just the same actor in different clothes. An internal, spiritual aspect of method acting (I *guess*, not being one). Very effective and thrilled that he brings this all to Thorin.

The second TORn Amateur Symposium is running right now, in the Reading Room. Come have a look and maybe stay to chat!





Old Toby
Gondor


Nov 25 2013, 10:13pm

Post #9 of 23 (206 views)
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Terrific interview! [In reply to] Can't Post

As usual with RA! I love his comments about how he gets into and stays in character, and his methods by which he does that. He's such an interesting man, and gives great interviews. The questions were great too, btw, so thanks for asking them! I love the prospect of him doing more classical theater, particularly Shakespear! But of course, we will no doubt never get to see that here in the U.S. sigh.

"Age is always advancing and I'm fairly sure it's up to no good." Harry Dresden (Jim Butcher)


ShireHorse
Rohan

Nov 25 2013, 10:54pm

Post #10 of 23 (210 views)
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Well, since he lives in NYC now, [In reply to] Can't Post

I think it's just as likely that, if he did do a play, it would be on Broadway rather than London.


ShireHorse
Rohan

Nov 25 2013, 11:05pm

Post #11 of 23 (203 views)
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And I wonder what promise Thorin makes to Bard? [In reply to] Can't Post

"Thorin and I differ in our opinion about reneging on the deal with the men of the Lake; that fact that he promises them something and then reneges on that deal. I disagree with Thorin about that; but I have to play him, so … it’s kind of good to have that paradox."

You always get the feeling with RA that he is an 'honourable' person. And, if Thorin's broken promise bothered him, I'm sure that it will bother many in the audience and will, perhaps, mark one of the turning points when we begin to question what Thorin is doing.


Fàfnir
Rohan


Nov 25 2013, 11:09pm

Post #12 of 23 (200 views)
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I don't remember Thorin promising anything in the book [In reply to] Can't Post

i hope they don't add too much of the dragon sickness to the character just to make Bilbo look like "the good side"... because the fact that the end is problematic and that the characters behaviors aren't black and white is one of the thing that make the last part of the Hobbit so good


Glorfindela
Valinor


Nov 25 2013, 11:16pm

Post #13 of 23 (194 views)
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Yes, I absolutely agree with that [In reply to] Can't Post

These characters work best if they are multi-dimensional, not just 'good' or 'bad'. It is best to show that they have both weaknesses and strengths.


In Reply To
i hope they don't add too much of the dragon sickness to the character just to make Bilbo look like "the good side"... because the fact that the end is problematic and that the characters behaviors aren't black and white is one of the thing that make the last part of the Hobbit so good



dernwyn
Forum Admin / Moderator


Nov 25 2013, 11:21pm

Post #14 of 23 (174 views)
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All cleaned up. [In reply to] Can't Post

(I hope - there were a lot of apostrophes to catch!)


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"I desired dragons with a profound desire"






ShireHorse
Rohan

Nov 25 2013, 11:40pm

Post #15 of 23 (179 views)
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There's no promise in the book, [In reply to] Can't Post

In fact, the book shows the people of Lake Town encouraging the dwarves to retake the Mountain. The trailers show Bard (and Thranduil) afraid that Thorin will bring fire and destruction and they both seek to stop him. So, does Thorin promise not to go?

But, I agree with you and Glorfindela: I hope there is an even-handed approach to all the main characters.


Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Nov 25 2013, 11:42pm

Post #16 of 23 (176 views)
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I've often wondered... [In reply to] Can't Post

It's interesting to think about what an actor thinks about a specific character and what the author of the character thinks.

It has to be very different to create new on the page vs. taking who you are as a person and transforming into someone else. Character traits that may not stand out in an author's mind must get magnified in an actors mind if they are very different from their natural personality. I can see why RA, who seems to be a very nice, easy-going person, thinks he was grumpy on the set playing Thorin. To get from nice easy going to Thorin, he had to magnify something in himself that isn't there as much.

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings




Roheryn
Grey Havens

Nov 26 2013, 12:43am

Post #17 of 23 (167 views)
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Fantastic interview! [In reply to] Can't Post

Every time I read a good interview with RA, I'm more and more impressed with how intelligent, thoughtful, and interesting he is. I just love how carefully he approaches his acting, and how much time he invests in learning to inhabit each character he plays. I expect he'd be fantastic performing Shakespeare -- what a treat it would be to get to see him live on stage!

I giggled at his description of himself between takes, standing in the corner with his face to the wall "like a weirdo". Kudos to him for going to such lengths to give the best performance he could, clearly at the risk of being labelled anti-social by the other cast members and crew.

Thanks for asking such great questions, greendragon...this was a pleasure to read!


Dame Ioreth
Grey Havens


Nov 26 2013, 1:56am

Post #18 of 23 (162 views)
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This little doodle [In reply to] Can't Post

came up on my tumblr feed and I just had to pass it along.

Thorin in the corner

Where there's life there's hope, and need of vittles.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings




Kim
Valinor


Nov 26 2013, 2:25am

Post #19 of 23 (135 views)
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that's so great! thanks for sharing! :-) // [In reply to] Can't Post

 


Brethil
Half-elven


Nov 26 2013, 2:30am

Post #20 of 23 (137 views)
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Nobody puts Thorin in the corner...// [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
came up on my tumblr feed and I just had to pass it along.

Thorin in the corner


The second TORn Amateur Symposium is running right now, in the Reading Room. Come have a look and maybe stay to chat!





Brethil
Half-elven


Nov 26 2013, 4:00am

Post #21 of 23 (121 views)
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Yes and not easy to turn back 'on' I would guess [In reply to] Can't Post


In Reply To
It's interesting to think about what an actor thinks about a specific character and what the author of the character thinks.

It has to be very different to create new on the page vs. taking who you are as a person and transforming into someone else. Character traits that may not stand out in an author's mind must get magnified in an actors mind if they are very different from their natural personality. I can see why RA, who seems to be a very nice, easy-going person, thinks he was grumpy on the set playing Thorin. To get from nice easy going to Thorin, he had to magnify something in himself that isn't there as much.




So that effort had to go into preserving the persona by not interacting as 'Richard' without being his (I divine, quite charming) normal self because then Thorin has to be recreated all over again! So you can get deep characterization but at a price in the time between takes and perhaps over the shoot (?)

The second TORn Amateur Symposium is running right now, in the Reading Room. Come have a look and maybe stay to chat!





Old Toby
Gondor


Nov 26 2013, 4:03am

Post #22 of 23 (125 views)
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Okay he looks like he's peeing in the corner! [In reply to] Can't Post

Sorry, but really.....Tongue

"Age is always advancing and I'm fairly sure it's up to no good." Harry Dresden (Jim Butcher)


glor
Rohan

Nov 26 2013, 4:27pm

Post #23 of 23 (82 views)
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"we use the toilet and then, we leave" [In reply to] Can't Post

 

 
 

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