We Got This Covered: What was it like joining the already established unit of cast and crew members from the Lord of the Rings trilogy?
Richard Armitage: From the very beginning, every family member of mine was invited to set. If possible, Pete would dress them up in costume and put them on set so that they were taking part in the film. The people that came back from the Rings trilogy, it was like Pete was connecting both of us and giving oxygen to our film. It fed us in every way you can possibly think of. There are people I haven’t worked with that I feel I have worked with in a way. Cate Blanchett, sadly I never had a scene with her. I begged them to give me a scene with Galadriel. The way that Peter draws in that loyalty, and the way those people come back to him again and again, I just took took in a bit of that and kept it.
We Got This Covered: After being pegged as a UK heartthrob, were you happy to play a scraggly, bearded character with messy dreadlocks in your international debut?
Richard Armitage: I always said to myself, I look better in the dark and I look better dirty, and I think it’s true. It’s not about what you look like, it’s just the atmoshpere that it creates. I think I have a face that suits a half shadow rather than full daylight. Part of the thrill of playing Thorin was the transformation that he goes through. The scenes where his face is beaten, I love that.
We Got This Covered: How was working with Sir Ian McKellen?
Richard Armitage: He’s a delightful man. Whenever I had to be antagonistic or aggressive to him there’s a always a pack of guilt inside of me that says, don’t be to rough on Gandalf. It’s fascinating how Ian works, because every take that he does is kind of nuanced in a different way. You can’t quite detect what he’s doing differently, there’s just something in his eyes, and I found that inspiring.
We Got This Covered: Who is your favorite charcater in the Lord of the Rings universe?
Richard Armitage: Grima Wormtongue, that slimy, grisly character is my kind of role.
We Got This Covered: What was it like working with Peter Jackson?
Richard Armitage: Peter is a very gentle directer, you don’t really know he’s directing you. He doesn’t point or shout, or tell you where to stand. He kind of guides you dowm a set road and often uses other actors to do it. He’ll have a quite conversation with somebody who than walks onto the scene and does something to you. You don’t know you’re being workled upon, it’s actually Peter using his characters to draw you down a line. His vision, the way he describes the world you are about to enter, is like a child getting excited about something that they’ve just seen or imagined. Of course he gets his concept artists to show you pictures after. I don’t ever rememebr seeing a green screen, because my head was filled with Pete’s dragon bursting through the door. For some reason you just see it, his imagination is so vivid, you just see it. I actually said to Pete, if this is the last piece of work i ever do, I’ll be a happy man with a happy exit. If I never work again, I’ve had the most fulfilling experience an actor could ever have with this role.
We Got This Covered: What was the dynamic of working with Andy Serkis as second unit like and how noticeable was Guillermo del Toro’s input in the film?
Richard Armitage:: Using a second unit is about mopping up old shots of people picking things off tables, but Andy’s unit was just as exciting to work with as Peter’s unit. It was just as creative and I think there are incredible shots in the film that are all his work. Andy’s understanding of Middle-Earth and being in it benefited what we did. He’s just as relentless as Peter is, he pushes actors and has no sympathy. You want a director who says your doing three more takes. I don’t know about the residue of del Toro’s work because I never saw what was his and what wasn’t, and I think that’s right. I do suspect that there is a certain creature left in the film that is all del Toro. I’ll leave that up to you to decide. It’s seamless though because they have similar tastes.
We Got This Covered: How do you maintain the illusion of a character that is so universally identifiable to fans?
Richard Armitage: By always staying true to the novel. I’m one of the fans that doesn’t want to see this character ruined by some idiot actor that thinks he knows better than Tolkien. I always had the book throughout filming, if ever I got lost I always looked back on it. It was the only way I could honor the character.
We Got This Covered: Are you ready for the international exposure you’re about to get?
Richard Armitage: I just do the work I do and try to do it well. I still hope that I can ride the subway, and I think I will. I don’t think I look particularity like Thorin. I just hope people enjoy the film and maybe if I get recognized in the street, fingers crossed, they might come up to me and say you did a good job.
We Got This Covered: Did you keep any props?
Richard Armitage: On the last day of shooting I was given the orcrist and the oakenshield….and the key Erebor…..and the map. So I can go on that journey and do it.
That concludes our interview but we’d like to thank Richard very much for talking with us. Be sure to check out The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in theatres this Friday.