‘Is your first question going to be, ‘You’re very tall for a dwarf’?”
Sitting down to lunch at Pastis with Richard Armitage, it’s instantly evident why this query has been dogging the British actor lately. A lanky, handsome guy whose looks recall a wilier, more aerodynamic Hugh Jackman, Armitage is quite the physical opposite of Thorin Oakenshield, the dwarf leader he portrays in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Peter Jackson’s soon-to-be-blockbuster prequel to his Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Between bites of steak tartare washed down with a glass of Coke, Armitage describes how one navigates working on the set of such a highly anticipated production. “When it’s your workplace and you get your own head into the character and you know what it is you need to do on one particular day, you just focus in on the small amount of contribution that you have to give. And Peter [Jackson] is very good at making it feel intimate in the middle of that huge operation.”
Jackson also has added a certain innovative cinematic wrinkle this time around, shooting the film not only in 3-D, but at 48 frames as opposed to the standard 24. “It looks amazing,” Armitage assures. “I can’t even begin to tell you. It’s going to be a leap forward, and I think that when people get used to it they won’t want to watch a film in any other format. It’s so immersive. People think 3-D is a gimmick—things leap out, swords come flying at you—but it’s not like that at all. It’s just this incredible depth.”
As we chat, it becomes clear I am catching someone at a uniquely exhilarating moment in his career, someone who has put in the work and is now seemingly poised for all the trappings that come with starring in a massive franchise film. “If this opportunity had come to me 10 years ago, I would not have survived,” Armitage says. “I wouldn’t have known what to do with it. Now I feel like I’ve got an opinion to bring to it, my own interpretation of the character and the book, but other things as well, attitudes that I think we can make resonate with a contemporary audience: honor, loyalty, nobility, corruption.”
In his hometown of London, Armitage is a familiar face, in large part due to his work on the hit BBC series Spooks. “What’s really weird is when someone comes up and just puts a camera in your face without saying hello,” he says. “But it’s part of the job. You take it, and you laugh about it; you can’t get too upset.” And after watching him order a second glass of Coke, quickly followed by a double espresso, it occurs to me that this is a man who means business. But then again, this is the same guy rumored to have run off and joined the circus as a teenager. “I did join a circus,” Armitage confirms, “but I never ran away. I was 19 and needed an Equity card.”
One would imagine that when making a film like The Hobbit, there would be an overarching awareness of what was to come, in the form of future projects and opportunities, but Armitage says otherwise. "You just don’t think about that. You don’t think about anything other than the day you’re in and maybe the next day, because there’s so much to think about, you can’t have your head anywhere else other than in this exact moment.” An excellent m.o., to be sure, but this turn as a dwarf certainly has the potential to make a colossal impact on Armitage’s career.
Source and typed up by me :)