As fans, we so enjoy the storytelling of British actor Richard Armitage [(1) right]–with us easily becoming immersed in the worlds he creates and engaged with the characters he brings to life–one might sometimes forget that a lot of work goes into making it all seem so effortless. And we have all probably read or heard interview bits in one form or another about Mr. Armitage’s acting and storytelling craft from his in print and broadcast interviews over the years.
But for me, one print interview that interweaves several of those threads together as it delves into Richard Armitage’s process is by Moira at Vulpes Libris from July 8, 2009 in an article titled “In Conversation with: Richard Armitage” [(2) left and below]. Here are a few quoted excerpts from the Vulpes Libris interview with Richard Armitage:
“VL: First of all, welcome to Vulpes Libris and thank you very much for making time to talk to us. Straight on with the first question – what, if anything, did you read as a child?
RA: Tolkien – Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit; Roald Dahl – Danny the Champion of the World, James and the Giant Peach; Steven King – IT; CS Lewis.
VL: What do you enjoy reading now – for pleasure, rather than in connection with your work? And what are you reading now?
RA: Most reading time is tied into work related research so for Spooks, lots of Frederick Forsyth, John Le Carré, and Robert Ludlum.
Biography: I’m currently reading Heath Ledger’s biography, Michael Gambon’s A Life in Acting and Blake by Peter Ackroyd.”
“VL: Now, you were born on August the 22nd and your given name is Richard. I believe those two facts are not completely disconnected – and that there are plans afoot for a bit of Richard III rehabilitation. Can you tell us a little more about it?
RA: I was named Richard being born on the anniversary of Richard III’s demise at Bosworth; one of my father’s favourite novels is The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman, and I read this many years ago. In recent years it has lead to a tentative interest and line of research into the rehabilitation of this story. As an actor, it’s a project I would love to achieve. I believe it is a great story, a socio-political thriller, a love story and a dynastic tragedy. My challenge is to convince commercial producers to see beyond ‘history lesson’, but I strongly suspect that this will be a long way off, probably outside of my ability to play the role, but I wouldn’t rule out playing another role, I may even be producing by the time someone wakes up and realizes the potential for this project.”
(Okay, this is also a “shameless” plug for the group who are reading “The Sunne in Splendour” [(3) right] who begin their discussions today (Sept. 30, 2012) after reading the first five chapters of the book. I am endeavoring to join this discussion–I just have to read those chapters. Ha! Click here for general information about the group book read and discussion taking place at Armitage Watch [(4)].)
“VL: I think you may have had a just a little to do with it, but never mind … we’ll move swiftly on to the next question. One of the interesting aspects of your acting is your insistence on the importance of a back-story for your characters. You seem to take delight in creating this background and exercising your imagination on where your character has come from and what makes him tick. Inside the actor, might there be a writer waiting to come out?
RA: Possibly. Although, I work backwards from someone else’s framework. When I write my character biography, it takes the form of a diary/novel, which moves between first and third person, sometimes second. Its good to talk ‘to’ your character, as well as ‘for’ and ‘about’. But this is all research, and the moment when it comes alive is when that research turns into the character, and that character goes out into the big wide world and collides with other characters (often the facets created in the biography are designed to cause chaos when this happens, like planting a few explosions inside the character).
I think writing is solitary; I like the interaction of a scene with another character. That’s why you will never see me in a one-man show.”
“VL: Casting a quick eye down your CV, I have to say there’s a bit of a lack of jolly, cheery characters. John Standring, John Thornton, Guy of Gisborne, Lucas North … not exactly little sunbeams, any of them. The only recent exception was Harry Kennedy – who married the Vicar of Dibley. Now, I believe that in life you’re actually quite a cheerful soul – more like Harry than Lucas – so, are you drawn to darker characters because they’re more interesting to play … or are you just not offered happy chappies?
RA: I think I am drawn to darker characters because I am quite a cheerful person; there are more questions to ask of these characters. Having said that I think even when playing Harry Kennedy, my biography was quite dark, he was running away from something, from the dark to the light, and he found Geraldine! I think once an actor has been relatively successful in a genre, they are asked to repeat it. I try not to do this, but if the character is appealing then it’s worth exploring. I always look for good within bad and vice versa. That’s what appeals to me about Richard III. The villain, the hunchback, child murdering, usurping monster – I want to try and find the man who loved Anne Neville, passionately, from childhood until death, who was inconsolable at the loss of his only son and who put in place the ‘even handed’ judicial system, which we enjoy today; and then have him ‘slaughter’ the Princes in the Tower. It’s all about contradictions.”
“VL: It’s become a custom on Vulpes for us to ask our guests to name their five favourite books – and give reasons. The floor is yours. Just be sure to give it back …
RA: The Lord of the Rings: the best adventure novel for a 12-year-old boy. A ‘road movie’. I was playing one of the Elves in a school play at the time (researching even back then).
Danny The Champion of the World: the first book where I realized I wasn’t reading words to make sense, just imagining the story in my mind.
The Sunne in Splendour: Slightly over blown but much needed antithesis of Shakespeare’s villain,
North and South: I don’t think I need to say why with this one.
Crime and Punishment: Intellectually aspirational read, which turned into a fascination with dark characters, (read this whilst prepping to play Macbeth at drama school, researching the nature of the guilty mind and the unraveling of a good man who does a bad deed, which then escalates into the creation of a full blown violent criminal).”
For more of this Vulpes Libris interview, I encourage you to visit the article [(1)] at:
P.S. And I have to say it, that Richard Armitage’s mention The Hobbit book in the 2009 Vulpes Libris interview and his connection to the book as a young child growing up seems startlingly prescient given his current role as Thorin Oakenshield [(5) right] in the upcoming three “The Hobbit” films. Perhaps portraying Thorin is a dream come true for him as quoted below from Armitage’s views from the very first broadcast interview of him about his role as Thorin Oakenshield at The Hobbit Press Conference in February 2011. Below is a partial quoted excerpt of what Mr. Armitage had to say via bccmee2’s transcription and then her video below it
[(6) courtesy of bccmee2]:
“Richard Armitage: I just think it’s just a really amazing opportunity to take a character from a book that I was brought to as a child. I mean my first experience onstage was in a production of The Hobbit.
Martin Freeman: Really?
Richard Armitage: At the Alexandra Theatre in Birmingham. And I played an elf. And Gollum was a little papier-mâché puppet with a man offstage on a microphone.
Off-camera: Michael Sheehan, then?
Richard Armitage: Yeah, his voice was not that much different. So it’s kind of been in my childhood very prominently so to come to it as an adult, a middle-aged man, and have another look at it is a brilliant opportunity.”
1) The 2009 Richard Armitage promotional image is from http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Richard/Promos/2009%20Promo/slides/NewHeadshotHigh.html
2) The July 8, 2009 Vulpes Libris interview by Moira “In Conversation with: Richard Armitage” was found at http://vulpeslibris.wordpress.com/2009/07/08/in-conversation-with-richard-armitage/
3) The Sunne in Splendour book by Sharon Kay Penman book cover was found at http://meandrichard.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/images.jpg; for purchase, it may be found at http://www.amazon.com/The-Sunne-In-Splendour-ebook/dp/B003XYERRM/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1348973185&sr=1-1&keywords=the+sunne+in+splendour
4) General info about the read and discussion on the Me + Richard Armitage web site (scroll down) is found at http://meandrichard.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/i-havent-forgotten-you-richard-iii/; for the Armitage watch direct link for the discussions on Twitter, visit http://armitagewatch.blogspot.com/2012/09/the-sunne-in-splendour-splendid-new.html
5) Image of Richard Armitage portraying Thorin Oakenshield in the three “The Hobbit” films was found at http://www.richardarmitagenet.com/images/gallery/Hobbit/HobbitStills/album/slides/38-Thorin-CharacterScroll.html; “The Hobbit” wallpaper generator with the characters scroll released 9/29/12 is found at http://apps.warnerbros.com/thehobbit/wallpapergenerator/
6) The Hobbit Interview video transcription by bccmee2 is found at http://fanvideos.wordpress.com/hobbit/ ; the video itself, “Richard Armitage Bits at The Hobbit Press Conference” on February 11, 2011 is also found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSq2FkxsDoQ&feature=player_embedded