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Interview: Richard Armitage of 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey'

'Tolkien's description of Thorin terrified me ...'

By James Rocchi Dec 13, 2012 6:48PM

In "The Hobbit," British actor Richard Armitage plays Dwarven prince-in-exile Thorin Oakenshield, clad not only in legend and tradition but also in special-effects makeup and machinations that make him a shorter, stouter presence; sitting down with him in New York, he's almost unrecognizable. We spoke with Armitage about how clothes (and weapons) make the hero, the life of a dwarf and taking part in Tolkien's adventures.


MSN Movies: Your character, you get these great introductions, you're brought in and you've got all of the gear, the sword, the shield. How great is that to have those things as an actor to build a character out of?


Richard Armitage: Tolken described Thorin as a legendary warrior and a very important dwarf, which were two descriptions that terrified me. But then you get kitted up with this incredible set of tools that you just described, and they give you a body to operate. The entire face of Thorin is created by Weta Digital and Peter and Fran and Phillipa. It's great to be collaborating in that look, and even down to the arsenal of weapons that these dwarves carry, we had some input. But yeah, it's thrilling, and I love the transformation of a character losing yourself visually inside a character like Thorin.


I mean, this is an adventure story. It's very different from the epic war story of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. When Gandalf hands you the magical key that opens the door to your great grandfather's lost kingdom, is it hard not to have a little, "Yeah!" moment, like that's a nice bit of storytelling to be part of?


BING: Richard Armitage l Thorin Oakenshield

I really loved that moment when we shot it. You know there is a description of Gandalf and Thorin meeting elsewhere before prior to Bag End and that they've had a conversation before. It's kind of detailed, but I thought that perhaps it was better to have that conversation inside Bag End and not imagine that there was another one. And I think the key is a surprise to Thorin. I think that he suspected there was a secret door but the whole notion of a riddle of how to open that door is something that eludes him, and then the appearance of this key means we can do this; we can actually sneak in the back door and take the dragon by surprise.


Have you had the chance to see the film on the big screen yet, or are you looking forward to taking family members to it again?  


I've seen it three times, and I've had three completely different reactions to it so I'm really looking forward to the next few times that I see it. My next time I hope will be in IMAX because I want to see it in a big format.


Was the first time like, "Was that me?" Was it just shock at all the magic that puts your performance up on the screen in such a different way where you can still see you under it?


You're slowly introduced to yourself throughout the post-production process, so I did get used to what I look like through ADR, my dubbing and etcetera. What's fascinating is looking at the finished image and looking at everyone else's work but particularly what Weta Digital have done and particularly with things like water, the waterfalls and river because all of that is digital, and digital water is incredibly difficult to create. And I find it mesmerizing the scale of the work that they've done.


For more on "The Hobbit," watch our two video interviews with the cast and crew: 

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