“But yeah, it’s worked out all right.”
Dwarf training for The Hobbit, from preproduction vlog #3, with Richard Armitage in foreground, about to slam down an exercise ball. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com
I don’t go into APM so severely these days, but I had a major occasion to relapse this week, when I read this:
ARMITAGE: No, it absolutely came to me. I didn’t really– I knew The Hobbit was being made, but I would never have connected myself with a dwarf. So, yeah, I didn’t really ever vie [! --believe? -ed.] that it would happen, I figured that why would they want a six-foot-two guy to play a dwarf. And even through the early days of rehearsal and shooting, I didn’t really unpack my bag for about three weeks, ’cause I thought that I was going to be on the plane going home. But yeah, it’s worked out all right.
Now, this is one of those quotations where you wonder what question Richard Armitage thought he was being asked, and where his thoughts were going while he was answering it. He has a tendency in interviews not to stay absolutely on point during his answers, which sometimes have a stream of consciousness quality that causes the answer to end quite somewhere other than where it started, and this interview really highlighted that feature of his speech.
I’m going to guess that Richard Armitage understood the interviewer to be asking, “Did you pursue this role actively or campaign for it, or did it just happen?” and that he wanted to say, “Although I was aware of the production, and wanted to be in it enough to audition for a role [as a dwarf] when given the opportunity, I did not go after it beyond that because I didn’t think I had a chance at being cast [since I thought that the people doing the casting would find me too tall for such roles.]” So, “No, it absolutely came to me” means “I was cast against my own expectation,” something he has said before.
(And when he ends by saying that “it’s worked out all right,” given the stream of the remark, you’re not sure if he’s saying: the way the role came to me has worked out all right, playing a dwarf as a tall man has worked out all right, or my acting has been of sufficient quality to sustain my place in the production.)
But the matter that triggered my APM was the second part of the answer, where he states that he thought he “was going to be on the plane going home.”
Really, Mr. Armitage? Perhaps this is the influence of the Armitage self-deprecation, layered over the British value of modesty. Or perhaps it’s a reflection of the periodic sense of amazement we’ve heard from you at the direction your career is going. But if this is a statement about an actual emotional state, ouch. I’d have to have a lot of information I don’t have to speculate as to whether this was a rational fear, but if you thought you might be going home, I wonder what was triggering that concern. Your knowledge of the Stuart Townsend story? Your awareness of statements by some Tolkien fans that asserted you had been miscast and that this would be realized during “dwarf camp“? Something in your contract that specified a probationary period? Your own fears that you wouldn’t be good enough?
Another possible answer: discomfort in the role during the initial weeks of filming, as reflected in the Empire Magazine interview (another example of how stream of consciousness gets him off topic, because the question was actually about whether he could keep himself from gawping at the sets while in character):
(Another note here — I loved in these interviews the occasional interpolation of the kind of statement Thorin might make — the smell of hobbit being unfamiliar to Smaug, or here the reference to the “stink of elf.”)
In the end, what he says about his discomfort gets back to an elliptical answer to the question (“the sets appeared so real to me that they succeeded in making Thorin feel uncomfortable in settings in which he instinctively felt that he didn’t belong” — and wow, Mr. Armitage, again, I think, you must have amazing powers of imagination), but that quote suggests he felt some dissatisfaction with his own performance, which also perhaps contributes something to an explanation of his occasional looks of discomfort in vlog #3, which I had previously attributed to embarrassment in response to John Rhys-Davies’ remarks about the increase in female interest that the actors playing dwarves could expect.
Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) with John Rhys-Davies in the set of the interior of Bilbo’s home at Bag End, from preproduction vlog #3 for The Hobbit. Source: RichardArmitageNet.com
In any case, Mr. Armitage, Philippa Boyens knew from the moment you opened your mouth that you were right in the role.
And we could tell you were working so hard. So hard.
And we never doubted you.
So, yeah, Mr. Armitage, it has worked out all right.
I imagine there’s going to be a fair amount now of parsing of everything that was reported this work. For an informative comment on Armitage’s taste in Wellington bars, go here.