Another interesting thing from Eric Vespe’s report …

… (for me) was this: “Sir Ian had to be here for this moment since a full performance was required from both men, so he spent the day as he does most days on this movie: standing on a platform a good 2-3 feet off the ground. Peter was getting mostly medium shots and over the shoulders (or beside the shoulder for the shots from Gandalf to Thorin if you want to be anal about it) so there shouldn’t be any need for digital augmentation here.”

[ETA: corrections.]

Speaking of the issue I referred to yesterday with regard to hooking up news to context, the tidbit above hooked itself up in my mind with this photo:

Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen Paul Randall, and someone else Mark Hadlow, rehearsing for The Hobbit, screencap from Peter Jackson’s vlog #4. Source:

and with this one:

The same. Source:

It occurred to me that most of the time he’s acting Armitage is probably not looking up or even necessarily straight across to his fellow actors. That may be another novelty that he had to accommodate himself to. I wonder about this particularly because of his statements about his suddenly acquired height as an aspect of his personality:

In the summer he was 14, Richard shot up to six feet two over the school holidays. It was a shock. Suddenly, he was treated like a man. ‘I’ve never been that cute kid that was forgiven for being naughty.’

Although he looked like an adult, inside he felt like a little boy. ‘I think, to an extent, I still do. I’m ten years behind, but I’m finally growing into myself now,’ he says.

He made a similar comment in 2010 about being tall keeping him out of conversations, letting people perceive him as aloof, and wishing to be about 5’8″. Of course, being 5’8″ myself, I don’t want him to shrink, but it’s an interesting and a revealing comment.

Height and interpersonal negotiations around it make up one aspect of status transactions in our society, and I think that one factor in Armitage’s choice to play Guy of Gisborne so consistently hunched up in the first episodes of Robin Hood must have been the fact that Keith Allen is noticeably shorter. It contributes to our impression of his “robotic” subordination that the tall, lanky Guy is consistently ducking, bunching up his shoulders, and hanging his head whenever we see him with the Sheriff.

Guy (Richard Armitage) and the Sheriff (Keith Allen) in Locksley Village in Robin Hood 1.2. Source:

And then, of course, there’s the matter of what he needs to do with Marian in terms of body language.

Guy of Gisborne (Robin Hood) begins his marriage proposal to Marian in Robin Hood 1.7. Source:

Armitage is a lot taller than Griffiths so he has a natural advantage, and Guy’s insistence that Marian marry him in series 1 is communicated by a combination of top-down coercion — and grasping at her shoulders to compel her when he’s at her eye level. But by series 2, he seems to have realized the folly of that stance, and what’s interesting is that even as he has Marian in his power to a greater extent than before, he has adopted a new stance with her that points in a slightly different direction:

Guy of Gisborne (Richard Armitage) proposes to Marian (Lucy Griffiths) in Robin Hood 2.10. Source:

He gets the maximum mileage out of the amazing space between his irises and the lower eyelid here — making him look even more the supplicant.

The challenge for the Thorin role, of course, is maintaining the kingly charisma of the dwarf while losing the status transaction as it relates to height to Gandalf automatically every time. It’s a fascinating problem, and one I’d love to hear him talk about in interviews (hint, hint, journalists).

No, I didn’t force my TA to stand on a platform during our meeting today in order to test out how interacting with people at a different height affects the interaction, but I do remember very clearly my feelings while studying abroad in México. The average Mexican guy I was meeting at the university was shorter than the average U.S. guy I was meeting on my own campus, and it took me awhile to realize what was going on. I felt like I was gaining authority while I was studying there. Now, of course, some of that probably had to do with racial / cultural issues and the way that one is perceived as a (relative to most Mexicans wealthy and white) foreigner, but some of it had to do with height. I remember when I flew back to the U.S. at the end of the period, that suddenly I was feeling a lessening of authority in speaking to men again — and I’m sure that it had to do with the fact that I was no longer at eye-to-eye level with most of the men I was speaking to, but that many to most of them were taller than me.

[ETA: I wanted to mention, but was getting kicked out of Sbux: I also perceive that I have a very different status as lecturer when I’m speaking on eye level with students seated in front of me or students in desks when I’m standing, as opposed to when I’m at the “bottom” of a very large stadium-seated classroom. It makes a big difference in how I approach the task of teaching. I personally prefer one of the first two situations.]


I’m still vidding Guy. I’m pleased with the result, but it is taking forever.


It’s that time of year again: a point at which we think about the needs of others in the midst of gratitude for the gifts we have received. Here’s a link to Mr. Armitage’s recommended charities at JustGiving and a link to Act!onAid, a child sponsorship organization for which he recorded a voiceover in December 2010. In 2011, Mr. Armitage also participated in fundraising efforts for Christchurch Earthquake Appeal. You can also generate a donation by doing any or Book Depository shopping that you do for the holidays via, or or shopping via, as these fansites both donate earned commission to charities that Armitage has endorsed. Fans have also donated in honor of Armitage to Oxfam International.

~ by Servetus on December 6, 2011.

35 Responses to “Another interesting thing from Eric Vespe’s report …”

  1. When I was teaching I felt that I could often communicate better with a recalcitrant child if I brought myself down to eye level with them as I talked. I can remember feeling my authority was sometimes questioned more with the older children, 11/12 years old, who were taller than me, as if they felt they had the advantage over me, rather than them just being at the age where they try to push your buttons.

    In some shots of Gandalf with others, possibly here too, it’s not Ian McKellen on a box, but a stand-in they call Tall Paul, who seems to be about 7+ feet in height. I read somewhere that apparently even in a profile shot, he looks remarkably like IM. I guess it’s all about getting the proportions right without resorting to computer magic, just as I believe there are 14 short-statured actors who stand in for the dwarves for some scenes.
    In the vblog#4, at about 5:18 mins in, as the dwarves are following Gandalf, I would say that is Tall Paul in the lead. (I hope someone corrects me if I am wrong about all this!!)


    • Indeed Mezz, those shots with Thorin and Dori (Mark Hadlow) were not filmed with Ian McKellen but with his scale double (who we later learned was Paul Randall, or Tall Paul). Now we know how they are managing to mix Gandalf with the “World’s Tallest Dwarf” without having to greenscreen every shot.

      As far as how this affects Thorin’s feeling of self importance by being shorter than his co-star: Just remember, dwarves see themselves as the perfect height. Everyone else is too short or too tall. 🙂


      • Strange enough, in the book height is hardly ever an issue. I tend to forget that those are no humans and that they are shorter than humans or elves. For the matter, age is not an issue either, apart from Kili and Fili being the youngest, I never got the impression that Thorin is close to his death bed and that this mission is his last. However, much is made of the long beards…


        • there’s the problem of the human audience interface with the dwarf species. They are not humans and must seem foreign to us, but their behavior also has to be at least recognizable to us.


      • DarkJackal, I think the issue for the actor is abandoning the way that status transactions work in human society, as such status transactions are considered fundamental matters in acting (among the first lessons that trained actors study). Perhaps we could say that Armitage then doesn’t have to abandon his self-image as someone who’s tall, except that he doesn’t seem to be particularly comfortable with his height. It’s a really complex problem.


    • Seems like another complicating factor in this acting is actor / double interaction. I.e., Armitage acting with McKellen, but doing at least some rehearsing with Paul Randall.


  2. i think it is “Tall Paul” that we see in pictures 1 and 2 as mentioned in Eric Vespe’s report of November 24th and the “someone else” is, I believe, Mark Hadlow who plays the part of Dori. Tall Paul, according to IMBd is 7′ 1″ so is almost a foot taller than Mr A. even though in these shots he looks considerably taller than that! Of course that pointy hat may just be adding to the illusion! 🙂 It might feel nice for him to have to look up at someone while they converse for a change instead of the other way round.


  3. Yes, I am sure it is an adjustment after being used to being the giraffe in the room, so to speak. May I say once again, that is a fine-looking dwarf on the left. Somehow, I just know he’s gonna take on all the challenges of this role and nail it. (It’s still a year to go, isn’t it?! ) It would be fascinating to hear from Richard how he is approaching these particular challenges, wouldn’t it? Oh, and I made a charitable donation today as my gift to Richard. Not a big one, because I am “on the dole,” but enough that it should help someone in need.


    • Oh, I think the dwarf on the right is very fine looking (for a dwarf) as well. I have to say, after the first euphoria about this role, I’m reversing judgement until the movie is out and I can see it myself and see how it is received. I won’t take for granted that he will blow everyone away with his performance. The stakes are very high, he will be measured against the best of his craft. This time he is up against Sir Ian McKellen, not against Jonas Armstrong. (It is encouraging that EV praised RA’s acting but only mentioned that Sir Ian stood on a box, though)

      Reading the book and trying to imagine it on screen I also think it is excellent material to base a stunning looking fantasy film on, with regards to acting, story telling and character development I’m not so sure. I know PJ will flesh out the characters more, and he deserves credit for trying, but this is another point on which I reverse judgement. We will have to wait and see if it works and whom he fleshes out and how. Bringing more substance to the other dwarves and supporting characters may be at Thorin’s expense.


      • It is very encouraging about Eric’s comments in regards RA. I thought, “Wow, he’s got Ian there and he’s giving Richard attention!” Not what you would expect.

        Skepticism is warranted given the story was a children’s tale (of sorts). There is an inconsistent nature to the narrative (which is one place where PJ can improve) and even to the characterizations, but this allows some leeway in choosing what to focus on film-wise.


    • Thanks for doing that, Angie — I’m sure he’s grateful and I am, too.


  4. Interesting the different ways they achieve the illusion of the height difference between Gandalf and the dwarves and hobbit. I’m also very much looking forward to RA talking about all of his experiences, and that’s maybe why I’m really looking forward to all the DVD extras that Peter Jackson I know will have for us maybe even more than the movie – Ha! As you say, as someone who has talked about the issues of being the tallest actor in the room, I wonder if he’s enjoying this new “reality”.


  5. I do like that the production includes “old tech” – putting an actor on a box, instead of all CGI. (Once read of Alan Ladd having to stand on crate for love scenes.)
    Height perspective to the individual is quite revealing in relating to the world. I admit that as one who has always had a crick in the neck from looking up, I hadn’t had much sympathy for tall people. But, I did – once – try 4-inch sandals, and was amazed at the different sense of self – not quite on eye level with most people, but much more equal!

    @Jane, I relate to your reserving judgement on the Thorin performance. Expectations are high, and I’ve no doubt the performance will be exceptional, but it is an ensemble and high-valuejf value film


    • It’s interesting how we absorb other people’s reactions to us. I have a feeling that I am particularly sensitive in this regard, but maybe not, as I read other people relating their experiences.


  6. Whoops, WordPress did something that didn’t allow continuing. Long enough, anyway, perhaps it will bring Mr. Armitage to the attention of other creative and excellent producers and directors – that’s what I wish for the actor.


  7. A couple of years ago did a piece on non-CGI special effects and #6 on their list was the Lord of the Rings trilogy. It’s really fascinating.


  8. I feel I might have to view the Hobbit alone because I shall be so very nervous that I will not enjoy the experience as I think I ought,


    • LOL, sapphire, that was how I felt about Captain America.


      • I watched my new dvd of CA last night for the first time and was practically sitting on the edge of my seat waiting for Richard to appear. When he did, I pointed at the screen and yelled out “there he is!” Luckily I was home alone at the time! Slightly worried now about sitting in a theatre full of people to see TH for the first time…


  9. Hi Servetus brilliant post as always. What I really wanted to say was Thank You for sorting the DF site for me. Went on there last night stories are awsome. I’m in heaven so Thanks Again


  10. Love the analyze of the two proposals – had never thought of the differents.


  11. It’s so funny how he talks about being underdeveloped when it comes to relationships:)


    • It sounds to me like something someone told him about himself. There are a few things like that where I think, “why would you say that about yourself if you hadn’t heard it elsewhere?” that occasionally pop up in his interviews.


  12. As a woman who is as tall if not taller than most men, I’ve have to agree with the thoughts behind your post. I also noticed that S1 Guy tended to slouch down more and I took it to be a self-esteem issue. I have noticed that with men over 6’4″ I don’t feel as powerful and that I have to try harder. With men 6’0″-6’3″ I feel as an equal and with men under 6’0″ I have noticed that I (unfortunately) tend to not take as serious as I should. I once dated a man several inches shorter than I and ended up treating him like a child and not an adult. It’s also interesting that I don’t like to date men taller than 6’3″ because I can’t deal with the perceived imbalance of power.


    • When I read that quote in the newspaper for the first time my heart beat for him — I was at my adult height at 13.

      Interesting insights about how height impacts your romantic life. I have tended to date men who were either the same height or no more than an inch taller. I like looking guys in the eyes.


  13. Thoughtful post as always. I agree that it would be really interesting to hear his perspective on how it is different to be looking up at people rather than down in this film. I know that personally, I feel a difference in personal interaction on the rare occasions that I’m talking to someone taller than me. It will be interesting to see how or if this change factors into his performance.


  14. I’ve edited this post slightly to reflect your information / corrections.


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