“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:

Was this a role that you went after? Did it come after you?

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.

~ by Servetus on October 28, 2012.

64 Responses to ““But yeah, it’s worked out all right.””

  1. Oh, I think it’s going to work out to be far more than just all right, dearest Rich. I wondered, too, how much of the events on the set of LOTR and the complaints of some fans played into his feelings as expressed in the interviews. Whatever, I am glad he finally found his comfort zone, so to speak. And I never had a doubt, ever, that he could pull it off.

    I believe in the Power of the Armitage, and the Armitage Effect. 😉

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    • I think his behavior in San Diego suggests that he has gained a LOT of confidence in the last two years. I can only wish him more and more of that. It’s rough to think what you do isn’t good enough (as you know, one of my defining fears, and probably why I targeted this issue for discussion first).

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  2. God love him! The man is so humble.

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  3. Of all the stuff that has been released over the last few days, it is Armitage’s stated fear that he would be sacked that has played on my mind most. It hadn’t occurred to me as i assumed the more time PJ spent with RA the more impressed he would be. But in light of the Stuart Townsend story (which i didn’t know) such a fear could be well founded – with Tolkien fans vocalising their view that RA was miscast and RA’s own knowledge (from the time he was passed over for the role in Cats that he had understudied for 6 months) that life is not fair, particularly in show business. This is a break through role – it has taken him from being a British TV actor into film star territory and however modest he is about not being a ‘film star’ he must know that it is a seminal moment. He is a hard working man who appears to have turned little work down – maybe with that actors dread that their current job is their last one. He burnt his boats with the Strike Back production to free himself up for TH – imagine the humiliation of finding yourself suddenly cut adrift after being cast with such fanfare. No wonder he was anxious.

    As for the wandering interview style – i wonder if it comes from a desire to offer the interviewer/ reader something new and interesting, rather than wheeling out the same stories over and over as some movie stars do. He’s clearly an intelligent man who thinks deeply and this is reflected in his answers. I also wonder if it is a clever way of deflecting questions that pry too closely about the real RA.

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    • I agree that the pressure to succeed must have been enormous!

      I answer fairly complicated questions for a living, and it’s definitely an art, to know how to keep yourself on point while giving a long answer. Don’t get me wrong — I love these glimpses into him that we get from what he says — but some of these answers are IMO still *way* too unguarded. If he wanted not to say anything about the real RA here, he failed miserably.

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      • Good to hear that from you because I am very wary of everything said in those PR-interviews. One would think they have answers prepared for everything, carefully worked out by PR experts. I like that one journalist described RA as coming across as honest and almost shy and endearing because of that.

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        • well, we could ask (and I bet we will, very shortly) more about the Richard Armitage whom Richard Armitage plays when he’s in public. There’s also an art to appearing honest. (cf. Baldesar Castiglione, The Book of the Courtier …) So I suppose if it’s also a mask it’s a very well constructed one.

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          • I don’t think it’s possible to keep up a perfect mask over the years. Otherwise all actors would do it, I suppose. At some point the true personality shines through, or at least glimpses of it. When you watch Richard during interviews, listen to what he has got to say and how he says it and take into consideration how all his collegues praise him, I’d say he really comes across as an honest, authentic person.

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    • I agree with you bollyknickers, that’s the way I see and feel about what he’s said in the recent interviews. Stuart Townsend hasn’t worked much in any major movie since the LOTR incident, and some of the reasons I’m sure are LOTR related, so it was a real fear for RA I’m sure. I love the fact that you almost can never predict what RA is going to say and how he’s going to answer a question.

      I also love and truly admire the fact that he is humble/modest and questions and doubts. Makes him work harder, but also maybe feel more satisfied at the end for the struggle. I think it’s refreshing that he’s modest. Too many people in this world think they are are “great” and have oodles of “self-esteem” with little or no reason to do so about everything they do, and I think in general we have suffered consequences of this especially in the business RA is in.

      I don’t believe it is a “mask” meant to mislead us in any way for Armitage, I think it is who he is, though we all have different personas we show to the world, at work, online, and even to our family and friends, even if not being interviewed for publication. My belief is he knows he’s a good actor, but he knows he can be better, so he works at being better, at being great.

      Also agree with all of you that had not doubt he was the perfect choice for Thorin and that he would succeed. I also knew from the first that he would.

      I’ve said too much already about what I think in this place, I didn’t intend to say much at all, only to agree with bollyknickers 🙂

      Great discussion.

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      • Say all you like. I like long comments. (Or I wouldn’t write such long posts.) I think there’s a difference between modesty and lacking self-confidence, but also that it’s hard to know always where that line is.

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      • I like that analogy – that we all have different persona’s depending on the circumstances and dynamic. I think ‘mask’ implies a deception and i don’t think RA is being deceptive but he has stated that he would prefer us not to know too much about who he really is, partly because that might impact on how his work is viewed. I have held a suspicion for a while that RA is always ‘in character’ when he does an interview – for me there are significant differences between (for example) what he said in the Cold Feet publicity and his persona in the N&S publicity. I don’t think it can all be down to experience because both those interviews were done early in his career. When he said that the real RA would never appear on TV i think he was talking about more than Strictly Come Dancing.

        There is a big difference between modesty and (a lack of) confidence. Sometimes those who make the most noise have the least confidence – their extravert natures needing external affirmation. Whilst introverts can be quietly confident within themselves and appear more modest because they don’t ask for external validation. RA’s career seems to have taken off when he started going to auditions in character – because his own modesty was not getting him the attention he deserved. People from his early career have said that they didn’t really notice him (i’m thinking of someone from his musical theatre days – from memory) so it is nice that his modesty is now seen as a positive attribute.

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        • I know there is a difference between modestly and self-esteem, or self- confidence. What I meant to say, but obviously didn’t state it correctly, is that modestly or being humble is not seen as a virtue these days. Someone who is humble or modest is considered in need of immediate assistance and in need of immediate intervention to be less so. I believe from some comments I’ve seen through the time I’ve been a fan is that his modesty is not seen by everyone as a positive.

          I do see it as a positive, part of why I like him as a person. In RA’s case it is refreshing and wonderful that he is so modest.

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          • Sorry Fabaomanto, I didn’t mean to imply you were confusing a lack of confidence with modesty – I was making a general point ( and it was me not expressing myself well, not you!) I think you and I are in agreement – I too think traits such as modesty are under rated. It really irritates me that extraverts often seem to get more attention than their talent often warrents. I think one of the reasons we all like RA so much is because it is nice to see such a decent person doing well.

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        • Huh. I don’t see “masks” as deceptive. We all have them on all the time. No one sees all of us — my students don’t see pieces of me that I keep hidden; my parents don’t see pieces of me that I hide from them; people in shul don’t see all of me because I am not sharing it with them, and so on. No one is the same person for everyone whom they encounter.

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  4. He looked very nervous in that Powhiri ceremony… and so sweet. I think there is also some superstition in that keeping bags unpacked – to avoid irritating gods with overconfidence…:)
    There was probably a combination of reasons that made him anxious, but it’s not unjustified. This part + production combination is huge, not only compared to anything RA has done before, but in general. I don’t know, is there anything that would be even better for him? And it is a stunning stroke of luck, however much deserved. For starters, PJ did not have to make Thorin so much younger than written, and then I’m sure many great actors tried out. By the way, is it possible he made Thorin younger for RA?

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    • It will be interesting to learn more about the casting process. From earlier reports we know that everyone read for Thorin but it sounds as if RA was originally in talks for a smaller part he could combine with Strike Back 2, maybe Bard or Thranduil(?). He would have been a more obvious choice for that. And only relatively late they offered him Thorin. I am still not convinced that they didn’t choose him and made him look like he does now as a draw card for the female audience, no matter what they say.

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      • I can’t resist writing, “and you say that like it’s a bad thing …”

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        • Yes, I would love to here more about the casting process, although I doubt we will. I am sure his looks did play into in his casting – how could it not ? So – ” what of it ?” 🙂 I don’t think he’ll disappoint any part of the audience. Of course, there will always be some grumpy diehard Tolkien fans upset over something.

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        • You know that I mean it that way. 😉 And not because he isn’t Thorin as imagined by the die hard Tolkien fan, but because he needs to take away his sex appeal to be taken seriously as an actor.

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          • Is that actually the case, that sex appeal and being considered a serious actor are mutually exclusive? But you know, even if they are – OK, he’ll have time to be considered a serious actor when he is, say, 60+. For now, let’s just let the guy be famous and popular !

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            • I’m on record as opposing thinking of looks and talent as a dichotomy, but for some people it has meaning. It might be different if Armitage had no talent …

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              • They aren’t mutually exclusive but as long as the sex appeal is there we will never know to which degree it is talent and to which degree sex appeal.

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                • But YOU know, don’t you? You’re not confused. Other people’s issues are just that, other people’s issues.

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                • Jane, you are confusing me 🙂 How come you are watching RA? Are you saying you got attracted to him despite his sex appeal? It that case, you might have a better luck watching, say, Freeman ;). Or are you saying that now that he got some attention, it’s time to loose it? But that is a bit self-defeating, isn’t it? And maybe he still need to attract more attention with talent AND sex-appeal, to make sure that he does not loose ALL attention while he is trying to transfer to a sexy-less greatness?

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              • To me, it is precisely the combination of qualities that makes people remarkable. Most people have one, or a couple of great qualities. Many are intelligent, and/or modest, and/or kind. Beauty and talent are less common, but not that rare. It is when so many of those qualities are combined in a single person, and they are expressed to such a degree – that is amazing.

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          • Brad Pitt and George Clooney are considered very attractive by masses of people yet I’d say they’re taken quite seriously as actors.. Michael Fassbender is considered attractive too, yet has been called the “best actor of his generation” (If only by a Hungarian journalist),and won numerous accolades for his acting. And I could go on and on. So I’d have to say having sex appeal and being taken seriously as an actor are definitely not mutually exclusive.

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    • I’ve always been suspicious that he’s a bit superstitious (many actors are). That would also have played into the tension at the powhiri ceremony.

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  5. I’ve just read theTownsend story (missed it before). Wow that is scary! I wonder if an actor can protect himself from this kind of ‘change of mind’ situations in his contract? Although, from the way Townsend describes it (“I had been having a rough time with them…”), it makes me wonder if he might have been a pain to deal with. He apparently was dismissed from Thor also, which is a weird pattern.

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    • There seems to be a bit of a confusion why ST was fired. That he was too young and ultimately unsuitable for Aragorn is only one version, perhaps the official one. From his quotes it looks as if he is blaming them but in fact they had a problem with him and his work ethics. When I read that I figured out that lack of work ethics (or ability to get along with cast and crew) wouldn’t be a problem for RA.

      Though PJ seems to have a tendency to sack at least one core player from every production. He did fire the male lead of the Lovely Bones (Ryan Gosling) because he thought it was appropriate to gain a lot of weight (by drinking molten ice cream!) as he was too young to play the father of a teenage daughter and he though that would make him look older. Only he apparently did that without PJ’s knowledge. PJ also parted from composer Howard Shore for King Kong because he didn’t liked what he delivered. And there is Rob Kazinsky who left the Hobbit.

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      • I’ve been wondering about Kazinsky, because he does have quite the negative personal reputation. He’s almost disappeared from view since this, which could confirm health problems, or could be a sign that his career’s been negatively influenced. I suppose that’s a component to add — fired from The Hobbit and what happens to your career afterwards?

        Given how much movie crews put up with from diva stars, it’s hard not to imagine that someone who was fired for inability to get along and work was really very impossible to work with.

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        • He got cast by Guillermo del Toro in Pacific Rim, though I don’t know how big his part is. Maybe he left because he preferred that or GdT gave him a chance after things didn’t worked out with PJ. Maybe it was GdT who wanted him in the first place.

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        • If PJ gets rid of difficult people early, that’s a credit to his abilities as a manager. And from that kind of dismissal Richard must have been pretty safe 🙂

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          • Maybe; I don’t know enough to say more than that because I don’t know enough about his style as a manager. What I know about the bigger implications of his “management style” troubles me a lot, but that would venture into the realm of politics and so I haven’t ever written about it here.

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        • I do wonder about the truth of what happened with Kazinsky. I still follow him on Twitter and he never mentions health issues now, or indeed almost right after he left The Hobbit. Mostly mentions working out at the gym.

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        • I was wondering about Kazinsky and his fate as well… to tell the truth I found him little annoying in that first Hobbit conference.

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  6. We’ll never know what went on behind the scenes and in his head at the time, but I’m sure he must have felt under enormous pressure. It must have been intimidating at first, due to the sheer scale of the production. (I felt intimidated by it and I was just watching the vlogs! 🙂 ) He’s never done anything remotely like this before. And suddenly there he was playing one of the lead characters in this ginormous project. Also, IIRC he said at ComicCon he didn’t think he’d last through week 1 of the shooting although that was said in reference to physical demands of the role, the heavy costumes etc, but still, it shows how difficult it must have been for him to adjust and settle in at the beginning. But yeah, it’s worked out all right- thankfully. He came through with flying colours. Hopefully, deep down inside he’s very proud of himself (although I doubt he’d ever say that out loud)! 🙂

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  7. I think Peter Jackson must have rubbed his hands with glee when he saw how terrific RA was, afterall Richard said he was surprised when he found out how unaware PJ was of his previous work. I can’t help thinking his part has been enlarged to show more of his younger self.
    I assume from some comments that Thorin’s poignant moment is still to be filmed battle scenes i’m ok with but surely it will be so much harder to do the emotional stuff after being away for many months.

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  8. Okay, random comment time – but the gym sweats RA is wearing in the first picture, were those knicked from the costume department of Spooks? 😉

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  9. At this point, how could Mr. Armitage not be fully conscious of his SA? No doubt it has some influence on his interview persona. Everyone finds what works for them, and allows them to remain comfortably close to their personalities and ethical outlook. No doubt, the projection is a bit self-conscious. The main issue is he is a seriously good actor. And works very hard and thoughtfully. Integrity… (I quite like him 😀 )

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    • I assume he has some awareness of it because he talks about it from time to time — although that is not the same as accepting it.

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  10. Had my fingers crossed for Mr.A, then came the vidblogs, and then I had my confirmation that he will do a great Thorin.

    I’m glad the looks for Thorin have improved since the first promo picture. On cuteness, with suggestions by Mr. A to keep his own beard. He has his ways. 🙂
    On the question of fans having this topic on hot Dwarves in the Hobbit, Peter Jackson passed the question on to Philippa Boyens who said: “Fran and I decided (..) some of these guys are gonna be seriously cute.” see 1:16 of clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV9rQ7R2cX8
    So, erm, it seems the women had the final say in picking the cute actors! Maybe they backed Mr. A as ‘one of the new guys’ in creative discussions with PJ on the character Thorin. Bodylanguage in next clip seem to reveal how they bond, esp. 8:00 on. Some of the others had their differences and those were openly quoted in media before. Besides there’s a lot at stake, and making this film has been a huge undertaking (spanning 8 years for PJ, FB and FW so far). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PSgSZHW0q-0&feature=related

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  11. We’re all assuming that the comment about not unpacking his bags is actually true rather than a calculated nod to those who objected to his casting–“yes, I’m well aware you guys thought I’d get the boot”. I think it’s a similar statement to his reference to himself as “middle aged” at the press conference-a way of saying “yeah, I’ve heard the criticisms that I’m too young for this role.” I don’t read either statement as an “I told you so”, but rather as an effort to express that he is listening to the concerns of The Hobbit community. I can’t imagine he had a real fear of being fired (assuming he actually ever had that fear) after being selected as the representative for the Powhiri. That is a huge honor and would only be given to someone the entire cast and crew were happy with.

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    • I have listened to that press conference many times now and tried to write about it for months. I wish I had a reliable purchase on what I suspect is going on there. That’s the reason I never finished the “beard” series. But if you’re right I wouldn’t read it as sympathetic to the fan community, but rather defensive.

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  12. I’m so glad for RA that all these early difficulties worked themselves out. No wonder he looked so stressed out in that early vlog (as someone already mentioned). I’m so proud of him having made it through with flying colors.

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  13. […] this post has been prompted by a discussion in the comments at Me and Richard. (Sorry for this aimless ramble. One of these days I’ll figure out what I’m doing and […]

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  14. I was going to get back to this after my initial reading but never did. What a fascinating discussion has unfolded. Fabulous post and comments, Serv!

    I too went into APM at that comment of his about not unpacking his bags. Humility, lack of self-confidence, superstition, whatever the reason (and we’ll likely never know), it brought tears to my eyes.

    “But, yeah, it’s worked out all right.” Huge understatement, Richard.

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