Playing Thorin, or: Pitfalls and rewards of taking on an iconic Tolkien character, part 1 [guest post by KatharineD]

[KatharineD is a regular commentator and occasional guest author on “me + richard armitage”. Her previous guest posts treated her visit to Sydney Supanova 2013 and her musings on the prospective extended edition DVD release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Longtime readers here know that this topic — how some Tolkien fans reacted to Armitage’s casting as Thorin Oakenshield — is a sore spot with me, so many thanks to KatharineD for researching and composing a contribution that fills in an important gap in my reception of Armitage’s career and provided some necessary perspective on the issue for me.]

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pledge-drive-logo-200x200If you appreciate the work of TORn — an all-volunteer group that has brought us several pieces of intriguing Richard Armitage material, including interviews — why not support their fundraiser? They have auctions for LOTR / Hobbit memorabilia running at eBay, OR you can donate (they have bling to share).

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As a newer fan of Richard Armitage, I was curious about the phase of his career from the time of his casting as Thorin to the release of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in December, 2012. These posts reflect my attempts to learn more.

I first came across RA when Spooks 7 aired in Australia. As a longtime fan of the series, I very much enjoyed his portrayal of Lucas North. I remember searching for basic biographical information at the time, as well as looking over his IMDb entry and searching out North And South, but nothing more. Similarly to experiences described in many blog accounts I’ve read, my RA fandom needed time to percolate.

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" World Premiere[Right: Richard Armitage, Wellington, November 28. 2012. Source.]

My family are big Lord Of The Rings fans, mainly of the movies, but in my older son’s case, of the books as well, so when it came time for the casting announcements for The Hobbit, we were all interested to see who had been cast in the major roles. We knew a great deal of Martin Freeman’s work, as well as James Nesbitt’s and Ken Stott’s, and RA was our familiar MI-5 agent. However, other than watching Peter Jackson’s video blogs and the trailer release, we really didn’t follow the day to day news updates on the production. Perhaps somewhat oddly, my desire to follow up on RA more closely came about on the day of the world premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Wellington. Watching the live stream, I got caught up in the euphoria of the moment and was bowled over by our lovely man.

As I became more aware of fan sites about RA, at some point I discovered Servetus’ blog, and eventually delved into the archives to read fan reactions to the significant events pertaining to TH. There was the absolute joy surrounding the casting announcement, the excitement of the very first video blog with Richard’s part in the powhiri ceremony, and then the stunned reaction to the first trailer for TH: AUJ, with RA leading the singing of the “Misty Mountains” song. As far as I can see, other than some disquiet about how the RA fandom might change after the movie was released, Richard’s fans were generally thrilled that he had scored such a significant role, one that would likely give him world-wide recognition.

I learned about another side to this story only more recently, however: The reaction of some hardcore Tolkien fans to learning who was to play the dwarf king in their beloved Hobbit. I’m talking about the members of TheOneRing.net forums, or “Ringers,” who met the announcement with a mixture of bemusement, anxiety, and in some cases, downright hostility. I decided it would be interesting to explore the TORn boards and take a close look at how this story unfolded. A bit of work’s involved — a search for “Richard Armitage” on TORn currently reveals 61 pages of topic threads, or hundreds of discussions where his name is mentioned in some way.

SpeakOutBrianBlessed[Left: Brian Blessed. Source.]

With all the delays to the start of filming TH, mostly due to financial troubles at MGM, Ringers kept themselves amused by creating fantasy casting lists, not unlike the ones we’ve been making recently to conjure up new roles for RA, only in reverse. Richard got quite a few mentions from mid-2008 onwards. Ringers felt he could be a good match for the role of Bard the Bowman, but he certainly was never mentioned as a possible Thorin.

[Serv interjects: Our friend mulubinba was one of the proponents of the Bard role for Armitage.]

ian_mcshane_headshot_2011_a_p[Right: Ian McShane. Source.]

During the time that Guillermo del Toro was signed on as director, he made several overtures to Brian Blessed with a view to taking on the role of Thorin. I must say, having just watched a video of Brian talking about TH as well as some of the iconic roles he’s played, he looked the epitome of an elderly, robust dwarf, complete with bushy beard and that wonderful deep voice. He’s now 76 –34 years older than RA. Del Toro was also quoted in an article (October, 2010) as saying that Ian McShane (70) “would make the most perfect dwarf.” He was clearly looking to cast “old,” before he left the project and Peter Jackson took over.

The first cast announcement came on October 22, 2010, and was immediately scrutinized closely on the TORn boards. Martin Freeman had been an almost unanimous fan choice for Bilbo and was met with great applause and relief — their main character was judged to be in good hands. The casting of Richard Armitage as Thorin was another matter entirely. Ringers who had come to expect the casting of an actor in his 60s or 70s were aghast at the news. Who was he, and why on earth was he considered right for the part?

14-Richard-date-unknown[Left: Richard Armitage, date unknown but before Fall 2006. Source.]

Unfortunately, someone seeking to let people know what Richard looked like unearthed the photo at left and posted it on the forum. Shame they didn’t choose one of his more moody-looking pics. One person’s reaction to the photo: “Seems too young with not enough meat on his bones and what about his voice? Kinda doubt it’s baritone.” Some were inclined to be generous, taking the “blind faith” approach, shrugging their shoulders and intoning a phrase that cropped up rather a lot — “in PJ we trust.” Those with prior knowledge of RA’s work implored doubters to check out his performances in North And South and Spooks to gain insight into not only his general acting ability, but also his skill at portraying conflicted, multi-layered characters.

90b0560cf7827642434dada0891224ffThe age factor turned into a major stumbling block for fans who had always pictured Thorin in their imagination as a wizened, old dwarf. How could a 39-year-old man (who was also deemed by many to be far too good-looking for the part) portray the world-weary, burdened qualities the role called for? A photoshop visual of how RA might be made to look old was put forward to appease those who couldn’t see past his smooth features. Richard was judged by some to be a good likeness for John Howe’s drawing of Thorin (it’s all in the nose!).

Thorin-by-John-Howe-211x300[Left: John Howe’s drawing. See Armitage’s remarks about that drwaing here.]

Those familiar with the change of cast that occurred on The Lord Of The Rings were quick to offer a solution. Stuart Townsend, originally cast as Aragorn, left that production to make way for Viggo Mortensen. Armitage would not suit, and would do the same. Such comments make one wonder whether RA’s remark that he didn’t unpack for three weeks when he first arrived in New Zealand stemmed from his own doubts about his ability to pull off the role, or responded to adverse comments that had filtered through to him from the fan forums. Probably a little of both.

While many fans adopted a “wait and see” attitude, some nonetheless decried the casting decision long and hard, refusing to let go of their own (in their opinion) far superior choices. They seemed to think that if only they could get a sit down with Peter Jackson, they’d be able to make him see reason, for he was surely sadly deluded. Such stances show just how much Tolkien and his characters mean to many people, to an extent that their visions of how the story plays out are so steadfastly fixed in their heads. One of RA’s most ardent naysayers argued vociferously for a much older actor to take over, but then sheepishly reported back that a re-read of the book revealed no particular mention of Thorin as “old.” Yet, most had certainly gained that impression along the way.

Finally, the question of acting credentials was raised. Surely a more experienced “film actor” would be better for a movie franchise of this magnitude? Perhaps Richard should have been offered one of the lesser dwarf roles, moving on to a major part in a movie at a later date (presumably in a film the Ringers wouldn’t care if he botched or not)!

Armitage did not indicate at the time that he was aware of these fan discussions. Even if he were, however, there was no way for RA to answer his critics ahead of the movie release. The interactions on TORn revealed that doubters would continue to doubt.

[For the rest of the story, picking up the narrative in February 2011, see part 2.]

~ by Servetus on August 29, 2013.

58 Responses to “Playing Thorin, or: Pitfalls and rewards of taking on an iconic Tolkien character, part 1 [guest post by KatharineD]”

  1. Thank you, I really appreciate this informations. We were talking about this some days ago here, so I’m particularly glad to read the story so well written down. Thanks KatharineD 😀

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    • Thanks for the comment- I thought it might be interesting for the newer folk like me who weren’t around at the time!

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  2. Thanks for the recap! Regarding Thorin’s age–190’s in the films–that seems to be about middle age if Dwarfs can live to be 400.

    According to the Tolkien wiki, Thorin was 195 as his death:
    http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Thorin

    By comparison, according to the Tolkien wiki, Dwalin died at 340 yrs: http://tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Dwalin

    So Thorin would have been about 50 or so in human years at the time of the quest. Maybe, we should just divide the Dwarven years by 4 to get human years. Ha!

    My point being that RA as a middle aged man at 41-42 was portraying a middle aged man. Snap! So the comments about RA being too young–when we have all seen him “age” himself for a role just by his physicality and presence (John Thornton, anyone?), was obviously made by someone–as you point out–who was unfamiliar with Richard Armitage’s acting range.

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    • thanks Grati. But I think KatharineD’s point was that del Toro had encouraged TORn fans to think of Thorin as someone who was on the other side of middle age or even old. That actually explained a lot to me about the reaction. If you were expecting someone who was plump, wrinkled, and looked 70, Armitage wouldn’t fit the bill, no matter the proportional age calculation. And up until that point Armitage hadn’t played a truly “old” role (with possible exception of Monet).

      This piece of the post demystified a reaction that had been puzzling ot me — the sheer anger and hostility that some TORn fans articulated.

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      • There were certainly plenty of discussions at the time about converting dwarf years to appropriate human age. I think most thought 50 plus would’ve been acceptable, hence RA was at least a decade too young.
        It’s interesting- not everyone on TORn is a diehard PJ fan by any means, and del Toro had been articulating some new ideas for The Hobbit (Phillipa Boyens described it as like a fairy tale) which captivated fans of his previous work ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’. They were pretty upset when he had to pull out and his ideas ( such as casting Blessed) didn’t come to fruition.

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  3. A very interesting read! I remember hearing about the meltdowns when they announced the news of his casting and thought…oh those rowdy little geeks… Back in 2010 I didn’t know who he was yet. I was a huge fan of the books and the movies so I thought PJ knows what he’s doing. I just wasn’t aware of how well he was going to do it.
    Thanks KatherineD

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    • One thing that really interested me about this was my recollection of my reactions to Ringers at the time, and now I’m wondering why “oh those rowdy little geeks” wasn’t my reaction … hmmm …

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      • Thanks, CarlyQ. When you look at it objectively, I have quite a bit of sympathy for the early reactions to the cast list. They’d waited so long to hear anything, and then to have the shock of what they considered a completely left- field choice for Thorin- I think many just found it bewildering.

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        • I admit I was a little confused myself as the first picture I ever saw of him was that head shot he currently uses and the I of course had heard the names of Brian Blessed and Ian McShane mentioned.
          I thought, well, yes, he’s young (imagine my surprise when I found out he’s only a couple of years younger than me) but I didn’t find him all that attractive.

          Oh, to go back to the good ole days, when I was objective. I’d forgotten how it felt.

          Though I have been a Tolkien fan since the mid-70s – I’ve never sunk into the world of middle earth far enough to learn to speak dwarven, painstakingly make my own copy of Arwen’s coronation gown or swung a sword atop Edoras….ahem…Katie70…was that you?! Truthfully, it was that stupid Hobbit press conference that was the final nail in my Armitage prison. There I was just watching everyone goof around and wondering if anyone was ever going to ask the KING OF THE DWARVES a question, then they did and then he spoke and I was like….Damn. I think if PJ would have been within reach, I might have slapped him for the sheer cheek of him…hiring all those Brits I’d never heard of and chaining me to Netflix for the next …well, three years now and with the fan fic and all the funny women…..(throws up hands and goes back to work on Chapter 13 muttering about objectivity)
          Now I can’t even remember why I started this comment…AB strikes again.

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          • Not Katie70 (SORRY KATIE) Kathy Jones…don’t make me come over there!

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          • Aha, I love your comment- PJ does indeed have a lot to answer for. I’m sure RA practised his Thorin voice for days before that press conference (that specific deep note that hits you viscerally). I think he did well not to speak much that day, because people sure did sit up and take notice when he did open his mouth! So, can I presume your view on his attractiveness has changed somewhat, hmm….?

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            • What? No! Attractive? No. I find him tall. Very tall, with perfect hair but then there are those nasty recessive gene blue eyes.

              But I do like how tall he is.

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  4. Well done, Katherine. I’m thinking he must have read the One Ring comments. He is a Tolien fan and has an iPad! I imagine that kind of criticism would have been tough to deal with. Breaks my heart to hear about the unpacked bags!

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    • Given where he started with some of these fans, the result of “acceptance” to his performance almost has to be considered a crowning triumph.

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      • Thanks Marie Astra. At the height of the vitriol, I did read comments from one or two who hoped desperately that RA wouldn’t drop by and read what had been said about him- they feared damage to the poor man’s psyche.
        The tone of comments changed somewhat over time as RA became more of a ‘real’ person and not just an abstract idea. People started to articulate that they meant RA no ill-will personally, despite his shortcomings!

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        • SHORTcomings? laughing hysterically here! Nice pun. KatherineD 😀

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          • Ah, you got me there. I’ve been typing replies to comments on and off all day, so I’ve hardly got brain power left to string words together coherently, let alone with humour!

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  5. Great article and analysis of Ringer reaction. As a fan of the LOTR films before possibility of The Hobbit films were a mere gleam in Peter Jackson’s eyes and before I even knew RA existed, I know there was some doubt about casting the LOTR films as well. Elijah Wood, for example, was not always the popular choice among Tolkien fans for Frodo.

    As a fan of the LOTR films and of RA, I was both surprised and thrilled when he was cast as Thorin. I think he was aware of the fan reaction to him, especially to his age, judging from his statement at the first press conference about being middle-aged.
    Very much looking forward to part 2 of the article.

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    • At the time there were people who really saw the whole Feb 2011 press conference “performance” as made for the benefit of the Tolkien fans, iirc.

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      • Thanks for your comment, Faboamanto. Yes, I’m sure RA used that first press conference to his best advantage- the use of the ‘Thorin’ voice certainly didn’t go unnoticed, and the ‘middle-aged’ quip was definitely there to say ‘look at me, I have plenty of life experience’.

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  6. This was a tempest in a tea cup in comparison to the 85.000 that signed a petition against Ben Afflack as Batman within a few days.

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    • The fandoms are not organized at all in similar ways structurally, so I think it’s hard to compare this reaction. Also, the US media care about Batman in a way that they don’t about LOTR / TH (for whatever reason), so the anger about Batman was picked up immediately on the major media outlits and probably magnified that way. Finally, it’s unclear to whom angry Batman fans should appeal (“Warner Brothers Executives”) whereas the decisionmaking about Armitage lay more or less solely in PJ’s hands. So it would make sense that angry TH fans would exercise their anger in the place where they thought it would be most likely to come to PJ’s attention.

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      • There was a brief mention of a petition on the TORn boards, but thankfully that never gained momentum. The objections to RA as Thorin were certainly heartfelt and dare I say (from what I’ve seen) far more eloquently articulated than those towards Ben Affleck. I read a number of quite lengthy well-written articles stating ALL the reasons PJ got it wrong.

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        • Me, too, and I even agreed with some of them, or I could see where they were coming from. But IIRC it was mostly one person that went on and on and on.

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  7. I never thought of myself as a ringer, but some family members have told me to get a clue about myself. What kind of person climbs Edoras and waves a sword around at the top? Uh, that would be me. But who wouldn’t do that if they had the chance? (Mr. Jones fly fishing) Anyway, I am not a purist and welcome PJ’s changes to Tolkien’s work in service to making entertaining films. .However, my RA proclivities have pushed me further away from any ringer tendencies. I no longer care how Hobbit plots may twist and turn away from the book.. If they give RA’s Thorin more screen time I’m cool with it. I know this will never happen, but I wish TABA had a happy ending. Heresy! I wish he would allow at least one of the clan to survive. Outrageous! I guess I would like to know, Katherine, if you have discovered a change in attitude from ringers regarding Thorin and/or a relaxing of purity standards in general. Thanks for all your hard work on this very interesting topic.

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  8. Ninguém faria Thorin melhor que Armitage… 🙂

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  9. Interesting post. As a long time (more than 30 years) fan of Tolkien, I can probably add something. I think that the age problem was a straw man; fan boys were more or less consciously reacting to what was clearly an attempt to attract a female audience (Not complaining! see also Fili and Kili) to an entirely male cast of unattractive characters (Galadriel does not appear in The Hobbit and Tauriel doesn’t even exist and we are seeing the reactions..). And it worked! How many of you would have seen this movie, without RA?

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    • In essence, this post series is directed at people who were fans of Armitage before TH as an attempt to explain things, so the whole question about gender appeal of the film goes a bit awry for most of us. RANet was polling about “will you go to see this?” in advance of the film and less then 4% of respondents there said they *didn’t* plan to see it at least once. We were already on board, even against a lack of interest in the subject matter among many of us (which Jackson did his best to alleviate in the long lead up to the film, I think quite successfully). I think some or many of us would have seen the film without Armitage for various reasons — I would have, certainly — but I would not have gone the first night, not paid to see it in 48 fps, and not seen it eleven times or more in the theater. However, that happened because I was a fan of Armitage, not because the film (even as it was made) made much or any appeal to me as a woman, either in advance or when I saw it. Like the vast majority of blockbusters, this was a boys’ story again, as far as I was concerned. Maybe film #2 will be better, but i kind of doubt it. Evangeline Lilly, from what I’ve seen so far, is again there to appeal to the boys.

      Re: the hot dwarves question — the thing was that that was the *only* thing that a lot of Armitage fans heard about TORn fans’ objection. Honestly, I didn’t know this stuff about McShane and Blessed until reading the draft of this post. So that was enlightening to me and I don’t think — based on the discussion strands I paged through while I was editing this, in order to link up some stuff — that it’s *entirely* a straw man (fanboy hostility to prevailing social norms about beauty notwithstanding, and probably there was some of that).

      I think as well — from the Armitage fan perspective — that a lot of us, who were not fans of Turner and O’Gorman at that time, were not aware that the worry about youth and attractiveness was a general critique of the younger cast members as opposed to a specific critique of Armitage. I think I only realized that around ComicCon 2012. What was frustrating about that from my perspective was that I kept hearing these things about how Armitage was too attractive, and then after the pic reveals when the TORners really got on board, TORn started to make jokes about hot dwarves, as if they’d gotten on board with that, too, and implied it had all been a joke on their part. That was truly aggravating to read and led to my writing of a very bitter post — the only post I’ve ever retracted on the blog.

      Finally, I also think that there’s an effect on the Internet that certain kinds of personalities just will not allow their opinions to change (or acknowledge that they have changed) in public. It’s like stating their opinions magnifies the significance of those meanings for the people who speak them. I’ve observed that tendency in a lot of online venues and I may have it myself.

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      • Thank for the long answer! I missed “the lost post” because I wasn’t following you at the time. It’s late here now (Italy), tomorrow I’ll read the second part and try to articulate a better comment.

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        • I think there were a number of different issues in play regarding age and the ‘hot dwarves’ debate. Up to that point, the only visual we had for a Peter Jackson dwarf was John Rhys Davies as Gimli- heavy prosthetics, long beard, face partially obscured.
          The first photo reveals for The Hobbit dwarves were crucial for understanding PJ’s approach to the characters. Would they all follow the Gimli mould or be differentiated in some way? You could argue that the look for Fili and Kili ( little to no beard or prosthetics, fresh face) justifiably reflected their youth and set them apart visually from the rest of the company, or you could say , as many did, that it was a deliberate ploy to lure in young women who had made up a significant part of the LOTR audience due to their devotion to Orlando Bloom’s Legolas. I wasn’t aware of any negative comments about Dean O’Gorman’s or Aidan Turner’s age suitability- just the ‘hot’ look of their characters.

          At the time the first photo of Thorin appeared, many on TORn had come around to RA playing the part, with the proviso that he had to ‘look’ the part, ie the full dwarvish face and long beard. It was felt that perhaps RA, being young and agile, could well withstand the rigours of the film shoot, including fight sequences, but he wasn’t under any circumstances allowed to look or play his character as anything other than an old dwarf.
          When the photo was revealed, Thorin was clearly neither elderly nor heavily bearded, thus confirming some people’s worst suspicions- RA had been cast to play Thorin as an agile, handsome dwarf in his prime, or not far past it. That was the moment Ringers had to make a serious change in perception of the character if they were ever to enjoy the movie. Some adapted, others did not.

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  10. […] part of the discussion of TORn / Tolkien fan reactions to Richard Armitage's casting as Thorin Oakenshield, picking up the story in 2011 and contributed by guest poster KatharineD — […]

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  11. I wasn’t a Ringer during the time all this controversy was going on over at TORn, but a friend who was involved in it (she’s an ardent RA fan as well as a Ringer) said that she was often made very upset by the vitriolic comments of the nay-sayers.
    There are still some difficult types over there who will never be happy until someone makes the movie that exists in their head: Dwarves have to have long beards that tuck into their belts. Dwarves are old and craggy — and the story certainly cannot be sullied by the addition of female characters, however minor their roles! Basically those people will never be happy. That’s their loss.
    However, I can only imagine how painful it must have been for RA to have people being so critical of him at such a delicate point in the creation of his character. It must have been such a relief, knowing that PJ trusted him and had confidence that he would do a terrific job in the role.
    But RA impressed a lot of the Ringers (and TORn staff) with his knowledge and understanding of Tolkien at the SDCC last year, and opinions began to change. Then, when AUJ finally came out, it was wonderful to see the tide of opinion turning in RA’s favor. Now I’d say that most Ringers approve of RA’s Thorin. He’s won them over.

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    • I remember how upset mulubinba was at the time.

      I thought after that statement about “most obscure piece of Tolkien trivia you know,” any Ringer who wasn’t convinced was plugging his / her ears 🙂 Armitage is as much of a Tolkien head by now as they are, if he wasn’t before.

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      • Yes, I think he’s very serious and detail-oriented. The scholarly nature of Tolkien’s approach to world-building probably was attractive to him. He likes knowing these things, and my guess is that he’s not comfortable “winging it” when it comes to his work.
        Nevertheless, it was also certainly a good idea for him to have the in-depth knowledge, to reassure the Ringers that he was as respectful of the source material as they were.

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      • RA mentions in an interview on one of the Robin Hood audiobooks, I think from 2006, that he was obsessed with Lord of the Rings when he was, I think he said 12 😉 and he also talks about The Hobbit in that interview, so he is a Tolkien fan of long standing.

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  12. I just wanted to add that on tumblr I saw a quote from John Callen, who plays Oin, in which he said that he simply couldn’t do some of the physical fighting moves that were asked of him, because of his age. And he’s only 67 — if he couldn’t do some of the stuff, I don’t know how Ian McShane (70) or Brian Blessed (76) could have kept up with the demands of such a large and even more physically demanding role as Thorin. Nothing against those actors, because I love them both. But it would probably have been too much.

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    • In the beginning,I don’t think too many people took into account the sheer weight of costuming the actors would be required to wear and how tiring that would be. It was suggested that if say Brian Blessed had got the part, he could more or less stand and deliver his lines in a fabulous way, and a younger stunt double could do all the ‘heavy lifting’. It’s a shortsighted view, in my opinion, the character is too important to be fudged around with like that, but it shows for some people the ‘older statesman’ look was way more important than the action.

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  13. This is fascinating to read, Katharine. And it must have cost you days to sift through all the “small print”. A labour of love ;-). But I am really grateful to be given a concise summary of the initial reaction and reception of RA’s casting. I was not yet part of the fandom when it occurred – and not a Tolkien fan, either, so it all completely passed me by.
    I only read TH after I found out that RA had been cast as Thorin. Naturally I had him in my mind’s eye when I read the book. But it never occurred to me that he might be too young for the role. Although Thorin is described as an experienced leader, and older than some of his companions on the journey, it didn’t seem wrong to me that he could be the leader of the dwarves.
    In the end, imho the make-up department actually did a great job of adding gravitas and majesticity to the handsomeness of RA.
    Looking forward to reading part 2 now.

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    • I think you hit the nail on the head, Guylty. You read the book AFTER you knew who was cast, so you naturally had an image of RA in your head as you read. For most of the TORn posters, they had an entrenched image based on many years of reading and re-reading the book. Plus, you were intimately acquainted with RA’s ability to add depth to his characterisation.

      It was interesting to see that TH isn’t every Tolkien fan’s favourite book at all, so some people were happy to own up to the fact that all their preconceptions of Thorin were based on one reading of the book 40 years ago!

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      • I think RA was quite observant when he pointed out that his impression of the character had changed quite a bit between reading TH as a child and then as a “middle-aged man”… Something that a lot of fans might have forgotten…

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  14. Just a bit more on the age issue here. I just can’t see what difference it really makes because we all know that Aragorn was quite a bit older and there wasn’t all that much complaint about Viggo playing him. Maybe there were comments certainly but one of the reasons that Townsend was replaced was that he was too young and so Viggo came in but even then the age for Aragorn was a lot older and still it worked. When I heard what little I did hear about the dwarves I thought the complaints were mostly that they didn’t look enough like dwarves and true compared to Gimli they did look quite different but when I saw them all together for me it just worked. I never did hear the comments about RA and I wasn’t at all familiar with him at that time. So the first I saw of him was in the trailer and I was stunned. It didn’t matter to me that he looked generally younger than some of the dwarves because to me he was a Prince, the heir to the throne and some of the dwarves were I supposed contemporaries of his father and grandfather. I wasn’t as steeped in the Tolkien legend so obviously it didn’t bother me the way it did the true fanatics. Peter simply made it all come together just as he had in LOTR, keeping the storyline and creating a movie to tell it all even if it wasn’t exactly like the book.

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    • I looked up the age difference between ST and VM- almost 15 years, so I guess Ringers were quite appeased by that change in casting. I think movie audiences in general would’ve had no trouble accepting RA as a regal, authoritative leader, but then they saw what was put in front of them, not what their imaginations were demanding. When you saw the trailer, I bet you didn’t dissect it minutely like the Ringers did!

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  15. I didn’t fully become a fan of Richards till early 2011, around the time they went to New Zealand to work on the film. I knew very little of TH or LOTR at the time, so anything that was still hanging around about RA’s age or looks didn’t bother me at all.

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  16. […] [KatharineD is a regular commentator and occasional guest author on "me + richard armitage". Her previous guest posts treated her visit to Sydney Supanova 2013 and her musings on the prospective ex…  […]

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  17. KatherineD, very much appreciated your post. Great review of fan response. Look forward to post @2.

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  18. […] continue discussing KatharineD’s great posts on Ringers, Tolkien fans and Richard Armitage [part 1 and part 2] and check out the Legenda. I imagine I’ll be back before then, but if not, Guylty […]

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  19. […]    When my article ‘Playing Thorin’ part 1 and part 2 was posted on me+richard recently, it received quite a number of interesting […]

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  20. […] Ringers, were upset when they learned Richard was going to be cast as Thorin, as you described in your article.  Had I read the book, I would have been upset as well, thinking it was a complete miscast. I […]

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  21. […] suggests: Readers who enjoyed my posts and our discussion of TORn fans’ reactions to the casting of Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield and later, his portrayal of the character, may wish to follow the ongoing discussion of Thorin […]

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  22. […] Journey. She followed up with two posts on "Playing Thorin" — Tolkien fan reactions to Armitage's casting and portrayal of Thorin Oakenshield. Many thanks to her for presenting here another timely topic […]

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  23. […] are different, and then a comic book fandom. It was finally The Hobbit, I think, that brought in the at times uncomfortable encounter with LOTR fans, pushed the average age of the fandom down slightly, and made us more liberal culturally and […]

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  24. […] I ran across James because he was blog friends with the much-missed AgzyM. This was during the Hobbit film excitement and he was a Tolkien fan who shared our approval of Richard Armitage in the role (if you remember, the question of whether Armitage should play Thorin Oakenshield was a thing a few years ago). […]

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  25. […] Manchester Library is apparently still trying to get Armitage to do some announcements for them. This week they tagged him in a post about Brian Blessed, who’s agreed. This is amusing primarily because Blessed was the leading fan-cast for Thorin all those years ago. […]

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