This is dedicated to Richard Armitage fans who think the LOTR fans on TheOneRing.net were mean to him. Forgive them, for they knew not what they did! Or might have done. 🙂
I have been a Lord of the Rings fan since I was 13 years old. It was then that I first read the trilogy and fell in love with it. When I say “fell in love”, I mean that I believed deeply in the message I took from the book, that the road of life is a journey and good intentions do not overcome evil, you must fight your way through doubt and fear. As a child what made an impact on me was the idea that everything isn’t black and white. Frodo was good, a hero, but in the end he was overcome by desire for the Ring and it was Gollum who ultimately destroyed the Ring. That message stuck with me and has given me the ability to ultimately do the work I was meant to do – labor relations – which is certainly not a black & white field!! LOL!
I then read The Hobbit. And after that any J.R.R. Tolkien writing I could find! Every year my family bought me the LOTR calendar for Christmas. Each year I would rip out my favorite pictures from the year before and post them on my bedroom walls. I had a big map of Middle Earth on those walls too. In fact, I had that map up in the office of my first job! LOL! Saw every LOTR film made, and loved the Ralph Bakshi animated version. Watched it over and over on my VCR!
So in 1995-96 when I heard that Peter Jackson was really making the movie, I went online to find out more about it. I found TheOneRing.net, as well as other sites, that were writing about the movie. TORn soon broke away from the pack as the site that had a good working relationship with PJ. I remember when some TORn staffers were prowling around the movie sets when they started filming, and were caught and had to sign a pledge that they wouldn’t reveal anything they saw! We stayed tuned for any new bits of info.
I also remember when someone found (?) part of a script. We (TORn members) were horrified to hear that Arwen was to be a warrior princess and present during the siege of Helm’s Deep. HORROR! And Gimli was to be the comic relief? NO WAY!! We protested! And PJ listened (mostly). Probably that’s why The Hobbit actors never get scripts now until the last moment.
Stuart Townsend was cast as Aragorn, but PJ quickly found that wouldn’t work and brought in Viggo. Genius and courageous! I thought Ian Holm as Bilbo and Elijah Wood as Frodo were brilliant casting decisions.
PJ was so inclusive of the fans. We understood that he WAS a fan! It was so important that the movies were made with the LOTR fans being engaged in the process. It would have been disastrous otherwise.
As it turned out, the films were a huge success. The mainstream success of the films made being a geek cool! Me and my brothers took the opening day of the film off from work to go see The Fellowship of the Ring at the 10 AM show. I think I went to see it again the same day. I certainly saw it several times after.
I joined the Lord of the Rings Society (or whatever it was called) and got my name printed on the DVD of FotR. I was so proud!
After all three films were released, and the extended edition DVDs, there was a marathon showing at Lincoln Center in NYC of all three extended edition films on the big screen. Of course I went! Elijah Wood and Sean Astin were there, and PJ was live video projected from NZ.
Which brings us to The Hobbit. By 2008 when talk of filming The Hobbit, with Guillermo del Toro as director, was news, TORn was THE place for news about LOTR, and I had moved on to other obsessions. I kept an eye on the proceedings and followed the saga of lawsuits over rights, etc. I was glad in 2010 when PJ took over as director.
When the casting was announced I was happy that the actors who had been in LOTR were coming back for The Hobbit. As far as the other casting was concerned, the only actor cast as one of the dwarves that I had heard of was Aidan Turner, who I knew from Being Human. I didn’t know any of the other actors, including Richard Armitage. Some of my friends did know him and thought he was a good choice, but I had no opinion. I did know that many at TORn were unhappy with the choice.
Just before casting of Richard Armitage as Thorin was announced, the TORn forum was still talking about Brian Cox playing Thorin. PJ said about RA’s casting as Thorin “Richard is one of the most exciting and dynamic actors working on screen today and we know he is going to make an amazing Thorin Oakenshield. We cannot wait to start this adventure with him and feel very lucky that one of the most beloved characters in Middle-earth is in such good hands.”
With this news, the TORn boards went crazy. There were some who thought RA as Thorin was surprising because he was so young. Also because of his romantic image “Look back, look back at me”. Not really Thorin material. Most thought he would be Bard. There was also some concern about RA’s voice. They thought it wouldn’t be deep enough for Thorin. On the other hand, there were many who voiced support for RA and were excited that he was cast as Thorin. There was also the thought that PJ would replace him, just as PJ did of Stuart Townsend, if he turned out to be too young or “wrong” for the role. At least one person expressed the feeling that Armitage just “didn’t have the stuff” necessary to be a “leading man” in the film.
The debate on TORn was going on in December 2010, just before the cast was heading down to NZ to start filming. In January, 2011 the Armitage thread in the forum was turning more positive. This picture was posted:
In The Scotsman magazine, July 25, 2011, Armitage talks about Peter Jackson. Saying that Jackson cast him based on his audition, not on knowledge of his previous work. “The more I talk to him, the more I realize he is not as familiar with my work as I thought he was”. He goes on to say, “That pleases me. Sometimes when you’re cast on what you’ve done before, you’re cast to do the same thing again. The Hobbit for me is stepping outside the box.” In a Dark Horizon interview, October 25, 2012, Armitage admits that he “didn’t really unpack my bag for three weeks, ’cause I though I was going to be on the plane going home.”
That comment really disturbs me. I feel so sad that RA felt that way. After all the excellent work he had done, he still didn’t feel worthy of playing Thorin. Was he influenced in thinking that way by the comments made on the TORn forum message board, who knows? I would say that he wasn’t, but since he was admittedly a big fan of TLOTR, perhaps he did read the TORn boards. To me there were plenty of people posting who were really happy that he got the role and thought he’d do a great job. But if he already doubted himself, it is possible that reading the doubts of other LOTR fans about his ability to be Thorin may have made him feel uncertain enough to keep his bags packed for three weeks.
In any event, his Thorin is a triumph. He worked through his doubt and fear and changed everyone’s mind about his acting ability. He certainly changed mine! I did not know him when I first saw The Hobbit. When I left that first viewing I found myself thinking about Thorin. Certainly not my favorite character in the book! When I saw the film for the second time I was hooked. In a now familiar pattern, I HAD to know who the actor was who so vividly brought the character to life. What I found has certainly changed my life. Richard Armitage. A beautiful human being and a world-class actor.
Thanks to dark jackal for the black & white Thorin and to RAnet for the other pics and interviews.