LOTR, The Hobbit, and Richard Armitage

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. 🙂

thorin_oakenshield_1024x768_by_darkjackal32

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.

RA as Thorin TORn

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:

richard thorin and there was a good reaction. Although someone posted that he looks like a “seedy Hugh Jackman”! LOL!! And compared the scowling drawing of Thorin by John Howe to Wolverine!

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.

Thorin Rivendell

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.

RA RobertAscroft-04

Thanks to dark jackal for the black & white Thorin and to RAnet for the other pics and interviews.

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About NYCPAT

From New York City. Anglophile, theater-goer, love books, music and LIFE.
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15 Responses to LOTR, The Hobbit, and Richard Armitage

  1. jasrangoon says:

    I was still lurking in the Armitage fandom when Richard’s casting as Thorin was announced. In some ways I’m really glad that was the case. As excited as I was for him to have such an opportunity, I understood why there were Tolkien fans who were concerned. He just didn’t seem to fit the mental image I had of who Thorin was. Luckily those worries were unfounded, and by the time the first images and clips started coming out, I was totally on board. I think RA’s being a fan of Tolkien’s work helps tremendously too. Such as the thought he gave to why Thorin would have a short beard in the film. Such consideration given to the original story and its translation to the screen makes me admire him all the more.

    • marieastra8 says:

      Thanks for reading, Jas. I was so focussed on Bilbo that I never really thought about how important Thorin would be in the film. If that role had been miscast it would have been a disaster. Luckily they found just the right person for the part! As a Tolkien geek that’s one of the things I LOVE about RA – he is such a Tolkien geek too! 🙂 That combined with his intense approach to developing his characters is what really made him a standout. Along with his beauty and charisma too, can’t forget about those! 🙂

  2. I was really apprehensive initially about seeing him as Thorin, but as you said after all the trailers and bits were released, I can say that he IS Thorin.And I really didn’t know that Stuart Townsend was originally chosen to play Aragorn, though Viggo perfectly fits the bill.Thanks for the read!

  3. Servetus says:

    The influx of Tolkien / LOTR / Hobbit fans into the Armitage fandom has been a really positive thing for all kinds of reasons — it’s really expanded both our size and the kind of things we talk about and also the creativity that people bring to bear and given us a lot more to read and think about and enjoy. I differentiate Tolkien fans in general from the people at TORn who bug me because a friend pointed out to me two years ago that Tolkien fans are not 100% contiguous with TORn audience members. It’s not even that I’m angry at all of TORn folks or even those who dissed Armitage in the past (or maybe I am, and I’m not being honest with myself). They have the right to prefer whoever they want and so on, just like me. And Richard Armitage is (to use the phrase of someone ahead of me in this comment strand) a grown-ass man, what he reads or doesn’t read, thinks or doesn’t think, how he feels or doesn’t feel, is his responsibility and I don’t need to protect him from naysayers.

    What bugs me is that, as we saw last week, although some of the TORn folks have changed their minds, among some of those folks that negativity is quite obviously not gone and directs itself at our fandom (“Thorin is only winning because of the Armitage fangirls”). I could translate that into, “Thorin is only winning because a talented actor took a strong script and made something out of it that pleased the actors fans and drew all kinds of new fans both to the actor and to both fandoms” — does anyone think that makes sense as a CRITICISM?). And those people turned something that’s supposed to be light-hearted and fun into something that’s not light-hearted and not-fun. I assume this happens b/c of low self-esteem — they’ve talked themselves into thinking that Tolkien is such a minority pleasure that no one who stands mostly outside the Tolkien fandom would ever take the trouble under normal circumstances to vote in such a poll, so the heightened interest in Thorin can’t be attributed to “real” Tolkien fandom, or else, it’s the other way round — anyone who votes for Thorin b/c they liked Armitage or liked the character of Thorin in the film can’t be a “real” Tolkien fan. They’re the ones who are putting up the walls. I should just let them, because if Richard Armitage can’t convince them that Thorin is worth a lot of people’s attention (and got it), I certainly won’t!

    • Jane says:

      I think they may think fans are only voting for Thorin because he is hot and appeals on a very basic level – just the looks and the “majestic” charisma. In the very early days someone said that a female fan praising RA’s acting ability has about as much credibility as a male fan praising Megan Fox’ acting.

      • marieastra8 says:

        LOL! Well, he is hot, can’t deny that! Truly I did find myself wondering what the voting was about anyway. I love the character of Gandalf far more than that of Thorin, but I voted for Thorin because of RA. Because of his, er, acting ability. See, you can’t separate the two things! He uses everything he’s got in his acting. Thanks for reading, Jane and welcome!

  4. marieastra8 says:

    I think part of the problem is the movie/books divide. If you are someone who sees the books as holy writ, then it would be annoying that there are people who are supporting a character in the book based on THE MOVIE. Without the movie, would Thorin EVER win against Gandalf? Unlikely. It was Armitage’s portrayal of him in the movie that made him a popular character. I agree that it is wrong and shortsighted for Tolkien fans to characterize ANY fans of The Hobbit in a negative way! Just as the Armitage fanbase was enriched by those coming to it through Thorin, the Tolkien community is enriched by new people brought to the books through the movie. Thanks for reading, Servetus! You are most welcome here!

  5. Pingback: Richard Armitage Legenda 74: Stuff worth reading | Me + Richard Armitage

  6. bechep says:

    I too had the calendars every year – ripped out favourite pics and read and re-read the books growing up. I absolutely loved PJ’s trilogyLOTR. I confess that I didn’t really know much about TH, I knew it was coming out and was very excited to see it but only knew Martin was playing Bilbo. And then I saw it, Oh Richard! He was absolutely perfect for the role. And so unbelievably delicious! I kind of glad I hadn’t seen or heard anything about him before hand, it made the whole experience totally gobsmackingly amazing!

    • marieastra8 says:

      Well, I did pay attention, and it was STILL amazing!! I am so, SO, happy that RA was cast as Thorin!! He made so much of a role that I hadn’t considered at all. And I found out about him and his wonderfulness! 🙂 So happy!! Thanks for reading!!

    • marieastra8 says:

      I know!! I feel that way too. Glad it was an exciting new experience to see glorious Thorin played by RA!! I am so happy for you to be seeing the man in Sydney on May !. Lucky girl!! 🙂 Thanks for reading my blog!!

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  8. LostinaGoodbook says:

    I think this is something we RA fans will have to get used to. I am sure he will go on to have a successful film career after the Hobbit, so he will be cast in many different films. Not everyone will agree over every casting decision and the films may garner critical reviews. He may even turn in a bad performance at some point! He is only human and humans get things wrong on a regular basis – I know I do. But it is still worth following his journey because he is brave enough to overcome his doubts and fears and throw himself into new challenges 100%, which I find inspiring. The risk of failure is always there, and perhaps he will fail at some point, but I’m sure he won’t let even that stop him.

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