Richard Ar­mitage comes to the end of The Hob­bit.

Thorin’s quest is almost over. We quiz the tallest Dwarf on his character’s jour­ney

SFX - - Contents - Words by Dave Bradley Por­trait by Sarah dunn

When SFX quips that Thorin Oak­en­shield “goes a bit ba­nanas” at the end of The Hob­bit, Richard Ar­mitage breaks into an un­char­ac­ter­is­tic laugh. The Bri­tish ac­tor has a de­ter­mined, in­tense look that suits the trou­bled Dwarf leader, but our ob­ser­va­tion has him chuck­ling. “Ba­nanas! Yes, that’s the word I was look­ing for,” he says, pre­tend­ing to take notes about the character he has made his own since his first ap­pear­ance in 2012’ s An Un­ex­pected Jour­ney. In the cli­mac­tic fi­nal in­stal­ment of Peter Jack­son’s lat­est Tolkien tril­ogy, Ar­mitage’s character will be over­come by the dragon- sick­ness and lead his moun­tain peo­ple head­long into the tit­u­lar Bat­tle Of The Five Armies. As we sit down with him in the pol­ished gen­til­ity of London’s Clar­idge’s ho­tel, he’s keen to tell us about the men­tal and phys­i­cal jour­ney Thorin’s un­der­taken… Thorin’s gone a long way. How is it to play the darker side of the character?

It was quite hard to gauge. One of the most in­ter­est­ing things I en­joyed work­ing on was see­ing how the dragon in­fuses Thorin; Smaug gets un­der his skin and he almost be­comes the dragon. He saw his grand­fa­ther go mad. The clouds of doom over­shad­owed his grand­fa­ther and his fa­ther; so we’ve al­ways known that th­ese clouds have been gath­er­ing. The dragon- sick­ness. We played around early on when there were only two movies – as he got closer to the moun­tain and closer to the gold, the ill­ness would start. Now that it’s three films, we’ve had to slightly de­lay the on­set of the ill­ness. So there are cer­tain scenes out of the sec­ond film that we had to read­just so the mad­ness didn’t kick in quite so quickly. The end of the sec­ond Hob­bit film was pretty dra­matic. Can we ex­pect even more ac­tion in the third film?

Yes. With­out giv­ing too much away there’s a huge mo­ment in the be­gin­ning of the third

“We pre­pared for the fi­nal bat­tle a year be­fore we fought”

film. Tolkien is such a great writer. He builds you to this point where you think the cli­max of his story is go­ing to be around a par­tic­u­lar event. He dis­patches it very quickly, and then there’s the rest of the book to deal with! So that’s what hap­pens. The great thing about the third film is that Peter’s able to take that lit­tle thing that Tolkien did and play with it. I think that the fi­nal third of this third film, which is a bat­tle nar­ra­tive, is not just a fight, it’s a com­plete story of its own. Were you a fan of Tolkien’s work be­fore you started?

Yes, I read the Rings book a few times when I was a kid. The Hob­bit was prob­a­bly my first in­tro­duc­tion to fan­tasy, at school. It was one of those books that I read alone for the first time with­out some­one forc­ing me to read. So a lot of my imag­i­na­tion I think was formed through th­ese books. It’s a story I know I’ll go back to and read again at some point in my life. Was there a lot of prepa­ra­tion for the fi­nal bat­tle, train­ing to fight with swords and axes?

It was one of the things about split­ting the film into three that we were pre­pared for the fi­nal bat­tle about a year be­fore we got to ac­tu­ally fight! That was the most dif­fi­cult side of it, keep­ing up the stamina that it was go­ing to take for the fi­nal bat­tle. No one knew what the bat­tle was go­ing to be like, how long it was go­ing to be, un­til we ac­tu­ally started shoot­ing it. So it was like an un­known quan­tity. But I’m now happy to say I don’t think there’s a sin­gle move that I shot that hasn’t been used. Peter’s used ev­ery sin­gle move that I did. How did you find his di­rect­ing style?

Peter pushes the takes so that what he gets out of you ul­ti­mately is a kind of ex­haus­tion. Par­tic­u­larly at this point of the jour­ney, and par­tic­u­larly with re­gards to the beats of the bat­tle. He’s not look­ing for su­per­heroes; he’s look­ing for re­ally gritty war­riors. What it feels like to be on a bat­tle­field at the end of your tether and ex­hausted. He cer­tainly pushed me to that point, so there was a real fight for sur­vival at the end for the character. So be­ing part of it hasn’t put you off it? Quite the op­po­site. Peter’s moved on and taken the book with him, but he’s opened up the ideas of the world that Tolkien was never quite do­ing in the book. In a way, what Tolkien did was he went on to write Lord Of The Rings be­cause of The Hob­bit. I think he felt un­ful­filled with The Hob­bit and he wanted more and he wanted to ex­pand on that idea. Peter has kept that river flow­ing in the same di­rec­tion. How did you feel on the last day of film­ing? I re­mem­ber the very last mo­ment, when he called wrap. It was very emo­tional. Phys­i­cally, I was sort of bro­ken. Emotionally, it was a re­ally great mo­ment. [ Writ­ers] Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh were there and they watched the last shot and came up and gave me a hug – be­cause I think they

knew how much it had cost! The Hob­bit: The Bat­tle Of The Five Armies will be re­leased on Fri­day 12 De­cem­ber.

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