The publicity machine, shyness & ‘safe’ skiing: check out Richard’s ‘Profile’

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An intriguing profile by Adam Jacque of Richard from Sunday’s The Independent UK. Many thanks to RANet for the heads-up. The more I know of him, the more I know I will never “know” him and the more he fascinates me.

Would love to hear your thoughts on this . . . and I do think it’s pretty safe to assume Richard would like to be asked some different questions. And in spite of his shyness, I’d say he’s a very interesting guy.

I never like to go out of character when filming starts I fear that if I do, I might not be able to pick it up again. This was particularly the case with the character Thorin Oakenshield [in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit]. He’s moody and broody, so people kept their distance from me during the production. I wish I was good at jumping out of character in between takes, as I’d be more popular socially.

Publicity for ‘The Hobbit’ was relentless I was travelling and doing junkets around the world, being asked the same questions every day for three weeks. Then at the end of the working day I’d have to get down the red carpet. It’s pretty hard work. I much prefer being in front of a camera.

I love how Gary Oldman disappears into a role You see a character before you see him; you believe him as he’s so invested in that character, such as his George Smiley in Tinker Tailor… That’s what I’m striving for.

I’d like to act in a film without special effects I’ve spent the past two years in a special FX environment for The Hobbit. I also need to find something where I’m not fighting or inflicting violence on someone, as a lot of the roles I’ve had, such as Lucas North in Spooks and Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood, have involved that. I don’t know why that’s been the case!

It’s bloody annoying being shy I’ll spend a whole evening at a party asking everyone else about themselves. I’m not being self-deprecating; it’s because I’m too shy to talk about myself. So people come away from the evening actually having learnt nothing about me.

I hate selfishness in people I lean towards the Japanese idea of “you first”, such as always allowing another to walk through a door before you. Though admittedly, in their culture, this [thoughtfulness] is shame-based, to some extent.

I’m an avid skier Most of the time that I’ve been skiing, I’ve been about to go and film something, so I’m always living in fear of a broken leg and I ski very safely. I’ve taken a few tumbles, though. I once flipped and bounced on my head, landing in a mess on the floor; it’s a dangerous sport but it’s exhilarating and it allows me to unwind.

Snowboarders ruin the piste They shave off all the snow so it’s like an ice patch, and they sit in the middle of the piste, chatting with friends in a line, so you have to jump over them as you come over the crest of a hill.

I’d like to live off-grid I’m fascinated with the documentation of the environment [and its degradation] through photography, and our hunt to move away from fossil fuels and towards new technology. I’m attempting to build a home that uses water, wind or solar power. Right now it’s just a pastime, but it’s an exciting prospect.

Richard Armitage, 41, is a British actor. ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey‘ is available on DVD from tomorrow

31 responses »

  1. The probability that I will ever meet Richard, let alone know him, comes infinitely close to zero. Yet these answers show him much as I imagine him to be.

    The concentration of being in character is what we experience as an audience, the entirely convincing complexity of an actual human being (or dwarf). I’ve heard other actors describe something similar, being unable to shift emotional/mental gears between takes.

    Yes, much as he plays warriors beautifully, I, too, would like to see him in a role where violence is less prominent. (There’s only a couple of swordfights in “The Prisoner of Zenda” *sigh*.)

    “Shyness” is part of a certain English culture: don’t make much of yourself, don’t call attention to yourself, don’t talk about the “I”. This coupled to an actor’s natural interest in what makes other people tick would account for his experience at parties.

    I think what he loves about skiing is the exhilarating combination of absolute control and utter freedom from it. In his place, I’d have the same fear of an injury messing up the shooting schedule or even losing a job. Physically, he’s anything but a coward. I am immensely glad that fall he took did not do any more damage than it did.

    It’s not just that snowboarders ruin the piste; it’s the sheer thoughtlessness that many of them exhibit. At some ski resorts, snowboarders are banned from the downhill runs, and restricted to their own areas, just as Nordic skiers are not permitted to cross downhill runs. I think that is how it should be.

    I can see Richard wanting to live in an environmentally sound home, “off the grid” for most things. The architectural design challenge no doubt appeals to him, too. One does not have to be a Luddite to want appropriate technology, to want not to make a mess being a power and water glutton. There again is the emphasis on consideration for others. However, there has to be a tower in line of sight for one’s WiFi to work, no matter where one is, unless one has a strong satellite connection and a big enough dish. Property acquisition and permitting should be part of the design phase, and it can take years, especially to get it right and assuage the local authorities’ demands.

    So, yes, all the more reason to respect him and remain terminally smitten, irretrievably besotted, and hopelessly, blissfully addicted. Pity that probability is so achingly, infinitesimally close to zero…

  2. I hadn’t yet seen the article, so thank you for this. As much fodder as The Hobbit junkets gave us, it all really did seem exhausting – from theatrical release to DVD. I really don’t know how he did it or what it really took to get up each day and try to pretend that you hadn’t heard “that damn question” yet again. I would certainly like to hear different questions asked – not so much the intrusive, but guiding ones that allow for flow, like the above article. Unfortunately, his choice of R & R is physically taxing, but it’s clear he needs the rush. When I worked in production briefly, post-production depression was inevitable for me and most of the folk I worked with. To avoid it I went right into another show. So he either does that, or does something that is at least equal to the high – such as skiing. I can not even imagine what it it’s like to come down after a production like The Hobbit. Very likely his other consolation, besides the skiing, is knowing he goes back to New Zealand in about a month.

    On shyness and apologies – people get offended easily about something that very often has nothing to do with them. They can internalize the smallest thing that they feel may be a slight. Avoiding certain kinds of social interaction, especially where there are large groups of people, is something I personally have to do, and often. I experience a type of overload that is difficult for me to really describe with large groups. I’m an introvert (low on social approach), which is different from shy, in that shyness often is fear of being judged (social avoidance). I make apologies a lot for not going to parties where there will be more than a handful of people I’d have to greet, remember their name (I am very bad at this), and..sigh…often have to pretend to be really interested. For Richard, being on a set like the Hobbit, there is/was constant interaction with large groups. For myself, I could not imagine being able to focus and concentrate the way he does. But it really is more than likely that he is an introvert, and not so much shy. I don’t think he would have gotten this far in the business or be able to play the Alpha quite so well.

    • Hi, Crystal, and welcome, and thanks for your comment. I do think RA is really looking forward to returning to Middle-earth–could this be where he is thinking of building his eco-friendly home?

      No doubt the press junket, unlike anything he’d ever done before publicity-wise, had to be punishing to both body and mind. No wonder some of his responses were contradictory. I’d forget how tall I was, too! And he’ll have to do the same thing all over again, one assumes, for two more films (and the DVD releases–plus the extended versions?!)

      • I did feel for him throughout the whole publicity process–as he said, that kind of thing must be incredibly taxing, even though he was doing a great deal of it with castmates he knew well and seemed to be very comfortable with. I think he did an amazing job, considering how exhausted he must have been and he was obviously fighting a very pervasive bug for at least part of the time.

        • Just think what a hellish experience it must be to participate in one of those juggernauts with people you don’t really like or want to spend time with–talk about needing to put your acting skills into play! Although I know Richard would remain ever polite and charming, it has to be a little easier to do with castmates who are friends, too.

          • Yikes, what a horrible thought–I am very grateful that at least he wasn’t subjected to that. I sort of think, also, that maybe he’s beginning to think a bit more towards his next project–since “Black Sky” is still in limbo for now, maybe he’s getting a bit antsy as to where he goes from here, even with more work to do on “The Hobbit”.

            • I think so, too, that desire to move on to the next challenge.

              On a related note, Alfred Hitchcock would start thinking of his next movie even while in the midst of directing his current one. He plotted out everything meticulously and story-boarded to the Nth degree, right down to wardrobe and hair style and perfume of his leading ladies, before the first scene was ever shot. That was the fun part for him. He didn’t like keep that part of his creative brain idle for long.

              • It just seems like he’s been so incredibly busy for such a long time, literally going from one project directly into another, sometimes before the current one was even finished–I can’t help but think that he must be thinking about what’s coming up after he’s finished with this upcoming session of the Hobbit shoot. I haven’t gotten the impression that he’s looking to take any appreciable downtime, though it seems to me he could certainly use some.

              • I’ve wondered if it’s this old fear about not having work and wondering where his next paycheck would come from that still nibbles away at him. I do worry about him burning the candle at both ends, but he really seems to thrive on staying busy.

              • Give him a mountain with good snow, enough time to enjoy it, some good pinot noir and a massage after, and I’ll bet he’ll rest.

              • I don’t know–I’d bet he might for short spurts of time, but he seems too driven to me to do it for long periods. I think he’s too focused on the work right now.

              • I wonder if there’s a sense he’s got to make up for lost time in some ways . . . because other actors have gotten their big break at a younger age than he did.

              • I think that’s entirely possible–I think he’s very conscious of the fact that he’s a bit of a late bloomer in the workplace and wants to make up for lost time. On the other hand, he has a perfect example of someone in front of him who has worked well into his 70’s and is still going strong–Sir Ian. I can easily see Richard working for many years to come and being in great demand for all kinds of roles. But given his reaction to meeting Gandalf for the first time, yet again, I could see him thinking that that will not happen for him.

              • He also mentions again in the new book that just as Thorin had doubts about carrying out his mission, Richard had doubts as to whether or not he could pull off the role. But I agree, I see no reason why he couldn’t keep working in a variety of roles well into his golden years.

              • Again–this type of thing makes me wish I had a magic wand that I could wave over him while repeating “You are magnificent–you are wonderful–you are brilliant–you are amazingly talented–people love and adore you”. And anything else that occurred to me while I had hold of the wand. Come to think of it, I have a marvelous jeweled wand around here somewhere. I need to find that thing.

  3. “Terminally smitten” – what a great way of putting it, Leigh. I like your interpretation of RA via what he says in the interview.
    Back to the thing about “shyness” and his description of his behaviour at parties. I can relate to that as I tend to do that myself – the reason actually not being shyness, though. It is simply easier to fire questions at others, at being the “keyword launcher”, rather than answer with thoughtful statements about oneself. However, I think it doesn’t really work in his favour when it comes to the business he is in. He has been very lucky that his talent has been recognised and appreciated. But in the arts – whether it is something as high-profile as acting or other arts – you really need elbows. You *have to* put yourself out there, promote yourself like the dog’s b*ll*cks (sorry), otherwise you will not be seen or heard. Don’t get me wrong – I very much like this about him. It makes him more real and more human than a lot of the superstar acting celebrities. But I fear that this is why he has been sidelined for a certain degree so far. If he is fine with that – great. But if it is something he resents, well…

    • Oh, Guylty, I know only too well about putting oneself out there and promoting like the dog’s testicles. I am faced with having to promote myself as an author on google+, fb, goodreads, and so on if I want to get anyone to buy my books. Arrgh. It took me a couple of hours to come up with a few sentences worth of “profile”, and I’m still not pleased with what I had to say for myself. I have proved that I can market for others successfully, but promoting my work through social media is something completely different. Do you care what I look like, what I do when I’m not writing, where I live? Apparently, these things sell books.

      • I sympathize Leigh, hugely!!! I consistently sell myself short in my professional life, accepting shitty fees for my work while telling others not to accept anything below industry standard fees. Interestingly, I find I can well promote myself in my largely anonymous self as “Guylty”. Weird or what? – As regards your (rhetorical) question – where you live, what you look like etc – yes, strangely enough people want to know that… And aren’t we ourselves the best proof of that, wanting to know about RA aside his professional life… Good thing is – you can be a bit liberal with the truth. Go for it, Leigh. 🙂

          • You know I will be facing the same sort of thing, Leigh, and even now wrestling with how to best promote the video production business. I am not a natural hawkster. I can encourage and promote others, but when it comes to myself, it feels uncomfortable somehow. But to sell–whatever, you have to market it, including your talents. And that is somehow hard to do.

            • I wish you all success, Guylty. I wish, too, that I knew of work I could send your way, something to put in your portfolio at least.

            • Good luck on your business! It can be pretty daunting to promote oneself and one thing I tell all my massage therapy students is that people in general are tuned in to only ONE station WIIFM = What’s In It For Me?

              I advise them to tune in to the target audience’s station, even if means just one person in particular, the one you’re talking to at that party or event or as you stand in line at the bank or Starbucks, and tune in to what they want that you can offer. Whether it’s a book, a video production, a role of a lifetime, it’s always going to be the same station for everyone 🙂

              Being able to tune into what the target audience is looking for may also mean referring them to someone else if what they need isn’t what you offer. And that is a good thing, as well. People often remember those who have directed them elsewhere instead of trying to get all the business they can get regardless of whether they can meet the demand or not.

              I’m just simplifying it of course, but it’s one of the first steps of getting through the hurdle of promoting oneself. Also, craft your “elevator speech”. Average time in an elevator, let’s say, is 60 seconds, so if you were stuck in an elevator with someone and they ask you what is it that you do, be able to craft what you do do in 60 seconds or less. It’s a challenge, but it teaches one how to be straight to the point when it matters 🙂

              Sorry for the threadnap…

  4. How weird–my housemate had just found this on Facebook (I am SO not a Facebook person), and I’d just finished reading it before diving into my email. As I’ve said a number of times, there’s a line in one of my favorite songs by Heart–“You’re my obsession, my addiction, my drug”–which completely sums up my feelings about Richard. The biggest thing, though, that still truly astonishes me after all this time (which was reinforced again today by reading this Q&A) is that this wonderful, amazing, magnificent human being still seems to have no idea of the incredible impact he has on people. I’m sure a great deal of this has to do with his innate shyness and self effacing personality. More popular in character?–all of the guys he worked with on”The Hobbit” apparently felt he was the greatest thing since sliced bread from their comments. I guess I just wish he knew of the positive impact he’s had on lives, literally–not sure he’d believe it, but I can always hope. He lights up the world–he can’t help it. You may not realize it, dearest Richard, but we all do and we are much the better for it.

    • Stephanie, I feel the same way, and you’ve expressed it so perfectly… He inspires me so much by how he approaches life… Yes, he is the perfect life-ruiner, gorgeous man that he is, but also he makes life more beautiful for us all… Cheers

      • Cheers to you as well–one thing I find about Richard is that he does inspire me to speak from the heart, especially when it comes to speaking of him–oftentimes, I find myself at a loss, which is not a plus when you’re trying to write. Yet another gift I have received from my “association” (for lack of a better word) with Richard.

  5. If he is shy then I am a wallflower. Shyness can be very hard at times. It is not that I don’t want to be say a chatty person, I just can’t. I need to get to know the person or people first before I can feel able to come out of my shell or from hiding in the back behind someone tall will due just fine.
    You just have to feel sorry for Richard being asked the same questions over and over, it’s a wonder he could keep it all straight.
    When I am say cooking I am not so shy. It has taken me years to be able to sit down and talk with my husbands aunts, uncles and cousins without feeling I needed to be doing something to ease the fear. I think I needed there blessing. I know now that I have it, I am no longer the inlaw, but part of the family.

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