My job was to try and make the character of Thorin feel very real, despite the heavy makeup, working my facial muscles, making sure the wig moved like hair, without too much appearance of vanity, which Thorin has very little of. The biggest challenge was the prosthetic hands.
I think hands reveal so much about a character. They are sensitive little beings all of their own, and the enlargement with the silicone hands could quite restrictive. I wasn’t able to put my hands through my hair, or pick up anything with ease. Touching my face, or touching another character’s face in a tender moment, was always going to be difficult. Hands are also connected to the emotions. The clenched fist and the relaxed shaking fingers–these are things we had to learn to live without.
I found this fascinating in terms of our fascination with Richard Armitage’s own beautiful, expressive hands and how he has used them in past roles (as well as his endearing penchant for talking with his hands in interviews).
I can only imagine he did find it frustrating to be restricted in the use of those hands whilst playing Thorin. Richard strikes me as an actor who uses all the “weapons” in his acting arsenal, facial expressions, voice modulation, hair, body language and those amazingly expressive hands, to bring a character to life. The restrictions placed on him by the makeup and prosthetics proved just one more challenge for our gifted performer to take on–and triumph over!
When he speaks of “touching another character’s face in a tender moment” my stomach does flip-flops. Once again I envision the object of Thorin’s affection being gently, tenderly caressed, face cupped in his hands before a soft, beardy kiss. Sort of a Thornton moment for Thorin . . .
(I know, I know, Thorin doesn’t have a romantic interest in the book, it’s not canon, yadda yadda yadda–but a girl can dream, right?)
Something that I have wondered about is how the actors were able to wield their weapons as dwarfs so believably and effectively with those unwieldy prosthetic hands. And I found the answer within the pages of this book, too: dwarf mitts!
According to Jason Docherty, the special makeup and prosthetics supervisor for Weta, the use of fighting mitts was the answer:
“The silicone covered only the top, leaving the fingers, palm and bottom completely open, and thereby not inhibiting the grip of weapons at all–great for fight sequences but not for a close-up. For close-ups, we always used a full arm or full hand.”
Docherty also mentions how much time Thorin spent with his forearms exposed and so he often wore the full arm prosthetic. That included battle scenes, so there were “fighting forearms” lacking palms, too, for just such occasions. Hmmmmm, battling Thorin with bare forearms. Roaring, hair flying, eyes flashing. Works for me . . . *whimper* Can’t wait for some sneak peeks of him in full Bared Forearm Alpha Fighting Mode.
That being said, I really would like to see those hands on the big screen free of any silicone, being beautifully expressive. Oh, Black Sky, where art thou?