A ‘handy’ post: RA talks dealing with prosthetic digits in ‘Chronicles’

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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.

~~Richard Armitage, actor, Thorin  From the Weta Workshop book Chronicles II, “Dwarf Prosthetics”

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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).

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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!

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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?

18 responses »

  1. Wow–right before bedtime, too. I’m going to have to hit my thesaurus and find some new adjectives for our guy–I seem to keep using the same ones over and over, and none of them are ever adequate. To think of those beautiful hands covered with prosthetics–hope they have someone good to do hand massage. Makes my hands ache just to think about it.

    • I am so pumped up now. I just discovered Karen Gillan, Amy from Doctor Who, has been here in Alabama filming an indie movie down in Mobile, which is fun to discover. And having so much fun with this new Weta book. Really, it is worth every penny of the $23 some odd dollars I spent. I love that the actors are all liberally quoted throughout the book, along with the people from Weta, and all the photos, too.

      You know, they said in one of the vlogs they had an on-set masseuse. Perhaps they also offered hand massages for the dwarves?

        • Yes! I pre-ordered last year and was expecting it tomorrow, so when it arrived today I was tickled pink. I really loved the first one in the series. I never really feel guilty over what I spend on books, either. And this is a stunning volume, beautifully bound with an embossed cover, a gorgeous picture of Thorin on the lower left portion of it. Lots of photos, lots of interesting information about all the characters. They should hire me to publicize their books LOL

          • I have been coveting the first one ever since I first saw it listed a while back–I, too, just can’t feel guilty about what I spend on books, having been a voracious reader ever since I can remember. The art also interests me greatly from working in galleries the years that I did–I still miss it, though I haven’t been away from it all that long. I guess that’s why I always have so many projects going that I work so hard on. I miss it a little less when I’m creating.

            • Yep, me, too, I’ve loved books all my life. My background is in art ed and I’ve taught art on elementary and high school level, so all these stuff really fascinates me. I am sure I will end up collecting all the Weta books tied to TH as they come out. If your projects bring you creative joy and satisfaction and provide a sort of catharsis, more power to them.

      • Found it, Angie–I should have guessed that’s where it would be coming from. May have to give myself an early birthday gift–I would also love to have the first one and maybe I can manage that now that there are a few used copies available. As far as the hand massages–I hope they were available. Hands are very delicate instruments and it sounds like the dwarves were giving theirs quite a workout on a daily basis, especially wielding those heavy weapons.

        • Well, I was thinking it would make a fantastic gift for a fan, so why not treat yourself?! The first book gives a lot of detail into how the characters’ looks were developed and about the development of the different sets. Wonderful artistic renderings of each article each dwarf carried with him.

          I love Richard’s words about hands being “sensitive little beings all of their own”– *sigh* I just love that guy, I really, really do.

    • You are so right Stephanie – one does tend to run out of superlatives when it comes to this unique and multi talented man. I really missed seeing his expressive hands. I’m sure there would be quite the line-up (queue) of us more than willing to do the massaging! 😉 *sigh*

      • I think all those interviews reminded of what wonderful hands he has. Beautiful, a sculptor’s dream; strong, capable, expressive and gentle. Truly, the man need not want for any sort of special attention.

        • I’d actually love to shake hands with him or better yet hold his hands for a while. 😉 I have an idea it would feel as though I’d had an electric shock!! Seriously, I think it would be *the* most wonderful feeling in the world to touch him! *melts at the very thought*

          So sorry to hear about your latest fall, Angie. Take care of yourself my dear!

          • I would love to shake his hand, too. And just than him for being HIM.

            My husband suggested we just wrap me in bubble wrap each morning and maybe I’d not get so beat up LOL

            • I think your beloved may be on to something there!! 😀

              I truly wish Richard would realize just how precious he really is. He mentioned aiming to be like Gary Oldman! He obviously is unaware that he already “disappears into roles” which is the reason we care so much about each of his chaRActers, good or bad, and grieve when they have to “die”.

              • My beloved is a very smart man. 😉

                I thought that, too, when I read the comments about Oldman. Gary is a great actor, but RA is just as strong in his ability to immerse himself in the character. But then I suspect RA is also someone never completely satisfied with his work, always striving to do better, be better.

            • Okay, this will sound nuts, but it’s worth a shot. I think it’s the Wellness Catalog–they sell a bracelet called the “Renew” bracelet for $19.95, I believe. I went through a series of bad falls over the course of about a year and a half, mostly “trip-and-falls” or just “what-the-hell-am-I doing-on-the-floor/ground falls”. I saw this thing in that catalog and thought, “Okay, it’s worth a try, I guess.” There’s no reason I can come up with except it actually works–I haven’t fallen since I got it. I’ve tripped or had balance issues here and there, but never fallen since I started wearing it. There was also a woman where I was working at that time that said the same thing–once she started wearing it, no more falls. And believe me, Angie, I’m sure I’m at least as much of a klutz as you may be, if not worse. Think about it, okay?

  2. “Once again I envision the object of Thorin’s affection being gently, tenderly caressed, face cupped in his hands before a soft, beardy kiss.” THUD ❤ Thank you for that. What a lovely thought for bedtime. 🙂

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