Tag Archives: Richard Taylor

‘First Impressions’ of the Leader of the Company: More from ‘Chronicles II’

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More fascinating tidbits from the latest Weta Workshop book, this time from Peter King, makeup and hair designer:

First impressions are often lasting . . . when you are designing a character for the screen it is vital you get their look absolutely right for the first shots in which they appear . . . so that we impart a message about the character we want them to understand instantly when he walks on screen. Consequently, we put a lot of thought into Thorin, and his arrival in the movie is built up by the other Dwarves as they await his arrival at Bag End.

thehobbit-p1_1274Thorin, as he appears at Bilbo’s door. Our first glimpse of the majestic dwarf in present day.

There is an awe and a reverence that surrounds him. He is very strong and slightly scary, but also hypnotic and charismatic. Thorin is the leader, a king among his people and the Dwarf upon whose shoulders the future and hopes of his people rests.

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I have to say that I was “wowed” by the first impression of Thorin when Gandalf opened that door to him.  Charismatic? Absolutely. Hypnotic? Hmmmmm–was I saying . . . oh, yes. Definitely.

I was truly awed.  (Not that I expected anything less than awesome with Mr. A involved.)

King discusses how Thorin’s look evolved:

We went through a number of iterations before we settled upon his final makeup, which consisted of a thin forehead and nose, wig and ear. Thorin’s nose was Romanesque, which imparted a sense of nobility. His wig was also composed entirely of human hair, without any yak, which was used to add body to some of the other dwarves. That allowed it to flow and move more romantically.

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*sigh* Works for me, Mr. King. Works for me.

As for Thorin’s beard, King has this to say:

For the same reason, Thorin’s beard ended up clipped quite close to preserve his more refined appearance and to not hide the actor under a full face of hair. It was important for people to understand and relate to Thorin so we didn’t want to build a wall of hair in front of him that would impede that in any way.

Very wise decision, sir. That face is much too expressive to hide it all under heavy prosthetics and excess facial hair.

And here are some thoughts from Mr. Armitage himself:

Early on in the shaping of Thorin’s look, we had some quite extreme prosthetics and elaborate beard designs. I was very pleased with the effort, which was such a transformation.  I looked like another being–older, and very much like a Dwarf.  As the design began to change, with resculpting, reshaping and stripping back, I realized that is was a process we were going through, to find a point at which Thorin and the actor inside him were both visible.  Of course, that feels like a great compliment, although Richard Taylor did tell me fairly near to the end of filming that they straightened my nose, which is apparently off-center . . . I didn’t know that!

Gosh, I thought his real nose was darned near perfect. Perfect in its imperfection. And truly noble.

And I do love that romantic hair . . .  I think it’s time for my “Thorin: King Under the Hair” fanvid!

Thorin and the Vambrace; or, Whatever Happened to the Mighty Oak?

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Young Thorin holding the piece of oak tree trunk he used as a shield in battle, leading to his being called Thorin Oakenshield. But what did he do with that piece of mighty oak?

The topic came up in a previous Thorin post https://thearmitageeffect.wordpress.com/2013/01/24/he-earned-it/

When I got my little Thorin,  one of his accessories, in addition to Orcrist and his Dwarven sword, was a piece that attached to his forearm. I regret to say I have mislaid said accessory somewhere in this room. It’s somewhere with mini Lego Thorin’s sword. My missing Thorin accessory relates to the chunk of wood he used in a terrible battle.

Little Thorin with his special vambrace on his sword arm.

Little Thorin with his special vambrace on his Orcrist sword arm.

I remembered reading in the The Hobbit Chronicles: Art & Design from Weta Workshop (such an absolutely beautiful book) about Richard’s ideas for that trusty piece of hardwood.

Here’s what Richard said:

I thought it would be nice to bring something from the past into what is happening now; he might have kept and nurtured this chunk of oak that had saved his life and perhaps honed it into something else. I made a sketch of it, like a branch that had been hollowed to become something like a vambrace* with prongs, which I showed to Peter and he liked the idea of it.

Richard Taylor picked it up and we went through a development of the idea. It briefly had a fist-like end with nails on it, but it started to look Orcish so we pulled back from that to keep a Dwarfish feel.

*vambraces: forearm guards that are tubular or guttural defenses for the forearms, usually worn as a part of a suit of armor.

And that is the story behind the actor’s (and artist’s and filmmaker’s) vision for what happened to the oak tree that gave our oak-hard hero his name.

Now, if I can only find those errant weapons. Probably under a stack of books somewhere . . .

I just threw this one in because it's so delicious. That is all.

I just threw this one in because it’s so delicious. That is all.

If you haven’t purchased it yet–you’ll want to.

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I’m taking about The Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyChronicles: Art & Design by Daniel Falconer. This beautiful 200-page book  from Weta Workshop was just released today and, having pre-ordered it from Amazon, my friendly Fed Ex lady delivered it to my doorstep a little earlier.  Squee!

And “beautiful” is no exaggeration. The sturdy cover, embossed in gold, has the look of fine leather, with a reproduction of Thorin’s map ready to fold out inside the front cover, and Bilbo’s contract with the Company inside the back cover.

The book is chock-full of conceptual art for the film, from the furnishings for Bag End to the environs of Goblin-town, done in detailed pencil sketches and vibrant watercolors. We see the development of the costumes, hair, beards, weaponry, accoutrements and more for the cast of characters, along with descriptions from costume designer Ann Maskrey and many others instrumental in creating the amazing world of Middle-Earth.

I still don’t have a scanner here, so I tried to take a new photos of some of the pages I thought would most interest you: the ones about Thorin, of course.

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From the Chronicles, artwork depicting concepts for Thorin’s look. On the right, Thorin’s “oakenshield,” an addition envisioned by Richard.

I even found a snippet written by a certain fellow you might know of–

Thorin receives the name Oakenshield when he is younger, when finding himself without a shield in the middle of the dreadful battle, he breaks a branch off a tree and fights with it on his arm. I thought it would be nice to bring something of the past into what was happening now: he might have kept and nurtured this chunk of oak that had saved his life and perhaps honed it into something else. I made a sketch of it, like a branch that had been hollowed to become something like a vambrace with prongs, which I showed to Peter and he liked the idea of it.

Richard Taylor picked it up and we went through a development of the idea. It briefly had a fist-like end with nails on it, but it started to look Orcish so we pulled back from that to give it a Dwarvish feel.

Richard Armitage, Actor, Thorin

(In case you are wondering what a vambrace is, it’s a “forearm guard worn as part of a suit of plate armour.” Yeah, I had to look it up. Who says Richarding isn’t educational?)

Here’s some of Thorin’s gear:

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And guess who else is featured in the book? Yup, young Thorin.  Sadly, I believe the concept image of a bare-chested, sweaty young Thorin working as a blacksmith was simply done as a request. They ended up sticking a shirt on him (shades of Guy!). “I think this one was done for the ladies,” said the artist, Gus Hunter. Oh, yeah . . .

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And here’s a passage from another page on young Thorin:

We see Thorin as a young prince in a time before Smaug’s coming. Initially we offered suggestions that were quite princely, but it became clear that Peter, Fran and Philippa really wanted him to contrast with the pompous grandeur of the scene and be much more of an understated hero. My immediate reference of choice for that was Aragorn. I worked up ideas to suggest he’s just come back from a hunt and is dressed in functional leathers.  It’s interesting that little things such as shortening his hair or raising his crotch-line, all make Thorin look younger: little tricks that convey a sense of youth.

(Raising his crotch-line? Oh, never mind . . .)

This is just a small sampling of the treasures to be found within the pages of this book (trying to avoid spoilers here), in what promises to be a series of  such volumes from Weta Workshop on the trilogy.  Why, you even get a glimpse of lady dwarves complete with varying degrees of hirsuteness!

It’s wonderful to see the creative efforts of all these talented people spotlighted in such a handsome volume.  You can order the book ( retails for $39.99, $26.39 through Amazon) and use RANet’s portal for a portion of the sale to go to Richard’s Just Giving charities. It really would make a fabulous gift for any Hobbit fan (including yourself).

And now, back to salivating over that picture of half-naked young Thorin working up a sweat . . . oops, did I type that out loud?