The casting of Richard Armitage as Thorin has received more than its fair share of criticism over the last year. I realize the actor does not exactly fit the dwarven stereotype, and I am sympathetic with those who initially had trouble seeing him in the role (so did I, for about a minute). But it appears the majority of critics speak without having seen more than a headshot of the actor, and ironically, dislike him for being too handsome (as if dwarven populations are incapable of any phenotypic diversity).
What I find amusing is how people are worried that Armitage does not have enough gravitas as an actor to portray Thorin. Clearly, my well-meaning Tolkien fans, you are simply unaware of his range. He may be one of Britain’s best kept secrets, but you must not have searched very hard if you still believe he lacks intensity. Or did you only tune in to that final “Vicar of Dibley” episode? Perhaps you should watch the final episodes of Spooks season 9 instead. The writers may have betrayed the character (and half the fan base), but watching Lucas North come to the end of the line was like watching a plane crashing; horrifying, fiery, and spectacular! For my part, I am confident the proof that Peter Jackson made yet another inspired casting choice will become clear to everyone next December.
While Armitage appears humble and soft-spoken in interviews, he can really take command of a scene when on-camera. Part of this ability is due to his voice, which is naturally deep, and often has the element of gruff authority. If you are still wondering how this fine-featured fellow will pull off a disgruntled dwarf, let me lead you to something that I enjoyed (albeit in audio form) and which might appeal to other Tolkien fans. After listening to him reading The Lords of the North, by Bernard Cornwell, it requires little imagination to envision Armitage as Thorin leading a charge of men, dwarves, or what-have-you, into battle.
Set in the year 878, the story is about another dispossessed heir. Uhtred, the Saxon warrior raised by Danes, is mostly seeking revenge, but is also fighting to reclaim his throne, though in a very roundabout way.
Lords of the North – excerpt 1 – Uhtred has been captured by an enemy but is saved at the last moment by his rag-tag band of newly trained warriors:
Lords of the North – excerpt 2 – After accepting the son of an enemy into his own ranks, Uhtred challenges the scornful monks who would rather see the boy die:
Listening to Uhtred’s burly bark, I felt I had been given a preview of Thorin. If you are interested in buying the audiobook, it is available from www.audiogo.co.uk. More excerpts available from that site as well. Ordering from outside the UK is a little more tricky, but this info should help.