SKIP is an Austrian cinema magazine and has an article on Desolation of Smaug in its current December 2013/January 2014 issue.
[Translation by ArchedCory]
Size does matter. In Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit trilogy Richard Armitage makes the impossible possible: His bearded dwarf king easily reaches the sex appeal of Lord of the Rings Hero Aragorn. SKIP met the British actor in Paris and talked to him about height differences, sins of youth and Sundays in Vienna.
SKIP: Usually upon meeting an actor for the first time for real everybody thinks “Oh, I thought he was taller!” In your case it is the exact opposite: In the film you play a dwarf, in reality you are almost 2 meters tall. How was that done during filming?
RICHARD ARMITAGE: Oh, I just kneeled down a bit and dropped my shoulders. (laughs) …no, rubbish. There are a lot of tricks. First of all I had a lot of stuff in my face: My forehead, my nose and my chin were, uhm, “improved” – all in all it was important that my head appeared to be larger in relation to my body, otherwise the dwarf proportions would be all wrong. And a lot of course was done digitally. There is a fascinating method which already scales part of the picture during the filming process. And of course lots of it was done with green screen. Well, and in the end there is still the good old box to step on to. In any case it was very strange for me to look up when talking – I usually never do that. Now I can look down on people again. (laughs).
You had your first stage experience at the age of 14, and it was a stage version of The Hobbit for a school play. What did you play there?
I was the legendary third elf from the right. (laughs). I wore a thick woollen coat that was spray-painted with silver dye to make it look like chain mail from the distance. Somehow it is similar to what Peter Jackson has invented. (laughs). Anyhow, back then I didn’t understand what exactly was the problem between dwarves and elves. In the meantime that has changed diametrically, I literally internalized the conflict. I can’t even enter a room with an elf anymore! (laughs).
In this trilogy you somehow represent what Aragorn was in the Lord of the Rings trilogy – the tough heroic hunk. Do you compare yourself to Viggo Mortensen?
Of course not, I am not an iconoclast. In any case I don’t even think those two characters are very similar – besides the fact they both start their quest as kings without kingdoms.
In any case you are the first sexy dwarf in film history.
You think so? Thank you! Although there already is Al Pacino. (laughs). But I know what you mean: It’s not really about size – you can hardly see that on the screen anyway – it is the facial hair that was in the way of sex so far. But we did our best. Especially the make-up department.
How much influence do you think this role will have on your career?
Well, it’s difficult for me to say what that will do to my career… but it already has a big influence on me personally. To play such a famous character over such a long time on this wonderful location with that director for such a huge, expecting audience – that is a once in a lifetime experience. That will never come back.
Are you afraid of the fans and the paparazzi?
The nice thing is that I do look quite different in reality than in the film. At least so far I am still spared from the big rush and am not recognized on the street frequently yet. I hope it stays like that. I really like to travel a lot and I would like to keep doing that in the future. I have actually been to Vienna a few times already, the last time is not so long ago.
What did you do?
I visited Belvedere (a castle that is very important in Austria’s history) and the Naschmarkt (a huge open air market place). That one is really great. And then I was on a concert in that little club there down by the river… what was the name again… Flex, exactly. I think Vienna is great. There is a reason why it is considered one of the cities most worth living in. I also find it so great in your country that Sundays are still Sundays, all shops are closed and the whole world just goes on a break.
(Interview by Gini Brenner)
INTO THE WOODS
Elf alert. On the one hand the very attractive 34-year-old has already been in business for quite some time – but apart from the fans of TV series Pushing Daisies hardly anybody knows him. But that will change: In The Hobbit – The Desolation of Smaug Lee Pace plays the proud king of the wood elves and shines with heaps of charisma.
SKIP: What kind of person is elvenking Thranduil? His role in the film is developed broader than in the book.
LEE PACE: Well, he is not the cuddliest of them all and he is also not the best father for Orlando’s Legolas. He is a tough guy, but I like him. Even although he is not particularly loveable. But he doesn’t really care what people think of him anyway. In one way he is some kind of antagonist in the film because he is a foe to the dwarves – but I understand him in a way. I mean, he wants to stop them from awakening a huge sleeping dragon, that is definitely understandable.
In the first trilogy Peter Jackson still worked a lot with the forced perspective technique, where actors of the same size in the same scene seem to be of different height simply by positioning them at different distances from the camera. This time that didn’t work anymore because of the 3D technology, also, in many dialogue scenes the characters were only later put together on the computer. How was it to play that?
Very strange. Richard and I had some very intense scenes together. In real life we are about the same size, but in the film he is a dwarf and I am even taller than in reality. And so we rehearsed together, but each filmed on their own – and that was very complicated because our movements still had to fit together. It was like a dance without music, but with a very complicated choreography. And when I saw some of these scenes completely done for the first time I was completely blown away. Especially because the surrounding is so beautiful: The underground realm of Thranduil has become staggering in its magical gloom – and Mirkwood, the forest above, is almost psychedelic.
When you have to stick so strictly to orders don’t you as an actor sometimes have the feeling that you are restricted in your creativity?
No, quite the opposite, it is really cool to work like that – especially because you always notice that there really is a plan behind this. This is all about the big picture and not about me having a creative vision that maybe I should go three more steps to the right.
But is it even possible to give real depth to a character in such a high-tech fantasy setting?
Of course that is possible. I actually find the whole fantasy thing extremely inspiring. After all up until not long ago I have always played humans. (laughs). Then I was a vampire in Twilight, and now I just finished filming Guardians of the Galaxy, in which I play an alien. A real psycho-alien.
(Interview by Gini Brenner)