The Hobbit Film: Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the Dwarves
Bilbo Baggins (Martin Freeman) and the Dwarves

The Hobbit Films

Peter Jackson's latest foray into Middle Earth is an eagerly anticipated event. The Hobbit has large shoes to fill; The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was a sumptuous and massive success. The indications are that the first of the two Hobbit films will not disappoint; the first, An Unexpected Journey will be released in December 2012 and is already being talked about as one of the blockbusters of the year.

Since this article was originally written there has been a change; there will now be three, rather than two, films. Warner Bros agreed in the summer of 2012 to fund another film. This will be released as the second instalment. So, in December 2013 we can look forward to The Hobbit: The Destruction of Smaug and July 2014 will see the release of The Hobbit: There and Back Again. Originally, There and Back Again was to the second and final instalment.

Many fans of Lord of the Rings will have already scanned the cast list of The Hobbit. Some familiar faces from the Lord of the Rings will reprise their roles, some will sadly be missing. There will, of course, need to be a new star. The young Bilbo Baggins is to be played by British actor Martin Freeman, which seems an excellent choice. One name on the list does appear an odd casting decision: Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield.

Richard Armitage as Guy of Gisbourne


Which Lord of the Rings Actors Will Appear in The Hobbit?

Several of the characters from Lord of the Rings appear in The Hobbit, so you can expect to see:

  • Ian McKellan (Gandalf)
  • Andy Serkis (Gollum)
  • Cate Blanchett (Galadriel)
  • Hugo Weaving (Elrond)
  • Orlando Bloom (Legolas)
  • Ian Holm (Bilbo Baggins in later years)

No Aragorn so sadly, no Viggo Mortensen!

Who is Richard Armitage?

Richard Armitage is a well-known television actor in the UK. He has appeared in numerous TV series during the last decade and, particularly in the last few years, has become a recognisable face. One of his first starring roles was in the popular comedy The Vicar of Dibley, in which he played Dawn French's love interest and long awaited husband.

In 2004 Armitage took the role of John Thornton in the BBC period drama North and South. The BBC had muted expectations of the show being successful and did little to promote it. When the show reached the screens it was a hit. In fact, the BBC's website message board crashed due to the number of hits it received. The focus of the messages? Richard Armitage's broody, emotionally taut performance. He earned an award as 'The Most Desirable Drama Star' due to his performance.

Armitage stayed in costume for his next role with the BBC in their Robin Hood series, playing the villainous Guy of Gisbourne. Again, his character was darkly menacing and established him as a heartthrob. Most recently Armitage has appeared on TV screens as Lucas North, the emotionally damaged spy, in Spooks (MI5 in the US). Once again, the character is dark and struggling with inner demons.

So, It isn't that Armitage has been cast in a leading role in a major film that perplexes me since he is a fine actor. What startles me is that to date his roles have played upon his tall, dark and handsome good looks, which on the face of it seems rather at odds with playing an arrogant, hairy dwarf. However, there is more to Thorin Oakenshield than pomposity and lack of stature.

Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield

Thorin Oakenshield

Thorin Oakenshield is not just any dwarf, he is a prince. His father was King Thrain II, and Thorin is haughty and pompous. He is also courageous and a great warrior, although he has a ruthless streak and can be self-serving. Like all dwarves, he has a love of gold that surpasses all else in his life. Indeed, his purpose in joining Bilbo is to steal back his family's treasures, stolen by Smaug the Dragon. However, Thorin is not just a warrior; he loves to sing and plays the harp.

A study of Thorin's character reveals that actually, he is not far removed from Richard Armitage's usual roles; physically strong, dynamic and complicated. As to his looks, his height is of course no bar to his performance; John Rhys-Davies who played Gimli in the Lord of the Rings was taller than both Viggo Mortensen (Aragorn) and Orlando Bloom (Legolas). Will he be the first heartthrob from Under the Mountains? We shall have to wait until December to find out (or you could have a sneak preview below!)

Seen the Film?

Many critics say the film is too long - how did you find it?

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Some Behind the Scenes Footage of The Hobbit

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Comments 39 comments

Jools99 profile image

Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

I love Richard Armitage but he looks quite transformed as Thorin. I can't wait to see the movie, the anticipation is killing me!

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Jools - I can barely wait! I am not a huge Richard Armitage fan, but I think that he will pull the part off well - not sure that it will win him a new army of adoring admirers though!

Thanks for commenting, I appreciate it :-)

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I can't wait to see this film! I'm a long time Middle Earth fiend - my fascination pre dates the Peter Jackson films by several years too.

I was sold on the trailer - it all looked splendid!

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Wesman - I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings soooo long ago, and a few more times in between too! I had always imagined that there was no hope of a decent film, so thank goodness for CGI!

Great to hear from you, thanks for the comments :-)

Haunty profile image

Haunty 5 years ago from Hungary

Thorin is 195 years old in the Hobbit, so I always pictured him with grey hair. Great hub!

cebutouristspot profile image

cebutouristspot 5 years ago from Cebu

Hmm I believe Thorin is a dwarf not a hobbit (halflings). Hmm I wonder what is next The Silmarillion I hope to see them make that into a movie

DonnaCosmato profile image

DonnaCosmato 5 years ago from USA

Armitage looks to be an excellent casting choice for the role of Thorin. I can't wait for yet another installment to the story of the One Ring, the Hobbits, and all the other wonderful characters created by J.R.R. Tolkien. This is an intriguing review that makes me eager to see the movie; thanks for sharing it!

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Haunty - I guess dwarves must age well! Must be the underground life, away from ageing sunlight!

Thanks for your comments :-)

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Cebutouristspot - yes, Thorin and his company are dwarves, it's Bilbo who is "The Hobbit". I don't know if Peter Jackson will take these stories any further, he dropped the idea of a "bridging" film between The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but you never know.

Thanks for your comments :-)

Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

I've read the entire thing three times...and it's now been enough years that I will probably soon re read it all.

When I say, "the entire thing" I mean The Hobbit, The three LOTR books, and The Silmarillion.

Haunty profile image

Haunty 5 years ago from Hungary

Three times? Wow, that's impressive! I read them in the order in which I could get my hands on the original English versions (was not easy at the time) - The Hobbit first, then LOTR 3, then LOTR 2, (never LOTR 1), and then The Silmarillion. Now thinking about reading the Children of Húrin. If I ever want to see another Tolkien movie, that would be the tale of Túrin, which is my fave.

EDIT: Tell PJ Richard Armitage can't play Túrin too!

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Donna - the more I think about it, the more I think Richard Armitage will be an excellent Thorin, although I have to say I was nonplussed (wow, I don't think I have ever used the word nonplussed before!) at first.

Glad you found this intriguing, we shall await the film together with bated breath!

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Wes, you are one up on me, I have never read the Silmarillion. We had it at home, I know my Mum read it, but I never got around to it. Really must read it....

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Haunty, I shall let Mr Jackson know your casting decision directly!

JKenny profile image

JKenny 5 years ago from Birmingham, England

I remember Richard Armitage from the Robin Hood series that was on the BBC and he looks unrecognisable as Thorin. From what I've seen of the trailers and the film looks just as good as Lord of the Rings, so hopefully it'll deliver. I'm actually glad that Jackson dropped the 'bridging' idea, because the Hobbit story on its own is fascinating enough.

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi James - Robin Hood was his breakthrough role, though I did clock him in the Vicar of Dibley - it was a Christmas special I think. You are right, he is pretty much unrecognisable, which is why I thought it was an odd choice - on the face of it his appeal is in his looks (at least to a lot of women!) On reflection, he does have that broody, menacing thing going on, which will suit the part.

I think you are right about Jackson dropping the bridging film - there is no need for it.

Thanks for your comments, I appreciate them :-)

Jacinta 5 years ago

Actually John Thornton in North and South was his breakthrough role, before then he really was unknown. North and South is well worth a watch (and some!) and, in case of confusion, it is the BBC 2004 series which is unrelated to the Patrick Swayze mini-series of the same name. I think he will make a wonderful Thorin, and in a year's time everyone will know who Richard Armitage is for sure!

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Jacinta - thanks for clarifying on North and South! I agree that Mr Armitage is certain to become a global star.

Thanks for stopping by :-)

Deb 5 years ago

Not sure what you mean by Peter Jackson dropping the 'bridging' idea. Isn't that what Elijah Wood and Sir Ian Holm are doing? As I understand it, they're the 'bridge'. But, perhaps I'm misunderstanding what you mean by 'bridging'.

As a fan of Richard Armitage I suspect he's going to become one of those 'overnight sensations' who actually has a very long, strong professional history going back over 20 years. Starting with musical theatre, he then learned his discipline at LAMDA, went on tour in Japan and the US with the RSC in Macbeth, had fairly significant roles in television productions like Shakespeare Revisited, Cold Feet, Vicar of Dibley (not a 'Christmas special' but the final two episodes of the series where he played the role of the Vicar's love interest and husband), Sparkhouse, The Impressionists, his breakthrough role in North & South (btw, you might want to correct your typo - he played John ThornTON not John Thorn), Spooks and the first series of Strike Back. He's also developing a strong audio/narration portfolio.

Richard's visual roles have used his undoubted good looks (thanks to producers) but they've focussed on characters who are torn, complex and challenging. Thorin isn't just searching for lost treasure. He's searching for his birthright. Rather than 'stealing' from Smaug - he's seeking to redress the damage the dragon did by stealing and destroying.

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Deb - As I understand it Peter Jackson and Guillermo Del Toro originally wanted to have a full blown "bridging film". The idea was abandoned in 2008. Del Toro said: "I think the concept as such is not relevant anymore. I believe that the narrative and characters are rich enough to fit in two films".

Thanks for adding to the details about Richard Armitage, I have kept to edited highlights of his career. I had hoped that I made it clear that whilst superficially his appeal is about his looks, in fact it is his ability to play complicated characters that makes him a fine actor and make him an ideal choice for Thorin.

Thanks for your comments

Deb 5 years ago

Ahhhhhh! Had a feeling I might have missed something.

I can appreciate you sticking to the highlights - gives those of us replying more room to fill in gaps. One of which is - have you heard his audiobooks? You really should. And, another is, I kinda like the way his breakthrough role was John Thornton and here he is playing Thorin.

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Helllo again Deb - I haven't listened to any audiobooks, voiced by Richard Armitage or anyone else! I imagine that his voice lends itself well to them.

Wonder what's next for him - remake of The Thornbirds?

Once again, thank's for your comments, much appreciated.

Angie Jardine profile image

Angie Jardine 5 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

Thanks for this update on The Hobbit and Richard Armitage.

I first noticed him in Robin Hood as his character there, Guy of Gisbourne was more of a three dimensional character than the rest of the cast. It was refreshing to find a man that not only looked good but could act as well.

Then I just had to watch 'Spooks' because he was in it ... again as a tortured soul.

After all the emotional parts playing a hairy, warrior dwarf with prosthetic warts should be a walk in the park for him ...

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 5 years ago from UK Author

Hi Angie - I did clock him in The Vicar of Dibley, but it was Robin Hood where he stood out for me. And I love Spooks, although I'm rather in love with Harry Pearce, not Lucas North ;-)

Vinaya Ghimire profile image

Vinaya Ghimire 4 years ago from Nepal

The Lord of the Ring was awesome film. I'm dying to watch Peter Jackson's anothor adventure.

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Vinaya - totally agree, loved the LOTR Trilogy, can't wait for The Hobbit.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, much appreciated :-)

profile image

Kizzyface 4 years ago

While Richard Armitage is attractive, he IS a seasoned actor, capable of playing quality roles. He really is a lot more than a pretty face. His acting ability made John Thornton come alive, as well as his good looks, and in pretty much the same way Colin Firth's role in Pride & Prejudice made him stand out. The acting was wonderful, which made both of these BBC costume dramas memorable and much loved. Armitage did a wonderful job in Robin Hood as well. Even as the bad guy, fans were more interested in Marion hooking up with him than with Robin Hood. Their chemistry was definitely much more powerful. He was able to play Guy of Gisborne as corrupt, but a tortured soul underneath it all, and made one wonder how he came to be a man under another man's thumb (the Sheriff of Nottingham). In the end, he does redeem himself. Also have seen him in other dramatic productions such as Strike Back which is riveting, and Vicar of Dibley (wonderful to see a handsome man matched up with a plus size, older woman on tv), as well as others. He is up and coming and deserves to share billing with such a wonderful cast. He's earned his place.

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Kizzyface - I seem to be in the minority of those who don't find his face pretty, but agree that he is a good actor. Looking forward to the Hobbit very much! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, it's appreciated.

SimeyC profile image

SimeyC 4 years ago from NJ, USA

My inner geek cannot wait for this movie! Thorin is such a complex character - I think Richard Armitage will do him justice!!!

GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

Can't WAIT to get to Hereford this December!!!! To see the Hobbit there, possibly with sisters who will fill me in on all the TV I've missed which gives Armitage so much clout as a dwarf! You have no idea how I miss all that (being an expat in a land where there is nothing like a superb British TV series). So excited now.

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi Simey - I'm not quite counting down the days, but I am really, really looking forward to it. Sure Mr Armitage will be fine, just struck me as an odd casting initially.

Thanks for commenting, always appreciated.

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi GoodLady - as a former ex-pat, I can relate to missing TV shows - although we did get a few in the US (that was 30 years ago, they may get more now). You certainly won't be able to believe that Mr Armitage is generally something of a heartthrob given all the make-up for The Hobbit!

Thanks for the comments, great to hear from you.

mecheshier profile image

mecheshier 4 years ago

Thanks for the update. I cannot wait to see this movie. The Hobbit is the book that inspired me to read! Before that I could never finish a book, they were all to boring. :-) Since then I read a novel a week. Voted up for useful.

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi mecheshier - The Hobbit was certainly one of the highlights of my childhood and one of the few books I've read more than a few times (Pride and Prejudice is another one). Not long to go for the movie - only weeks to go :)

Hope you enjoy the film, thanks very much for commenting, it's appreciated.

chuahdarywaheed profile image

chuahdarywaheed 4 years ago from Pakistan

I've seen the movie in cinema. Totally different concept you people feel this time. Great acting done by Richard Armitage.

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 4 years ago from UK Author

Hi chuahdarywaheed - good to hear that Richard Armitage did the role justice!

Thanks very much for your comments, much appreciated.

ArindamB profile image

ArindamB 3 years ago from Pune,Maharashtra, India

Hi Judi,

I was surprised to find out for the first time that Thorin was played by Richard .He looked ,how to put it....quite different. I noticed him for the first time in Captain America and he surprised me with his make up and costume in the Hobbit .

Judi Bee profile image

Judi Bee 3 years ago from UK Author

He certainly does look different ArindamB!

ArindamB profile image

ArindamB 3 years ago from Pune,Maharashtra, India

I personally think that Thorin son of Thrain was given the title OAKENSHIELD after he defeated ( at least that's what he thought ) AZOC the defiler with a sword in one hand and used a branch of OAK as a SHIELD on the other.

Food for thoughts mate.

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