Five Reasons why Richard Armitage will make a great Thorin Oakenshield
Getting to know the man behind the exiled King of the Dwarves in Tolkien's "The Hobbit"
So you’ve seen the trailer for The Hobbit. By now, you probably know that Thorin Oakenshield is the rightful King of the Dwarves, who has been living in exile since the dwarven homeland was invaded and their treasure stolen by an evil dragon, Smaug.
Thorin is a mighty warrior, but now he’s risking everything—his life, his companions’ lives, the very fate of the dwarf nation—in his desire to defeat an enemy of overwhelming power. To make matters worse, the wizard Gandalf wants Thorin and his band to take along a timid, comfort-loving Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, on their quest.
Tolkien’s classic tale has delighted young and old for 75 years, and now Peter Jackson is bringing the story to the silver screen in an epic trilogy. The first part, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, will arrive in theaters in mid-December.
Playing the role of Thorin is English actor Richard Armitage. If you haven’t been introduced to him yet, here are five reasons why he will make an excellent Thorin Oakenshield:
1. He knows the warlike medieval world from past work.
He created an often-praised audiobook performance of The Lords of the North, the third book in Bernard Cornwell’s series about the Saxon warrior Uhtred, set in the gritty 9th century Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of Wessex and Northumbria.
Vikings, Danes, beserkers battling it out—all perfect preparation for playing a famous Dwarven warrior-king.
2. He can ride a horse and fight with a sword.
For three years, he played the smoldering baddie Sir Guy of Gisborne in the BBC’s “Robin Hood” TV series. Tall, dark and leather-clad, Guy reluctantly served the dastardly Sheriff while roughly wooing—but never winning—Maid Marian. Despite this series’ modern spin on the medieval folk tale, Guy, Robin and the merry band of outlaws rode horses, excelled in archery and fought with swords.
That training probably came in handy during “dwarf camp,” when all thirteen members of the dwarven company practiced many of those skills for The Hobbit.
3. He can play action heroes with a dark side.
Armitage played the emotionally damaged spy Lucas North for seasons 7, 8 and 9 of the acclaimed British spy drama “MI-5.” From fistfights to shootouts to subtle betrayals, Lucas courted danger both physically and psychologically. Then, in “Chris Ryan’s Strike Back,” he played John Porter, a noble Special Forces officer who seeks to redeem himself after being wrongfully discharged by his superiors. These roles were excellent preparation, since it appears that The Hobbit movies will involve an outrageous amount of running, fighting and other stunt work in addition to portraying a complex character.
4. He has excelled in dramatic and Shakespearean roles
Armitage is known for his brooding, dangerous presence in the BBC’s production of Elizabeth Gaskell’s romantic “North and South.” He is also very familiar with Shakespearean roles, having played roles in "Hamlet" and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of “Macbeth.” He also played MacDuff in the updated "MacBeth" of the Shakespeare ReTold series created by the BBC. All that intensity will stand him in good stead when portraying the dwarven king-in-exile who is consumed by his desire for revenge.
5. He is a serious Tolkien fan
His very first appearance onstage was as an elf in a stage production of The Hobbit—how prophetic is that? More recently, in video interviews he gave during the 2012 San Diego Comic Con, Armitage displayed a deep respect and understanding of the works of JRR Tolkien.
During the interview with TheOne Ring.net which is linked above, Armitage said, “Actually putting the costume on and trying to make that character live and breathe and walk and talk. It’s like you’re given this responsibility to every other person who’s read them, who’s just reading the books for the first time or who has read it when they were 7. That’s the responsibility and you have to own that for everyone.”