Richard Armitage (actor)
Armitage at WonderCon 2014
|Born||Richard Crispin Armitage
22 August 1971
Huncote, Leicestershire, England
Richard Crispin Armitage (born 22 August 1971) is an English film, television, theatre and voice actor. He is best known internationally for his role as Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson's film trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit. However Armitage first gained fame in Britain for his portrayal of John Thornton in the British television programme North & South (2004). He is also known for his roles as John Standring in the TV movie Sparkhouse, Guy of Gisborne in the TV drama Robin Hood, Harry Kennedy in the TV comedy The Vicar of Dibley, Lucas North in the TV drama Spooks and John Porter in the TV drama Strike Back.
After graduating from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), Armitage initially sought theatre work and was a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC). But he turned to film and television roles when he noticed that leading stage roles went to actors with name recognition who could bring in patrons to fill theatres. After twelve years away and having earned that name recognition, Armitage returned to the stage in 2014 playing John Proctor in the highly successful and critically acclaimed production of The Crucible at The Old Vic.
One of Armitage's trademarks is his baritone voice, which he has employed as a voice actor since 2006. While working on the TV show Robin Hood, he was asked to record audiobooks for the first season of that series. Since then, Armitage has recorded many notable audiobooks as well as worked as a narrator on many TV and radio shows and adverts. His flare for speaking in a multitude of dialects, accents and voices has garnered Armitage numerous accolades for his narration skills, including the 2014 Best Audiobook of the Year Award from Audible.com for his recording of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel.
- 1 Early life and education
- 2 Career
- 3 Acting style
- 4 Filmography
- 5 Theatre (selection)
- 6 Discography
- 7 Other credits
- 8 Awards and nominations
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Early life and education
Armitage was born in Leicester, England, the younger son of Margaret, a secretary, and John Armitage, an engineer. Richard has an older brother named Chris. He attended Huncote Community Primary School in Huncote, Blaby District, Leicestershire and began middle school at the local comprehensive school, Brockington College in Enderby. At Brockington, Armitage pursued his interest in music - playing the cello in school and local orchestras, and learning how to play the flute. But by fourteen, having secured a grant from the Leicestershire Authority, he successfully persuaded his mother to allow him to transfer to Pattison College in Coventry, an independent boarding school specializing in the Performing Arts so that he could focus on drama and dance. Armitage has expressed gratitude for the lessons and opportunities Pattison College provided, "It...instilled me with a discipline that has stood me in good stead - never to be late, to know your lines and to be professional." By the time he graduated, not only had he gained A Levels in music and English, Armitage had gained acting experience in local amateur and professional productions such as Showboat, Half a Sixpence, Orpheus and the Underworld (as Bacchus) and The Hobbit (as an elf) at the New Alexandra Theatre (aka "The Alex"), Birmingham.
1988–2003, Early work
After completing the programme at Pattison College in 1988, Armitage joined the Nachtcircus in Budapest for six months to obtain his Equity Card, a requirement at the time for entertainment professionals to work in Britain. Returning to England, he pursued a career in musical theatre - working as an assistant choreographer to Kenn Oldfield and performing in various productions, including the ensembles of 42nd Street, My One and Only, Nine, Annie Get Your Gun and as Admetus and Macavity in Cats. Armitage was also pursuing acting in dramatic theatre productions, including The Real Thing, Six Degrees of Separation and Death of a Salesman.
By 1992, he began to doubt if musical theatre was the right career path, so he enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) in 1993 to further study acting. "I needed to do something a bit more truthful than musical theatre. For me it was a bit too theatrical and all about standing on stage and showing off. I was looking for something else, so that’s why I went back to drama school."
After completing LAMDA's three-year programme, he returned to the stage as a supporting player with the Royal Shakespeare Company's productions of Macbeth and The Duchess of Malfi, as well as Hamlet and Four Alice Bakers with the Birmingham Repertory Theatre while taking a series of small roles in television and films. In 2002 he starred in the Charm Offensive's production of Use Me As Your Cardigan.
That same year Armitage appeared in his first major television role, as John Standring in the BBC drama Sparkhouse (2002). "It was the first time I went to an audition in character. It was a minor role but it was something I really got my teeth into... I couldn't go back. I knew I had to approach everything the same way." After this he took supporting roles in the TV productions of Between the Sheets, Cold Feet (series 5), and Ultimate Force (Series 2).
2004–2010, Television success
In Spring 2004, Armitage landed his first leading role as textile mill owner John Thornton in the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North & South. The director and producers took a chance casting a little-known actor for their leading man (he was the first actor to audition for the role and the last person cast), but their instincts proved correct. North & South was an unexpected success and Armitage became an overnight sensation in Britain. The BBC message boards crashed shortly after the telecast as a result of chatter about him and he was hailed as the new "Mr. Darcy" (referring to Colin Firth's "Mr Darcy" whom many regard as the definitive romantic leading man). Armitage never perceived John Thornton as the ideal romantic leading man role and was surprised by the overwhelming response. Instead, he said that he felt personally drawn to the role, as his father's family had been weavers. He cited Thornton's dualism as drawing him to the character. "The dichotomy between the powerful, almost monstrous, entrepreneur and this kind of vulnerable boy is exciting for me to look at."
In 2005, he played Peter MacDuff in Macbeth in the BBC's ShakespeaRe-Told series and appeared as a recovering gambling addict in one episode of Inspector Lynley Mysteries. He starred in The Impressionists, playing the young Claude Monet, and as Dr Alec Track in ITV's The Golden Hour, a medical series based on the London Air Ambulance. His first substantial role in movies was in the independent film Frozen.
In 2006, Armitage was cast as Guy of Gisborne in the BBC series Robin Hood. "In order to sustain the character of Guy, you have to find the conflict within him. He's constantly pulled between good and evil, between who he wants to be and who he actually is. He could have been a good man, but he is forever dragged down by his fatal flaw – that he wants glory at all costs." Approaching the third series, he said, "I do love playing him, but with a character like Gisborne, if you give him what he needs, then in a way, it's over. That character is only interesting when he isn't getting what he wants, whether it's power, money or the girl." The third and final series of Robin Hood started on 28 March 2009.
Armitage appeared in a two-part 2006/07 Christmas/New Years special of The Vicar of Dibley, as Harry Kennedy, the vicar's new love interest (and eventual husband). He reprised the role in 2007 for Red Nose Day. On 8 April 2007, he played biker Ricky Deeming in the detective drama George Gently with Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby. On 9 May 2007, he appeared in the BBC Four production of Miss Marie Lloyd – Queen of The Music Hall playing Marie Lloyd's first husband, Percy Courtenay. He also appeared in the Granada TV production of Agatha Christie's novel Ordeal by Innocence as the character Philip Durrant.
Armitage joined the cast of Spooks as the character Lucas North for series 7, which began on 27 October 2008 in the UK. Armitage notes that the character, who spent eight years in a Russian prison, has a personable exterior, but is psychologically damaged. "I love films with a combination of action and good characters. That's why Lucas is interesting as I get to play someone with a complex psychology who goes out there and tries to save the world." During the filming of series 7 Armitage allowed himself to be subjected to waterboarding to film a flashback sequence. In July 2010, Armitage completed filming of series 9, his final series. In the series, his character's real name was revealed as John Bateman, who had murdered the real Lucas North shortly before North began employment with MI5. Bateman had stolen North's identity and taken his place.
In May 2010 he starred as former S.A.S. trooper John Porter in Strike Back (also known as Chris Ryan's Strike Back) for Sky1. Armitage found the main challenge of the role was to show how the character resolved being a trained killer with having a family and home life. "In the end it was the character I was attracted to, the story of a man who makes a decision under pressure and that decision has a knock-on effect on his whole life," he said. "He goes in search of atonement still believing he did the right thing even though it cost the lives of three of his friends... There's anger and there's injustice. It's like, 'I did the right thing, with the wrong outcome.'"
Sky1 and Cinemax commissioned a second series of Strike Back called Strike Back: Project Dawn. It began broadcasting in August 2011. Because of his commitments to filming The Hobbit, Armitage declined starring in the second series and only appeared as a guest star in the first episode.
Ironically, it was his role as John Porter that led to his casting in Captain America: The First Avenger. US casting agents noticed posters of him as John Porter all over London. Although unknown to them, they offered him the role of Nazi spy Heinz Kruger because he looked the part. Armitage accepted and shot his scenes in the autumn of 2010, once filming wrapped on Spooks, series 9. (The film was released in July 2011).
2010–current, Film success and beyond
In October 2010, Peter Jackson announced Armitage was cast as Thorin Oakenshield in the three-film production of The Hobbit. Principal photography ran from March 2011 to July 2012 (broken into three filming blocks with breaks in-between) and pick-ups were shot in the summer of 2013 . All three films were released in December, starting with The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in 2012, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in 2013 and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in 2014. Armitage thought it was a wonderful opportunity, as he grew up reading the books. Coincidentally, one of his first stage roles was playing an elf in a production of The Hobbit at the "Alex" Theatre in Birmingham. He describes the character of Thorin as being complex and flawed, "somebody that had doubts and that had fears, and there was a gentle side to him and a very perhaps lonely side to him." He notes the scene with Balin in Bag End shows the character's inner sensitivity and fear of failure, "failing where his father and his grandfather had failed as well."
Immediately after filming wrapped on The Hobbit, Armitage flew to Detroit, Michigan to film Into the Storm from July to September 2012. He starred as Gary Fuller, a high school Vice Principal with two teenage sons. The film from New Line was released in August 2014.
In March 2014, he began filming an adaptation of Bernard Hare's memoir Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew. He plays "Chop" (the author's nickname), an ex-social worker, drunk and drug addict in Britain's lowerclass who befriends the hardened delinquent Urban. No release date has been set.
Armitage appeared as John Proctor in The Old Vic's production of Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Directed by Yael Farber and performed in the round, the play ran from 21 June to 13 September 2014. The production drew an unprecedented amount of 5-star reviews and was a commercial success. Armitage was awarded Best Leading Actor in a New Production of a Play by Broadway World:UK Awards 2014 for his performance. Due to overwhelming worldwide demand to see the production, Digital Theatre captured the live performance to bring The Crucible to cinemas and for digital download. It was screened at cinemas on 4 and 7 December 2014 in the UK and Ireland, with further screenings in other selected territories in February 2015. (Due to copyright issues, the film cannot be screened at North American cinemas but will be available for digital download.)
In October 2014, Armitage began filming Sleepwalker, a psychological thriller from writer Jack Olsen and director Elliott Lester. He plays Dr. Scott White, a senior MD at a sleep research center. No release date has been set.
On 13 January 2015, DeLaurentiis Company tweeted that Armitage was cast as Francis Dolarhyde (aka The Tooth Fairy) in their acclaimed TV production of Hannibal, written and co-produced by Bryan Fuller. Dolarhyde is a serial killer, a character type which Armitage has expressed interest in playing. He will appear in six episodes of Season 3, starting with episode 8, set to broadcast in the summer of 2015. The series is filmed in Toronto, Canada.
He was first introduced to voice work while working on the TV drama Robin Hood in 2006. The BBC was publishing novels of the first four episodes of series one and asked Armitage to record the audiobook versions. In recent years, Armitage has also performed a great deal of voice work, such as reading poetry for various radio programmes and starring as Robert Lovelace in BBC Radio 4's production of Clarissa: A History of a Young Lady in April 2010. He has recorded eleven audio books: six based on BBC's "Robin Hood", Bernard Cornwell's The Lords of the North, three Georgette Heyer novels for Naxos AudioBooks (Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, Venetia, and The Convenient Marriage) and Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel. He has narrated television documentaries such as Homes From Hell, Empire's Children, Too Poor for Posh School?, The Great Sperm Race, Forest Elephants: Rumble in the Jungle, Surgery School, and Elsa: The Lioness That Changed the World. In 2011, he provided the narration for a series about the Royal Navy flagship HMS Ark Royal, 125 Years of Wimbledon: You Cannot Be Serious, and Fraud Squad. He has also provided the voice over for many TV and radio advertisements.
Richard III connection
He was hoping to star in a drama based on Richard III. Armitage was born on the anniversary of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where Richard III was killed. "I believe it is a great story, a socio-political thriller, a love story and a dynastic tragedy", he said. He thinks the story has the potential to be told as a twenty-episode miniseries. A script has been in development since 2010 and "a lot of people... are interested [in producing it], but there is no one that will step on the gas." Recently Armitage stated that he is still interested in the project, though he has reservations that he might be too tall and too old to play Richard III.
Armitage has described himself as a method actor. "Yeah, I suppose I am. In a way it's slightly lazy because it means you don't have to pretend – you just have to believe. As much as it's possible to be like that I suppose I kind of do step in and out, I'm not one of these people that can't talk to other people because I'm in my character, but I kind of do stay with the character, yeah. He's always there. It's like marinating something – you're sitting in a marinade the whole time." He has also spoken of dreaming in character while playing John Porter and Thorin Oakenshield. However, recently he rejected the label of "method actor". "I think I'm a concentrating actor. So in order to do my work in the course of a day, particularly with a character like this I have to concentrate. So it's about staying in the scene, staying with my head in the scene and attempting to keep the character with me. It doesn't mean I can't have a conversation or go and make a cup of coffee. But I actually stay with the character for 18 months."
He frequently speaks of developing and being drawn to dualism in his characters. "If I’m offered the role of the hero, I immediately look for the antihero within!... I see everything in terms of an outer skin and an inner skin." He creates "character diaries" with entire biographies for the characters he plays. "It was important to me to put in a background for my character that would be useful for the whole journey. A lot of that is secret and no one gets to read that. It's what is useful to me. If you are playing something long running and a role that has a future [beyond the initial series], it's almost like you have to plant a garden which you will need to come back to at some point. If you don't put in early, it can jar with you."
|1999||Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace||Bravo Fighter Pilot||Uncredited|
|1999||Staged||Daryl Newman||Short film. Student project.|||
|1999||This Year's Love||Smug Man at Party|
|2011||Captain America: The First Avenger||Heinz Kruger|
|2012||The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey||Thorin Oakenshield|
|2013||The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug||Thorin Oakenshield||Nominated—Empire Award for Best Supporting Actor|
|2014||Into the Storm||Gary Fuller|||
|2014||The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies||Thorin Oakenshield|
|2014||The Crucible||John Proctor||filmed version of stage production at The Old Vic|||
|2015||Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew||Chop|||
|2015||Sleepwalker||Dr Scott White|||
|2016||Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass||cameo role|||
|1992||Boon||Man in pub||Series 6, Episode 7: 'Message in a Bottle'. Uncredited|||
|2001||Doctors||Dr. Tom Steele||Series 4, Episodes 58 & 59: 'Good Companions' & 'Cat's Out of the Bag'|||
|2001||Casualty||Craig Parker||Series 16, Episode 17: 'Playing with Fire'|||
|2002||Spooks||Armed police officer||Series 1, Episode 4: 'Traitor's Gate'|||
|2002||Sparkhouse||John Standring||BBC drama, television film|||
|2003||Cold Feet||Lee||Series 5, Episodes 1-4|||
|2003||Ultimate Force||Capt. Ian Macalwain||Series 2, Episodes 2-5|||
|2003||Between the Sheets||Paul Andrews||ITV mini-series|||
|2004||North & South||John Thornton||BBC mini-series|||
|2005||The Inspector Lynley Mysteries||Philip Turner||Series 4, Episode 1: 'In Divine Proportion'|||
|2005||Malice Aforethought||William Chatford||ITV drama, television film|||
|2005||The Golden Hour||Dr. Alec Track||Series 1. (4 episodes)|||
|2005||ShakespeaRe-Told||Peter Macduff||Episode 2: 'Macbeth'|||
|2006||The Impressionists||Young Claude Monet||BBC docudrama, mini-series|||
|2006–2009||Robin Hood||Guy of Gisborne||Series 1, 2 & 3. (37 episodes)|||
|2006–2007||The Vicar of Dibley||Harry Kennedy||Series 5. (3 episodes)|||
|2007||Inspector George Gently||Ricky Deeming||Pilot episode: 'Gently Go Man'|||
|2007||Miss Marie Lloyd – Queen of The Music Hall||Percy Courtney||BBC drama, television movie|||
|2007||Agatha Christie's Marple||Philip Durrant||Series 3, Episode 2: 'Ordeal by Innocence'|||
|2008–2010||Spooks||Lucas North||Series 7, 8 & 9. (25 episodes)|||
|2009||Moving On||John Mulligan||Series 1, Episode 3: 'Drowning not Waving'|||
|2010||Chris Ryan's Strike Back||John Porter||Series 1. (6 episodes)|||
|2011||Strike Back: Project Dawn||John Porter||Series 2, Episode 1.|||
|2015||Hannibal||Francis Dolarhyde||Season 3, Episodes 8-13|||
|1995||The Long and the Short and the Tall||Macliesh||Willis Hall||Actors' Centre's Tristram Bates Theatre|
|1995||The Real Thing||Henry||Tom Stoppard||Old School Manchester|
|1995||Six Degrees of Separation||Flan||John Guare||Old School Manchester|
|1995||Death of a Salesman||Biff||Arthur Miller||Old School Manchester|
|1998||Hamlet||Bernardo||William Shakespeare||Birmingham Repertory Theatre||Opened on 22 September for three-week run.|||
|1999||The Four Alice Bakers||Young Richie Baker||Fay Weldon||Birmingham Repertory Theatre||Ran from 23 February to 13 March.|||
|1999–2000||Macbeth||Angus||William Shakespeare||Swan Theatre (Stratford); Theatre Royal, Brighton; Theatre Royal, Bath; The Globe Tokyo; Young Vic; Long Wharf Theatre||Royal Shakespeare Company
Opened 2 November in Stratford; Brighton (24-29 Jan); Bath (1-5 Feb); Toyko (24 March to 8 April); London (10 April to 3 June); New Haven, USA (15–25 June).
|2000-2001||The Duchess of Malfi||Delio||John Webster||Barbican Theatre; various UK theatres; Royal Shakespeare Theatre||Royal Shakespeare Company
Opened 10 November in London; UK tour; Stratford (6 February to 3 March).
|2002||Use Me As Your Cardigan||Jez||Samantha Ellis||Jacksons Lane||Ran from 19 February to 9 March.|||
|2010||24-Four Hour Plays Celebrity Gala: The Third Wish||Dennis/himself||Stephen Beresford||The Old Vic||Fundraising event. The first of six short plays performed on 21 November.|||
|2014||Pinter/PROUST: Remembrance of Things Past||Swann, Journalist, Brothel Patron||Harold Pinter and Marcel Proust||92nd Street Y Unterberg Poetry Center||Staged reading. Performed on 16 January as part of the centenary celebrations commemorating the publication of Swann's Way.|||
|2014||The Crucible||John Proctor||Arthur Miller||The Old Vic||Ran from 21 June to 13 September.
Win—Broadway World:UK Awards for Best Leading Actor in a New Production of a Play
|2006||Robin Hood: Will You Tolerate This?||Narrator||Kristy Neale||First published 13 October 2006 by BBC Audiobooks|
|2006||Robin Hood: Sheriff Got Your Tongue?||Narrator||Kay Woodward||First published 6 November 2006 by BBC Audiobooks|
|2006||Robin Hood: Who Shot The Sheriff?||Narrator||Jacqueline Rayner||First published 6 November 2006 by BBC Audiobooks|
|2006||Robin Hood: Parent Hood||Narrator||Mandy Archer||First published 6 November 2006 by BBC Audiobooks|
|2007||The Lords of the North||Narrator||Bernard Cornwell||First published July 2007 by Chivers Audiobooks|
|2009||Robin Hood: The Witch Finders||Narrator||Rebecca Levene||First published April 2009 by Big Finish Productions|
|2009||Robin Hood: The Siege||Narrator||Simon Guerrier||First published 30 June 2009 by Big Finish Productions|
|2009||Sylvester||Narrator||Georgette Heyer||First published 1 July 2009 by Naxos Audiobooks|
|2010||Venetia||Narrator||Georgette Heyer||First published 1 April 2010 by Naxos Audiobooks
Nominated—Audie Award for Best Book Adaptation
|2010||The Convenient Marriage||Narrator||Georgette Heyer||First published 2 August 2010 by Naxos Audiobooks|
|2014||Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel||Narrator||A. J. Hartley and David Hewson (author)||First released 20 May 2014 by Audible.com
Win—Audible Award for Best Audiobook of the Year
- 2006: CBeebies: Bedtime Hour (9–13 October 2006)
- 2007: Channel 4: Empire's Children, narrator (2 July 2007)
- 2007: BBC Radio 4: The Ted Hughes Letters, as Ted Hughes (29 October 2007)
- 2007: BBC Radio 2: A War Less Ordinary, narrator (10 November 2007)
- 2009: ITV1: Homes from Hell, as narrator (3 March 2009)
- 2009: Channel 4: The Great Sperm Race, as narrator (23 March 2009)
- 2010–2011: Voice-over for Santander TV and radio adverts
- 2010: BBC 2: The Natural World, Forest Elephants: Rumbles in the Jungle, as narrator
- 2010: BBC Radio 4: Clarissa: The History of a Young Lady, as Robert Lovelace (14 March 2010)
- 2010–2011: Voice-over for Sky Sports HD TV and radio adverts
- 2010: Voice-over for General Election 2010 Leaders' Debates radio adverts
- 2010: Voice-over for BBC Winter Olympics TV and Radio Adverts
- 2010: Voice-over for Alfa Romeo Mito TV advert
- 2010: Voice-over for John Bull Jewelers radio adverts
- 2010: ITV: Surgery School, as narrator
- 2010: BBC Radio 3: Words and Music: Symphony of a City as narrator (12 September 2010).
- 2010: Voice-over for Hyundai ix20 TV advert
- 2010: BBC: Lost Land of the Tiger, as narrator.
- 2011: BBC: Elsa: The Lioness That eChanged the World, as narrator.
- 2010: Voice-over for ActionAidUK TV advert
- 2011: Voice-over for Pilsner Urquell TV advert
- 2011: Discovery Channel UK: HMS Ark Royal, as narrator
- 2011: Eden Channel: Trouble in Lemur Land: Phantoms of the Forest, as narrator
- 2011: BBC2: 125 Years of Wimbledon: You Cannot Be Serious, as narrator.
- 2011: Voice-over for LG Optimus 3D Smartphone TV advert
- 2011: ITV: Fraud Squad, as narrator
- 2011: National Geographic Wild: Leopards of Dead Tree island, as narrator.
- 2012: ITV: Fraud Squad, series two, as narrator
Awards and nominations
|2011||Venetia||Audie Awards||Best Audiobook Adaptation||Nominated|||
|2014||The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug||Empire Awards||Best Supporting Actor||Nominated|||
|2014||Hamlet, Prince of Denmark: A Novel||Audible Best of 2014||Audiobook of the Year||Won|||
|2014||The Crucible||Broadway World: UK Awards||Best Leading Actor in a New Production of a Play||Won|||
|2014||The Crucible||What's On Stage Awards||Best Actor in a Play||Pending|||
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