Richard Armitage (actor)
||This article's lead section may not adequately summarize key points of its contents. (July 2014)|
Armitage at WonderCon 2014
|Born||Richard Crispin Armitage
22 August 1971
Huncote, Leicestershire, England
Richard Crispin Armitage (born 22 August 1971) is an English actor known for his roles as John Thornton on the British television programme North & South, Guy of Gisborne in the TV drama Robin Hood, Lucas North in the TV drama Spooks, John Porter in the TV drama Strike Back and as Thorin Oakenshield in the feature film trilogy adaptation of The Hobbit.
Armitage was born in Leicester, England, the son of Margaret, a secretary, and John Armitage, an engineer. Armitage attended Huncote Community Primary School in Huncote, Blaby District, Leicestershire. Later at Brockington College in Enderby he studied music, playing the cello in school and local orchestras as well as learning how to play the flute. He pursued this interest to Pattison College in Coventry, where his education expanded to include dance and acting. He gained A Levels in music and English.
After completing the program at Pattinson College, he joined a circus in Budapest for six weeks to gain his Equity Card. He returned to England and pursued a career in musical theatre, performing in various productions, including the ensembles of 42nd Street and Annie Get Your Gun and in Cats as Admetus and Macavity. He also pursued acting in dramatic theatre productions, including The Real Thing, Six Degrees of Separation and Death of a Salesman.
Dissatisfied with his career path, he enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) 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 he 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).
In 2004, he appeared in his first leading role as textile mill owner John Thornton in the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North & South. Armitage 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 Christmas 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 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 appeared only as a guest star in the first episode of the second series.
In October 2010, Peter Jackson announced Armitage was cast as Thorin Oakenshield in the three-film production of The Hobbit. Principal photography began in May 2011. The first film, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, was released in December 2012. Armitage thought it was a wonderful opportunity, as he grew up reading the books. Coincidentally, his first stage part 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."
Armitage starred in Into the Storm (released in August 2014) from New Line. His character was Gary Morris, a school teacher with two teenage sons. Shooting took place from July to September 2012.
In March 2014, he began filming an adaptation of Bernard Hare's Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew. He is playing "Chop," an ex-social worker, drunk and drug addict in Britain's lowerclass who befriends the hardened delinquent Urban. No release date has been set.
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 ten audio books, six based on BBC's "Robin Hood", plus Bernard Cornwell's The Lords of the North and three Georgette Heyer novels for Naxos AudioBooks (Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, Venetia, and The Convenient Marriage). 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.
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 being drawn to and developing 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."
- 1998: Hamlet as Bernardo
- 1999: The Four Alice Bakers as Young Ritchie
- 1999: Macbeth (Royal Shakespeare Company) as Angus
- 2000: The Duchess of Malfi (Royal Shakespeare Company) as Delio
- 2002: Use Me As Your Cardigan (Charm Offensive) as Jez
- 2010: Twenty-Four Hour Plays Celebrity Gala (The Old Vic) as Dennis/Himself
- 2014: Reading of Pinter's screenplay adaptation of Proust's Remembrance of Things Past with 92Y Unterberg Poetry Center
- 2014: The Crucible (The Old Vic) as John Proctor
|1995||Boon||Man in pub||Uncredited|
|2001||Doctors||Dr. Tom Steele||2 episodes: 'Good Companions', 'Cat's Out of the Bag'|
|2001||Casualty||Craig Parker||1 episode: 'Playing with Fire'|
|2002||Sparkhouse||John Standring||BBC drama|
|2003||Cold Feet||Lee||4 episodes|
|2003||Ultimate Force||Capt. Ian Macalwain||5 episodes|
|2003||Between the Sheets||Paul Andrews||Mini-series|
|2004||North & South||John Thornton||4 episodes|
|2005||The Inspector Lynley Mysteries||Philip Turner||1 episode: 'In Divine Proportion'|
|2005||Malice Aforethought||William Chatford||ITV drama|
|2005||The Golden Hour||Dr. Alec Track||4 episodes|
|2006||The Impressionists||Young Claude Monet|
|2006–2007||The Vicar of Dibley||Harry Kennedy||3 episodes|
|2006–2009||Robin Hood||Guy of Gisborne||37 episodes|
|2007||Inspector George Gently||Ricky Deeming||1 episode|
|2007||Miss Marie Lloyd – Queen of The Music Hall||Percy Courtney||BBC drama|
|2007||Agatha Christie's Marple: Ordeal by Innocence||Philip Durrant||ITV drama|
|2008–2010||Spooks||Lucas North||25 episodes|
|2009||Moving On||John Mulligan||1 episode: 'Drowning not Waving'|
|2010||Strike Back||John Porter||6 episodes|
|2011||Strike Back: Project Dawn||John Porter||1 episode|
|1999||This Year's Love||Smug Man at Party|
|1999||Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace||Bravo Fighter Pilot|
|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|
|2014||The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies||Thorin Oakenshield|
|2014||Into the Storm||Gary Morris|
|2014||Urban Grimshaw and the Shed Crew||Chop|
- 2006: Robin Hood: Will You Tolerate This?
- 2006: Robin Hood: Sheriff Got Your Tongue?
- 2006: Robin Hood: Who Shot The Sheriff?
- 2006: Robin Hood: Parent Hood
- 2007: The Lords of the North by Bernard Cornwell
- 2009: Robin Hood: The Witch Finders
- 2009: Robin Hood: The Siege
- 2009: Sylvester by Georgette Heyer
- 2010: Venetia by Georgette Heyer
- 2010: The Convenient Marriage by Georgette Heyer
- 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
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