In the movie world, maybe he is not a revelation, but critics agree that his rate in drama is well above the average. Richard Crispin Armitage played in some violent films (Robin Hood, Spooks, Captain America), but in real life Richard proves to be (at least according to some voices) the softest pussycat. He is very tall (6ft 2in), and his voice like soft velvet is on the quiet side, radiating an air of proper humility. So...no doubt, he seems Mr. Nice in person.
“What’s in a name?”
He was named Richard because he was born on the anniversary of King Richard III’s demise at Bosworth: August 22nd (1971) and raised in Leicestershire. At 14, he attended Pattison College (Performing Arts) and after leaving school he went for three months (not six months, not six weeks!) in Budapest, to work in a circus, in order to gain his Equity card. That period of life proved to be not very romantic (as we could be tempted to believe), but interesting. He still speaks about it in his interviews.
Those three months were important because he obtained the Equity Card, but in the same time he was taught a lot of new things (for instance, two Russians guys taught him to do a back flip with the help ot two towels, or throwing a hula-hoop to a skateboard). Well...Richard's experience in even more important, at Budapest he had the greatest honour to sleep next to an elephant.
"Sleeping with the smell of elephant poo was the worst thing at the circus from Budapest"
After returning to UK and graduating from London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (1998), he was interested in theatre (training at drama school, he focused on classical theatre). But in the end this direction proved to be wrong, so he had to choose another direction (screen acting maybe?). He had a small part in This Year’s Love (staring Douglas Henshall and Jennifer Ehle) and then in Cleopatra (with Timothy Dalton and Billy Zane). Oh, yes! Remember Macbeth (with Antony Sher and Harriet Walter). But the best was yet to come.
The route to success
But Richard’s career started the day he came for an audition for the BBC drama Sparkhouse (you know…that grouchy Northern farmer). It was in 2002 and this was his first major TV role (a modern interpretation of Wuthering Heights). Before this, the times were hard for him, because it was a real frustration of not getting any role. And, since television was not in his professional plans but it happened, he intended to keep working for television, having in his mind an important goal, to diversify his acting.
As a consequence, in 2003 he appeared in three TV dramas: Cold Feet, Ultimate Force and Between the sheets. Then, he (a relatively unknown tall and dark actor of 34) made a giant step forward with the splendid dramatization of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South, broadcast in 2004. It was the beginning of a kind of thunderstorm. Not since Mr. Darcy (Colin Firth) emerged from that lake in a white shirt has womanhood all over the globe fallen in love so hopelessly with a talented actor.
North and South is a kind of romantic drama in which love is not allowed because of some very strict social restrictions. It's like a paradox, these restrictions make, in the end, love more powerful than ever.
Richard’s next roles were for Frozen, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries (a BBC drama), Malice Aforethought, The Golden Hour and Shakespeare Re-told. And guess what? He hits again, starting with 2006. First of all, he played young Claude Monet in The Impressionists (a BBC production). Secondly, before Christmas, he appeared in The Vicar of Dibley. And between these two roles, he started to play in Robin Hood, but this time being on the evil side, as Sir Guy of Gisborne, that cruel character wearing leather from head-to-toe. Because of this outfit probably his popularity went higher and higher during the three seasons of that series. From his point of view, Sir Guy was a real challenge, to play such a character was fascinating.
"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"
But Richard was not very sad when Gisborne died, from at least two reasons:
- Sir Guy was a bad guy and he had to suffer because he had made so many others suffering; his death was noble, in the end;
- Being such a character for almost three years, Richard almost forgot to smile. His face was like thunder, as he put it.
Regarding this series, another interesting perspective was revealed by Richard. In his opinion, in another time and (maybe) another world, Guy and Robin could have been allies. This is why they behave in the way they do, this is why their hatred is so special, becoming almost admiration. They are linked together by memories and a sort of obsession.
The best part of this series, in my opinion, was the third, after Marian’s death. This event was a crime of passion, and Richard was shocked to find out he was going to kill Marian. In that moment, his character, Sir Guy, was very much in love with Marian. After Marian's death, Sir Guy became more impossible than ever before.
It is interesting to know that Richard read four audiobooks retelling the first episodes of Robin Hood, which were released in November 2006. His imitations of the other characters is worth a listen.
In 2008, another important character appeared in Richard’s career: Lucas North (of course, another BBC drama, Spooks).
No, I haven’t forgotten Moving On, Strike Back and, of course, Captain America (2011). In this last film he played Heinz Kruger, a Teutonic assassin who, at one point, is involved in a super-macho underwater tussle. The only problem was the water. Richard could swim, but in some scenes the actions were more difficult that he had imagined. And, of course, it's complicated to feel relaxed when you have ten meters of water above you.
Hard times, isn’t it? Let’s move to a peaceful land, full of dwarfs, a hobbit and a very tall wizard. Tolkien would be proud.
North and South, final scene
A very expected journey (first part) - Life outside the box
Richard Armitage was almost happy realizing that Peter Jackson (director of The Hobbit) was not so familiar with his work, because sometimes when you’re cast because of what you’ve done before, you could be cast simply to do that thing again.
"The Hobbit for me is stepping outside the box"
As a matter of fact, The Hobbit was one of those books that made Richard to read a lot in his childhood, developing a vivid imagination. Certainly, this is a good reason why he has become an actor.
With other words, thank you Mr. Tolkien!!!
Misty Mountains Song - The Hobbit
The Armitage Army
As far as I know, Armitage Army is a nickname gave by one neglected husband. Yeap, sometimes it’s difficult to be a star. Especially having any kind of army behind you. For Richard, this army was fascinating, even if it was difficult to guess what on earth are they talking about. After North and South somethig happened. He started to think he shouldn’t play certain types of characters because his "fan base" wouldn’t like it.
But the real question is: does Richard feel like a sex symbol?
The correct answer is no, even if being sexy makes any actor employable. However, this characteristic does last forever, so Richard tries not to think about it. It's something he cannot control.
If you ask me, I am tempted to trust him. He has a fast mind and a fast metabolism, he is an intense worker, but in terms of life development "he is way behind”. Because he wants to settle down and have a family, but at the moment he is single (although not short of a date)
Gifts from fans?
Oh, yeas! Books, chocolates, cakes. One day he got a pair of pants, designed in the way they don't ride up the bum. He wondered: "are they trying to tell me something? Has someone caught me pulling my pants out of my boom in public?"
As far as I know....it was not the case.
Armitage Army Creed
Singing in Clarissa
Richard's "guilty" pleasure
The Pixar movies. He loves watching blockbusters like Monsters Inc., Up, in HD. He just wants to be a kid again.