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Richard Armitage (1971)

Richard Crispin Armitage

Type :  


Richard Crispin Armitage is an English actor famous for his roles as John Thornton in North and South, Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood, and Lucas North in Spooks. He is currently cast as Thorin Oakenshield in the two-film adaptation of The Hobbit.


 early life
Born in Leicester, England, Richard Armitage attended Huncote Primary School in Huncote, Leicestershire. Later at Brockington College in Enderby he studied music, performing cello in school and local orchestras as well as learning how to play 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.

At 17, he joined a circus in Budapest for six weeks to gain his Equity Card. After returning to England, he pursued a career in musical theatre, performing in various productions including Cats as Admetus and Macavity.

Dissatisfied with this career path, he enrolled at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art to further study acting. “I had started on a certain road in musical theatre and I was about 21 when I suddenly thought this is not quite the right path I am taking. 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 's production of Use Me As Your Cardigan.

That same year he appeared in his first major television role as the shy but noble John Standring in the BBC drama Sparkhouse . “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 a variety supporting roles in the TV productions of Between the Sheets, Cold Feet , and Ultimate Force .

In 2004, he appeared in his first leading role, as John Thornton in the BBC adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South. Armitage said that he felt personally drawn to the role. "My father's family were weavers and spinners. It was where I came from and it was exciting to think I could be a part of it." He also 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 one episode of Inspector Lynley Mysteries called "In Divine Proportion" as a recovering gambling addict, Phillip Turner. Richard also 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. He also played his first substantial role in movies with the independent film Frozen.

In 2006, Armitage took on the major role of 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." "I have to say I think baddies are always the most fun to play because you get to be rude and aggressive and you get to do things that you can't really do in everyday life. We have to be civilized and nice and polite. And when you play the bad guys you get to play all those notes of your personality. There's a little bit of me in Guy, I think, sort of the aggressiveness. No, it's great fun; I love it." 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 . He reprised the role in 2007 for Red Nose Day. On 8 April 2007, he starred in George Gently, a detective drama, with Martin Shaw and Lee Ingleby. Armitage played biker Ricky Deeming. 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 for series 7 which began on 27 October 2008, in the UK, as the character Lucas North. "On the surface Lucas is an amiable character but eight years in a Russian prison has had a profound effect on him. His personality is divided between who he was before he was imprisoned, the prisoner, and the person he has become. He has an outer facade which is personable, but underneath is someone who has been through a big trauma... He has no knowledge of how damaged he is emotionally until memories start to work their way to the surface." "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 in order to film a flashback sequence.

In March 2009, he began filming for Series 8 of Spooks, which began airing in November 2009. In July 2010 he finished filming series 9, which began airing in late September 2010. His real name was revealed in episode 7 as John Bateman. Bateman had murdered the real Lucas North shortly before North's admission to MI5, and had taken his place. Series 9 ended in a confrontation with Harry Pearce on the roof of the Enver Tower, from which Bateman/North leapt to his death.

On 20 May 2009, Armitage appeared in the BBC1 drama Moving On as John Mulligan.

In May 2010 he starred as John Porter in Strike Back for Sky 1. On playing John Porter Armitage stated, "On paper it is pretty obvious what kind of drama Strike Back is, but the driving challenge for me and the scriptwriters and directors was to find the emotional centre of John Porter. How does a man become a trained killer and then go home and put his arms around his wife and rock his baby daughter to sleep? How can a soldier not have a conscience about what he is being asked to do?" Elsewhere he said, "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 goes in search of atonement still believing he did the right thing even though it cost the lives of three of his friends... I admire the tenacity of standing up and saying "I made a mistake, I'm going to take the consequences. I'm going to search out the reason it was a mistake." There's anger and there's injustice. It's like, "I did the right thing, with the wrong outcome.""

Sky1 commissioned a 2nd series of Strike Back, which began broadcasting in August 2011. However, because of his commitments to filming The Hobbit Armitage only appears as a guest star in the second series.

Armitage appeared as Nazi spy Heinz Kruger in the Captain America: The First Avenger film, released in July 2011. He gave even this small role his full commitment to realizing the character. "I wanted to play someone who completely believed what they were doing. So I found this biography of a guy called Erich Gimpel, who had been sent in to sabotage the Manhattan Project. It's a fascinating book, and it helped me to not just think, "Destroy, destroy, destroy." I had to conceive of my side being the right side, when it was so clearly wrong."

He has also been cast as Thorin Oakenshield for the upcoming production of The Hobbit, the 1st film of which is scheduled for release in December 2012. When asked about playing the iconic character, Armitage replied, "I just think it is a really amazing opportunity to take a character from a book that I was brought to as a child and that I was, I mean my first experience on stage was in a production of The Hobbit at the Alex Theatre in Birmingham and I played an elf...so it’s kind of been there in my kind of childhood very prominently so to come to it as an adult...and have another look at it is a brilliant opportunity." On the character of Thorin, he stated, "With my character in The Hobbit there's this emotional explosion and suppressed anger, and I'm trying to work out whether I have that in me or whether I'm going to have to imagine it. I guess there's a dangerous place, my own darkness, that I don't access in life but have the ability to go 'alright, just for this role, I'll just open this door and have a peek'."

In recent years, Richard 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 six audio books based on BBC's "Robin Hood" as well as Bernard Cornwel's The Lords of the North and three Georgette Heyer novels for : Sylvester, or the Wicked Uncle, Venetia, and The Convenient Marriage which was released in August 2010. He has also narrated many documentaries such as "", "Empire's Children", "Too Poor for Posh School?", "", "", and "" among others. In 2011, he provided the narration for a series about Royal Navy flagship, the HMS Ark Royal, "," and "Fraud Squad." He has also provided the voice over for many TV and radio advertisements.

He is said to be involved in a drama based about Richard III. "I was named Richard being born on the anniversary of Richard III’s demise at Bosworth; one of my father’s favourite novels is The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman, and I read this many years ago. In recent years it has led to a tentative interest and line of research into the rehabilitation of this story. As an actor, it’s a project I would love to achieve. I believe it is a great story, a socio-political thriller, a love story and a dynastic tragedy." "There’s a darkness and mystery to Richard. I like the idea of someone who is not ambitious, but gets put on the fast track to the crown and almost finds himself there against his instincts.” "I've got a script in development, well, it isn't mine, but it's about Richard III... there's too much to tell, let's do twenty episodes then we can tell all of the story... sort of a long-running "Wars of the Roses" kind of thing... I know a lot of people that are interested , but there is no one that will step on the gas. Quite. Nearly there, nearly there."

Richard Armitage describes himself as a method actor. "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 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 has often said that 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 , 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.”

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