I know i have been absent and that i haven’t really shared much with you in a really long time. There have been the odd instances where something happened and I felt I wanted to mark it, but between NY and now expressing any thoughts has gone under the whirlwind of daily life. In fact NY still feels current to me, or recent. In between I feel like I have been living (and continue to do so) in a pressure pot. Maybe I will get a chance to talk more about it as it’s still pretty much how life is, but this post is not about that 🙂
It is thankfully about going back to the ‘happy place’ I was in during the NY trip and around it and coming back to myself as well and to a version of myself I enjoy. To a place where work merges with hobby, where for 1 day I am allowed to and I can shut everything else out and just live in the now and enjoy the hell out of it. It is invigorating and I only wish I had been better prepared, with batteries fully loaded to throw more force at it and get even more back. But maybe part of the best fun is not being able to prepare for it and just letting it happen 🙂
Part of it has also been finding joy and connection in being with people. Not because you have to, not because you have to get something done, not because it’s your job, no because you have made a commitment, with no expectation other than spending time together and enjoying yourselves, no plan, no targets, no pressures. I’d honestly nearly forgotten what that feels like. So thanks for giving me back a part of myself goes to the lovely ladies I shared the brief stay in Newcastle with (and whose great photos and lovely blog reports you can also read below):
Esther (@BookEstherBlog); Ella (@Ella_4619) , Linda (@aka_linda60) and Judit
It’s been great fun, to be repeated! And I so hope that the next event, whatever and wherever it may be will bring all the groups and lovely friends from nearer and afar together!
Sadly there are not many photos from me, a total of 2-3, but please do read the above blogs and give tumbler and twitter a go over on the tag #richardarmitage and also check Perry and Serv, who have diligently and with great patience linked to many fan reports and photos. I’ve hoarded myself quite a few of those generously shared all round but I really don’t want to post them without permission or not quoting the owners, so I’ll just mostly point you in the right direction for those essential photo-fixes 😉
From me there will be mostly words, words, words as in his presence my womanly multitasking talent fails me and my eyes, ears and brains are just focused on taking it all in and storing it for a long looong time.
I can’t really say I planned the trip, because little conscious effort went into it, it was a series of –raise head above water, kneejerk click here and there, back to RL – kind of moments. When the possibility of a screening was announced I thought I could just book some hotels and see later and I did book various covering the whole weekend because the date wasn’t know or anything else. Then I bought tickets, I did stop and think a second if I was willing to loose the money if I didn’t go but I decided I could and went ahead. And then many weeks passed, I watched the return train fares go up and up and up… booked 2 alternative tickets in London for stuff that very same weekend, then cancelled them because RL took priority and I wasn’t feeling like going out and wanted to have time available for other commitments. And then I finally bit the train bullet but stashed it on the credit card as if not used there are some return options.
Even the week before I wasn’t entirely sure and only when it finally appeared as if no other commitments would emerge that weekend I knew I would travel. My expectation from the program was pretty much like this: a QA at which my understanding was he would be the interviewer as they would want to feature Caroline Goodall , since she is the patron and he was around and they knew each other – but it looked interesting in any case, 2 actors taking about acting, count me in – and straight away an introduction to Urban after which he would return to Easter holidays. Done and dusted.
I didn’t give anything more thought as I have more trips and days of work in between coming up and my only concern was to pack as lightly as possible for the day (in early Sat due to train fares, out Easter Sun lunchtime). I didn’t pack even a scap of paper, neither my still rolled up and unframed Crucible posters, nor any paper tickets, not even poor POP-Thorin. I was convinced no direct interaction of any kind was planned or would have time to happen given tight schedule.
I hate early trains and I usually stress about being late and missing it and having to pay the fare again so I caught about 1h of sleep and my lent diet which had up until now worked ok failed me and a spinach salad with roasted carrot did me in. So I was tired, feeling rough and grumpy and got really cold on the train because of being plastered against the cold wall in a window seat on a full train. And the train was going to Edinburgh…. I didn’t really want to get off before that, it will always feel odd to get on a train going to Edinburgh but not actually making it back there… I used to think when I got past Newcastle, ‘not long now, more than 2/3 through’… the Tyne bridge was always a signal I was getting close to home 🙂
But get off I did and in dogged determination decided as you do round here that umbrellas are for wimps and it’s just a bit of water, not worth the bother.
So on top of tired, rough, grumpy-ish (train was on time so thumbs up!) and cold I was now completely sodden. Well done me. Room wasn’t ready so I decided to park myself on a comfy armchair next to reception and not to move until the ladies arrived and we were off to some warm lunch after which I wanted my hotel bed for as long as possible before having to brave it out again.
Thankfully about 1h later the ladies did arrive and things started looking up! What we hadn’t counted with was that we were competing for local amenities with half the male population of the North as well as incoming troupes who had arrived for a football match and if I understood correctly also a boxing one and also, you know, bank holiday weekend! We were probably outnumbered 20/1 in town this weekend and every pub was packed. So braving the great-North-wash-away yet again we retired as ladies who lunch to a lovely Browns, where in spite of being busy we were accommodated and they moved tables around so we could stay for as long as we wish. I was reminded how friendly and welcoming people up North are and I used to like coming here with work to the brewery 🙂 Lovely place and people. I sadly decided to forego the beer I had been dreaming about since scheduling the trip (in memories of my old brewing days) as well as any caffeine and chose a big pot of peppermint tea instead. After some very proper steak and Guinness pie with mash and roasted bone marrow and fish and chips plus cherry and apple crumbles with icecream we were ready for bed!… er no, for that other event of the day!
Thankfully the company, the peppermint tea, couple pills and the warm food plus a 40 min nap did the trick and I felt nearly human by the time we were marching on the Mining Institute, where the QA was scheduled.
Lovely old building, filled with old photos and a smell of the times as well 😉 Wish they had allowed us to roam around a bit while we were waiting.
(photo taken the next day when, ha! the sun was shining pretending the deluge the day before hadn’t happened!)
We were finally ushered into a surprising old fashioned but beautiful lecture hall in a very intimate amphitheater setting.
(different event, sorry for the pinch, just to give you an idea)
It was really cosy and toasty after the cold and wet outside. Too warm actually, as if the fires needed stoking any more, if you know what I mean… Still debating if he stuck to his leather jacket in spite of the stuffy heat for our benefit (that T-shirt and bare arms would have been weapon grade) or realistically, he had too few and not warm enough clothes on and had been rather freezing himself for the sake of rocky looks and was grateful for the heat 😉
So yes, turns out Richard was there. And we were as instructed in row 2, trying to not be quite in his face but sideways, however since it was so small no brave souls sat in row 1 so we became front row… yet again. And there he was…. It suddenly sunk in why I was there, what was happening, that he was physically there, a meter away, walking, talking, breathing, casually but deadly dressed in all black, charmingly deploying all his means of entrapment. Black skinny jeans (because he can), cool black leather trainers, black leather jacket(!) and a t-shirt I was instantly mesmerized by. As Esther pointed out.. THAT T-shirt! Well, let’s talk about it 🙂
Fan forensics of course identified it successfully as Alexander McQueen and it totally makes sense, there was just something about it. There are much more out there t shirts in their collections, this was understated simple cool. It’s part of their 2017 fall collection, which had some old military uniform inspiration elements. It mimics these fronts and emphasizes of course broad chest and narrow waist in the wearer.
And all black was visually great as it always looks good, emphasized his silhouette but was natural and relaxed. Look, I like men’s garments and like it when they dress well or things look good on them, regardless of who they are and this was a great look 🙂 Also black is a great colour, because once you’d seen it you could just focus on his face and hands when he spoke as your eyes were naturally drawn to the skin patches in the black figure. I don’t know if he thought about it much, but I suspect these things are actually taught in drama school and he certainly has a strong visual instinct (judging by his occasional photos) so it was very effective not just nice to look at.
To my surprise the guest was he and Caroline Goodall was the interviewer! But I was glad she also pitched in with her own opinions on various matters and it was thoroughly fascinating hour of chat about the evolution of his career but also about the business of film-making itself, not just the craft of acting. I hope the video they took will be made available to the public. Her respect and appreciation of his skills was utterly endearing and it was lovely to see they were friends. Both were relaxed and in a good mood, chatty and open.
There were 3 very stately chairs up front, one which looked more like a throne and Caroline jokingly said he had to take it! He sat there laughing but jumped straight out saying, oh no, but there would be one chair between us! He then discovered a wooden judge-type hammer and slammed it briefly jokingly to declare the session open and quiet down the excited murmurs in the audience 🙂
But then there are also the almost reflex, involuntary gestures. He sat down and by the nature of the tight semicircle of the auditorium seating he would have been turned away from the side to his right so he moved the chair and himself in it to turn so he could at least sit in profile and by no means give us a shoulder. He then turned down the microphones they were given to wear to amplify the voices to almost nothing so that he could speak naturally as if speaking directly to audience and not AT them. It’s small details, but his instinct is clearly to take his surroundings in and react to them, make himself part of them and make it ‘comfortable’, ‘safe’ for everyone. It was as if he wasn’t settled until he felt everyone else had the best experience too. Then he was happy and relaxed as well.
He’s certainly a complex person, which strikes me again and again every time I get to see and especially hear him live. He said as much himself, he used ‘conflicted’ so it’s not just my interpretation, although I choose to see it as complexity, not just ‘conflicted’ 😉 ; for me the 2 go hand in hand. He’s in many ways the same actor who fascinated me back in the Discussion about the Crucible but in many ways more, an even more matured, more experienced and more assured version of himself.
His voice is soft and pleasant, a friendly and I think in this case almost intimate tone. It’s certainly not the assertive or attention drawing tone of any of his audio work 🙂 It’s just a normal speaking voice.
There were the known facts about the start of his career and moving on from musical theatre, to the equity card (and equity is still important!), to the surprise casting as Thorin. (Wonder if all agents are such ‘darlings’ 😉 I’ve heard this sugary imitation of agent communications from others before , he said his agent called : ‘darling, let’s meet up’ and he knew that if it was more than a phone call, it must be important!) He mentioned the back pain at the audition and the lasting clicking his back sometimes still does as a consequence. He spoke following Caroline Goodall’s admiration for Thorin’s death scene and the character in general about creating it over a 3h period of takes done lying on the ground, because he felt it’s not over in a blink of an eye but takes time. He repeated his interest in conflicted characters because he thinks that normal people are often conflicted and still mentioned, at Caroline’s prompting, Guy of Gisborne with interest and as an example of where he was allowed to play with it because the writers understood and allowed the character to seek some redemption as well.
But there were also some interesting perspectives and insights in his attitude towards his career and work overall.
I felt both pride and relief in a way when he spoke about his agent and also himself working from early on towards a long term fulfilling career and not superstardom per se. At it was said from the perspective of time and what he felt they were achieving. He sounded confident and it pleased me and made me look forward to the future and all the things to come. He confirmed what he has hinted at before that it never is about the money but about the material and he hopes it will always stay this way. But there was also more about him being an English actor at work and having a ‘getting on with it’ attitude towards work which I think we’ve always heard from his colleagues through their appreciation of his reliability and collaborative approach on set. He expressed the belief that this kind of attitude of not making a fuss and getting on with it was the reason he was asked to join the Ocean’s 8 cast.
He expanded even more talking about the contribution each role makes to the film. For him it is not only/primarily about the story of his character but how it fits into the whole. It not about showcasing himself but making the right and best contribution to the whole. And I believe that is one of his strengths and what makes him such an interesting actor, beyond just a leading man! Caroline Goodall also emphasized this duality in his craft, he can do both leading man and character and in a way merge them both. She described him as a ‘shaman’, a cameleon who can become what the story needs him to be. It made me think back to both the Crucible and Love Love Love but also some of his film roles, like say Standring… he was subtle and made the ensemble stronger with his contribution. And if you look close enough you realise the amazing level of skill and subtlety it takes to make that kind of contribution. He is excellent without that ‘look at me’ vanity many actors involuntarily have. It makes me respect him even more becomes it comes from a conviction about the craft and the values of each person’s work.
And going back to the theme of trajectory he also mentioned about roles in general and choice that each preparation is valuable even if the role does not come to pass or if the material is not that relevant to the role, you always learn something interesting. And also that a role can be a door opener and a step on a path to others, even if taken on its own it may not be his choice. It’s not the first time his comments have indicated this feeling and intention of a journey in his work, but it was reassuring to hear it from him. Basically it reassures me, eager fan, that there is a next step, a next role and that at this stage he is confident about that being the right approach for him.
Responding to questions he also mentioned that he thought he wouldn’t do horror, especially involving kids and was a bit apprehensive about his current project , but that it turned out to be more physiological thriller. But that he would still be actively avoiding any slasher/blood everywhere type horror 😉
He feels he may be out-spied and may have done one too many, but that in action movies his approach has been to try as much as he can to make it believable to the real professionals so that they could credit his character on screen with a fair representation of the ‘truth’. He got very passionate about presenting the ‘truth’ when in front of the camera, so much so that if he feels he is failing he has to stop and feels like he wants the earth to open and swallow him up.
Still talking about his craft and answering questions he explained that however much prep he does at the end of the day , unless the background story is actually represented in the film it has to stay ot of it, it is for him to have internalised it or read about it and get some ideas but not for the audience to observe it ; it’s about the character now and where he goes next.
On film-making in general he feels he has somewhat a director’s brain in that he has a very vivid image about the set up and then it can sometimes be difficult to adapt to a very different one coming from the director 😉 CG said she would like to see him direct, he would be keen too but is an awe of all the women who can , like Delpy or Bullock, he could never multitask like that because once in front of the camera he is absorbed by the acting and could not go back and forth between behind and in front of the lens. My thoughts were two-fold.. he does seem to have a wonderful imaginative brain that paints around the script and pieces everything together with a million threads and he should employ it at least as a trial in directing once 🙂 But the fact he gets so absorbed in the acting also says to me… that is what he is deep down, instinctively. In both instances he is a story teller! Through the character , but able to see beyond that , because of the way he integrates himself in the whole. Question is would he be able to separate himself from the character to tell the story from outside? 🙂 And hopefully even if he does try I hope he doesn’t cross over permanently since he is so good from the acting perspective and also enjoys disappearing in it so much! I’d feel a terrible loss being able to be part of his stories just from an outside narrator perspective…
There were also interesting debates about the business aspect of film making. And it is one aspect where according to his own statements, but also his stance, his tone and his whole attitude he’s clearly benefited a lot from his time in NY. If you want to be a player at that level it’s not enough to be passionate and good at the craft, these days you have to be savvy about the business of film as well. He’s learned to be more cold and determined in asking for roles and pursuing them, more active. In spite of what he says is he passive nature and the tendency of all English actors to be a bit apologetic about wanting to act and feeling rather grateful when they get work 😉 America teaches you to be more hard-nosed about that, both admitted, and for the better in one’s career.
Responding to questions and continuing the comparisons he spoke appreciatively of writing in the UK industry, of scripts that hardly need touching when they come out of a single talented writer. Whereas in the US the writers’ room can by necessity become a machine when they need to churn 22-23 eps and when character continuity and story continuity can become difficult and he’s experienced that as well. But they felt that especially in the past US benefited from more roles and bigger budgets. Uk indies have grown but there is still enormous pressure and in spite tax allowances it can still service the US filming with less stuff being made for here. They were both very sympathetic to the struggles faced by indies and he mentioned that although he was really have Urban was getting a ‘soft release’ via internet he was still a bit sad it wouldn’t see the big screen.
He became wistful though about the English roots of his acting and drawing on some of the tradition and subject matter and the story telling vs just the psychological profiling in some US writing. He mentioned a great Stephen Poliakoff script he had read but he had unfortunately not be able to do and mentioned several women writers , Sandy Wainwright for example he appreciated. There was a gentle determination whenever he mentioned people to talk about the female directors and writers. And I very much appreciated that as it was unprompted but very clear from his side 🙂
This discussion on the business side was quite extended and I hope the video will be made available for those who want to know more about the issues. There was interesting insight of how the US industry works for actors re unions and the like there compared to here and how it influences them getting more work, as foreigners not being part of the unions themselves etc. While I agree the tax allowance hasn’t been the solution for industry here (although it gives many people a living and has developed technical talent like never before, which is a great thing) and in sheer quantity the amount of TV and film in the US creates more roles, I disagree in variety of roles and material. But it wasn’t the place or rather there was sadly no time to expand this further. (eg x cops and doctors shows plus x sci-fi/monster series or action movies/blockbusters certainly employ more people and guarantee more people can earn a living in the US from the business than probably in Europe in total; but from the perspective of watching somebody who is more talented than just the ‘making a living’ I doubt or question rather that currently, given existing writing, quantity gives variety. I am in two minds about this discussion… I would love to hear their thoughts and hope there would be a non-controversial or polite way of raising it and wish I had been brave enough to do so… but I wasn’t and I don’t want to stir the pot to be honest. Ultimately although there is the quantity, he seems to want more from roles which is maybe why he leans towards indies with different stories. Ultimately, I am not at all concerned that he would end up doing 10 years of one series 🙂 Not at this stage anymore, don’t see him wanting that for himself).
Last, but not least, he mentioned some projects and ideas or collaborations which he I still working on or hoping to realise in the future, like the Oedipus trilogy with Yael Farber or which maybe they could even make a film as she is trying to get into that, his own interest in Bridget Cleary and the idea to make a small version film of the Crucible if they do manage to convince the Miller estate to let them. It was a surprise to see he still hasn’t let go of John Proctor 🙂
All this was punctuated by a lot of gushing from Caroline Goodall, which we all approved of and smiled about and where he silently picked at his fingertips ;-), by the disclosure that Capotondi who he likes, sadly thought they had too much chemistry in the once scene together in BS so it got shortened and by general hilarity about the fates of English actors in US films talking to each other in and learning American accents. Prompting Richard again to air his ‘flaws’ 😉 and reminding Caroline that at the first BS reading when he tried to impress her with his American accent she said in all honesty: ‘Ahhh, so you’re Irish!!!’ She nearly fell of her chair in laughter and he laughed along embarrassed at his early attempts. He had earlier commented in context that he has now realised that he has to stay in his US accent for it to be consistent which he has done on the Lodge.
He’s also learned to like improvisation during the Lodge, which he wasn’t a big fan of before but feels that if he prepares beforehand he can be more free doing that too.
There is a wonderful sense of freedom, curiosity and desire to expand, learn, experiment about him combined at the same time with confidence in sound approach that is fascinating and makes me respect his professionalism very much. Makes you definitely want to see the product of his efforts 😉 Makes me want to brave stories I might otherwise not, just to discover a new conflicted person he brings on screen.
And then there is that focus and curiosity and openness turned on each person asking a question, the intent listening and wondering what people want to know about, what they are curious about and want to learn about. Makes one infinitely curious about those instances in work where he gets to ‘spar’ in a way on visions about characters and stories.
His hands talked as much about his emotions and thoughts as did his voice and it would be a lie to pretend one isn’t as fascinated about their language too. And when he was listening I got distracted or rather put at ease by his steady breathing more than once. (If you don’t know what I mean go get yourself on youtube to one of his many press junkets and tune out the interviews and watch him sit there breathing 😉 ). One of the quiet pleasures in the world of being a fan.
It’s an undeniable pleasure to see him act, but it is almost equally fascinating to hear him think and talk about what goes on behind the acting and I am grateful he is willing to open up the discussion and let us be part of it. It’s rare and not many actors I think are open to this level of sharing and complexity of discussion outside their profession, actors’ studios and the like. It is entirely special and done in his very unique way. I was wrong in expecting there to be little interaction during the day, apart from the autograph signing and photos which followed the Urban screening later on (and which I’ll leave for a part 2). He gave not only of his time generously (having made his way there on his own with no assistance ), but there certainly was interaction. And there is so much more to ‘interaction’ than a signature and a photo. Maybe I felt it unconsciously before , forever interested in his interviews and fascinated by the live versions of his QAs, but I certainly know it know. This is interaction! And he brought not just his physical presence to it, but his mind, his ideas, his passions and even some of his trials and tribulations and he shared those rather generously and with detail and consideration, with acknowledgement of our interest and serious and I’d say respectful response to it. I feel more conscious and thankful of it than ever. (And not a jot emotional about it all, nope!).