It's almost over, oh no! In fandom, Phylly3 celebrates her second blogiversary! • In the Hobbit chain, Antonia Romera compares trailers for An Unexpected Journey in three languages • CDoart's the King Richard Armitage blogger, writing on the relevance of the character in times of questionable justice • In fanfic, Jo Ann finishes her story • fedoralady traces the evolution of her "sloth fic" series • In freeform, Gratiana Lovelace rescreens her Armitage birthday vid • Fabo casts Armitage in Hollywood musical remakes • C.S. Winchester takes on Armitage in period costumes from N&S and Miss Marie Lloyd • Links to all FanstRA 3 posts appear here at the end of each day
FROM THE CORE BLOGGERS: "RAFrenzy" writes about RA's creativity; "me + richard armitage" Servitus posts "Another kind of Creativity: Getting your Analytical On"; "Confessions of a Watcher"Judiang continues her Guy Therapy sessions; "CDoart: Richard Armitage & History & Spooks" Cdoart writes about "Why King RichardIII is such a worthy topic for our Time"; "Richard Armitage Fan Blog" hosts a guest interview with Mary "What's wrong with me?"; "The Squeee" talks about RA's character in "Inspector Lynley: Divine Proportion" ; Richard Armitage Vids & Graphics lets you create a John Standring "drag and drop" magazine ; DistRActed musings of one ReAlity Fanny has coffee with Womblingfree; Jonia's cut analyses the anatomy of RA's feet.
For FanstRA3 post number 6, I decided to look at what Richard Armitage might have to do in order to prepare physically for his roles. Not only does he have to look and be fit, he also should take care of his body in order to avoid injury. His last few roles have involved quite a lot of physicality;
"Keeping fit is important because so much of the work I do is pretty action packed. Riding horseback in Robin Hood, chasing spies in Spooks, fighting terrorists in Strike Back .... never a dull moment. There are stunt doubles for the trickier stuff, but I do a lot myself because I enjoy the challenge." Source: "If Looks Could Kill" Sunday Times 12/09/2010 (Found on RichardArmitageOnline).
.... and now he is Thorin Oakenshield where he rides horses, walks, runs, fights Goblins with Orcrist or an oak branch; fights trolls; and wears armour. But he also has to sing .... I would have to wonder if this is one of the most demanding roles of his career to date.
Let's take a look at three of his past characters ...
1. Guy of Gisborne - looks strong as a Knight should be. Good definition of deltoids, pecs, biceps and brachioradialis needed for combat, sword fighting and jousting. Strong abs for core stability; strong legs.
2. Lucas North in series 7 Spooks. Suitably thin, but still has enough muscle definition to portray the fact that he had possibly been working out in his prison cell. (Tight traps, though ... could cause headaches/neck pain). Tense Lucas in character.
3. John Porter. Very strongly defined muscles. Good abs. Back shot shows well developed shoulder girdle and spinal muscles which will hopefully counterbalance the pecs, maintain shoulder alignment, as well as protect his spine. Strong character.
His body shape has changed subtly between roles. For Guy, Richard Armitage and fellow cast members had to attend the "Hood Academy" in order to learn medieval combat skills (and horse riding). Interestingly, I discovered a large number of injuries to actors occur from falling off horses despite stuntmen performing some of the trickier, more dangerous feats. If you have the Robin Hood DVD series 1, there is a feature on the training (combat, fencing, archery) the actors had to do prior to filming. It can also be found on YouTube thanks to a kind fan.
Injuries on that set were quite prevalent. Split lips, bruises, fractured metatarsel (Jonas Armstrong) and a tooth knocked out (Keith Allen). This doesn't include the sore muscles, strains and sprains that would be inevitable on a shoot like this.
For his role as Lucas North in Spooks, Richard Armitage mentioned that he deliberately lost a stone in weight so that his look as a person who has spent more than 8 years in a prison was more authentic.
"I did drop quite a lot of weight for this because, in the first episode, he's described as being malnourished. So I've lost about a stone, which was really tricky because also within the first week was a massive fight sequence. So I still had to keep physically fit." (Richard Armitage - "Time To Get Spooked Again". MEN 2008).
In October 2008, Sky Magazine published an interesting blog diary piece where Richard Armitage describes a typical day filming Spooks. (Thanks to Annette over at RichardArmitageOnline for sharing this).
The full article can be found here. He describes being picked up early (he gets up at 5.00am), is sent straight to make up, and rehearses at 7.30am before filming. One hour for lunch, nap, then back onset. Fight scenes straight after lunch can make him want to throw up. Filming finishes at 7.00pm, he heads home to either go for a run or learn lines. bed at 10.00pm (...and we fans wonder why he seems to 'disappear" when he is working. That's about a 17 hour day!). A glimpse into his daily work life was also provided by this interview in the Sunday Times:"If looks could kill" (Sept 12, 2010). The rumour that he eats unhealthily (ie loads of chocolate/beer/pizza) is a bit of a myth, I suspect.
For John Porter, Richard Armitage had to increase his muscle bulk and train as an SAS officer would.
'Armitage trained hard with ex-SAS operatives.... "A lot of preparation was physical - partly because I needed to get through the shoot .. but mostly because I wanted Porter to look as if he was SAS, and not just someone who was pumped up because he was wrking out in a gym eight hours a day. I didn't want the character to look 'buff'. I wanted him to look strong" (The Inside Track Source: RichardArmitageOnline)
So, interviews like this allow us a glimpse into his physical preparation for his characters, but what strikes me is the intensity of his work ethic which raises the question, "what does he do to look after himself"?
In several interviews, the reader will find that Richard Armitage mentions the Alexander technique. This method was developed by Frederick Matthias Alexander (1869-1955), an actor, who began his career as a Shakespearean orator and who reportedly had great difficulty with hoarseness and voice loss. It can be useful for actors and performers by:
"1. Enhancing movement skills, breath control, vocal production and range of physical and vocal choices.
2. Preventing injury and reducing pain from strenuous physical activity associated with acting as well as daily life activities that can interfere with the ability to act.
3. Working with strength and endurance to create powerful characterisations without strain.
4. Facilitating focus and freeing their imagination to enhance creativity.
5. Avoiding personal movement habits that do not belong to a character.
6. Improving spatial awareness and the ability to relate to other actors, props, and sets."
From: Alexander Technique for Actors".
To sustain an injury while in the middle of a role would be a total nightmare. I attempted to do a literature search on this topic, and found a lot on dancers and musicians, but not a lot on actors. The Chartered Society of Physiotherapists published an article in 2005 entitled, "Actors don't break a leg", where they state that:
"More than three quarters of UK actors suffer physical discomfort or musculoskeletal injury as a result of their profession".
100 actors from Television and Stage were surveyed. Over half of them reported a host of physical problems, from serious back injuries, neck and shoulder pain, joint strains and sprains, bruising, ligamentous tears, acute tendonitis and skin abrasions. Their work is affected as a consequence.
Regular healthy body maintenance is essential and needs to become routine for actors working across all areas. The physicality of Richard Armitage's latest roles means that he needs to take care. Many fans note that he has well developed muscles particularly gluteals, legs and abdominals. This is a good sign as it means that he should have good core strength and stability, and if lifting heavy objects is involved in his roles, he will use his legs (hopefully) more than straining his back. He has already stated that his sword in The Hobbit, Orcrist, is heavy - in fight scenes he will have to be careful about how he moves with it. Correct techniques, warm up routines, core stability, strength, flexibility and cardio fitness work are all essential components of injury prevention, not to forget adequate rest. It is to be hoped that Richard Armitage along with his colleagues factor this into their role preparation as it could be career saving.
For the next two years Armitage will be flying back and forth to New Zealand to play a dwarf in Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit. Not a small dwarf, mind. “I’m carrying 20 kilos of costume and weights so I’m doing load of lower back and leg exercises.” The Telegraph July 2011.