Yes, Richard Armitage is really, really good looking. He’s tall, gracious, charming… everything ladies around the world love in a lead actor. But the interesting thing about the British star is that he has no problem taking on roles that don’t require looks or charm to stand out.
Most people will know Richard best from his work as Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbittrilogy, or as the unsavory villain Heinz Kruger in Captain America: The First Avenger. In the new thriller Into The Storm, we see him as rather dowdy single dad with a lot of emotional hangups. While he’s not serving Blue Steel as a worn down vice principal in this film, he is giving us an intense parental passion that will suck the audience in.
The stunning and now fully-bearded Armitage sat down with UrbLife.com this week to discuss his work on Into The Storm, how he envisions taking on the U.S. audience, and whether Orcs in Middle Earth are scarier adversaries than tornados in Middle America.
You play a father in this film to two teenage boys. From your perspective, what was behind that relationship as a single dad?
Richard Armitage: Figuring out what happens to the mom is important… when mom dies and dad has to be father and mother to the two boys, and be vice principal of the school they both attend. He’s in a really difficult place. He’s being dad, he’s being mom and he’s being teacher, so it’s no surprise to me that there’s tension in that household. We discussed it, and we allowed our own relationships as people to kind of inform what was happening, so in a way the comradeship that we found as actors, I love that to come into the character relationships.
I wanted dad to be not too much of a lecturing father. There was potentially a good mate-y friendship between them eventually. You had to see what was possible. Look at the way Max [Deacon] and I get along now after Into the Storm story finishes. That family becomes a more successful family.
What would you say is more difficult: Battling an army of Orcs or battling the largest tornado ever?
Richard: Inside out, definitely fighting Orcs. There’s a physical relentlessness to that, which is physically draining. But battling tornadoes it’s like the elusive monster that you never know where it’s gonna be, how big it’s gonna be, how fast or loud or threatening its gonna be. It’s an unknown terror that you can’t even begin to battle it. All you can do is survive. So no amount of physical strength or skill or intellect or ability to predict can help you. So that unknown tornado is far worse.
With 100mph fans, rain machines and long days, were there parts of filming Into The Storm when you felt like you needed a break?
Richard: The wind and the rain were relentless. No matter how much energy or stamina you’ve got, when you heard that wind machine winding up it was like, “Here we go again… hang on for dear life!” and it still just got you. It’s like if someone slaps you in the face enough times, you know it’s coming, but it’s like you wanna hit back [laughs].
But in terms of personal, the scene where Gary rescues Donny from the water is tough. That was scary for me. I’m not comfortable in water, but it was good to have that fear because his son, as far as he’s concerned, has drowned, and he’s pulling him out of the water. By the end of that day I was a bit of an emotional wreck and got through it. But as that day approaches you think, “I’m going to be diving into that water tomorrow” so it’s scary.
You’ve done Shakespeare, you’ve done film and television in Britain. Now you’re doing American films with an American accent. What is the bigger challenge to you, and what do you enjoy tackling more?
Richard: This is my first big American dialect movie. I lived in America for two years, so I hear the accent all the time. I did a medical drama where I was speaking about a subject to me that was very alien. It’s like learning a foreign language, because it’s not just about what they sound like, it’s an attitude, it’s a cultural thing which I never understood before and lived here, now I do. I was able to get in back into the sound studio and correct certain things that hadn’t worked on set, because I wasn’t experienced enough.
I’d like to sink my teeth into something that’s really language based with a n American dialect in a very specific place in America. This was sort of a general America sound, but I’d like to do something much more muscular and specific.
Are you looking forward to building your audience here and getting the reaction from the U.S. fans?
Richard: Yeah definitely. It’s important for me to do that because The Hobbit has a very specific look and a certain reach, but I live here now and I’d like to work here more. It’s just another area to explore. I love the culture here; I love the differences between all of the states. I think that’s something to be nurtured.
What is the one thing you want people to take away from this movie, whether it be reading into your character relationships or something about society as a whole?
Richard: I hope that people come into the story and feel in a way awakened by it… they connect with the human stories. A disaster movie alone is thrilling and it’s a spectacle, but we don’t care too much about it unless we fall in love with the characters a little bit and hope that they survive. I hope people walk away thinking, “If that does happen I’m going to be prepared. I’m gonna be the guy that goes and saves my child, [not]the one running in the opposite direction. I’m going to have the courage that those people had”.