richard armitageBefore Peter Jackson's three-part "Hobbit" saga, few people knew who Richard Armitage was. He had starred in a handful of well-regarded television series, but nothing that really stuck out. Now the actor has been immortalized as Thorin Oakenshield, one of the big heroes (and, in the third film, major villains) of the entire "Hobbit" franchise. Immortality has been assured; now everybody knows who Richard Armitage is, even under pounds of prosthetics.

We sat down with Armitage on, as he says, "the final press tour" of "The Hobbit" franchise, in London, England. You could tell that Armitage was in good spirits, even though there was a fair amount of sadness in seeing this chapter in his life come to a close, linger just beneath the surface. We talked to Armitage about the involvement of "Hellboy" director Guillermo del Toro (who was originally slated to direct and still maintains a co-screenwriting credit), what it was like shooting his big ice fight, and whether or not he'd jump into another giant franchise again.

Moviefone: How does it feel?

Richard Armitage: It's good. It's very good. It's interesting thing, like what Ian said, what people want to know about the making of the films and what it's like to be there and to be those characters. It says a lot. He inspires a visceral response to his work.

Looking back on it, what do you think your contribution is?

It feels like I've been to the theme park too and I've had the Middle Earth experience. It's a big chunk of my life and there's a lot of physical and emotional investment, a lot of investment of time and creativity. It's very satisfying to get to this point and take the third film out on the road and see people's response to it.

Martin Freeman said something earlier today about being able to adjust his performance throughout the process. What kind of adjustments did you make?

The blueprint you get is from the book and the first screenplay that we saw was so completely different to the movie that we actually shot. And the reason is that Pete [Jackson] and Fran [Walsh] and Philippa [Boyens], when they write the screenplay they get to know the actors along the way so they tailor make the characters, so even though I am playing a character, they are really making it fit, in the fine tailoring of it, to my personality, just by getting to know me. I was very lucky because I feel like they heard Thorin's voice early on and were able to write for him in a very detailed, succinct way.

What did you think when the two movies became three?

It was no surprise to me. There were whispers very early on that [Jackson] was shooting the sh*t out of it. And that means that he was really shooting, in great detail and great coverage, every scene and character, which was exciting to me. Because I knew that he'd either have an extremely concentrated two movies or an expansive three movies. That was very early on and the more we shot, I realized there was far more material than even the three movies. When all is said and done he's going to have three extended cuts that are all four hours in length and all equally dense.

Is there something from your character that you're excited to see put back into the third movie?

Most of my scenes are in the movie. It's not a scene I'm particularly excited to see that you don't need to see because it'd be a double-beat, but I think it will make it into the final cut.

What was it like filming the ice fight?

It was great. Every beat of the scene was learned by me and the stunt double and the scale double, the fight was shot multiple times. At some point they stopped dressing my stunt double because I forced myself and challenged myself to be capable of doing everything the scale double was doing. I think about 95% of my fight work is in the movie. It was about a two to three week process of shooting. We'd learn it in pieces. I remember saying to our stunt coordinator, "I think we should have a few strings of extra fight up our sleeves because I'm sure Pete will say, 'I want it longer.'" So we over-served him.

And what did you think when you finally saw it?

The whole of the frozen lake and parts of Raven Hill were built. They had a self-leveling pool that was covered in water, and the snow was real. So as far as I was concerned, I was fighting on a frozen lake. And the moving platform, it was on this hydraulic gimbal, so we were about eight feet in the air when stationary, on the top of a platform. So yeah, came off a couple of times.

One of the people who contributed to the script, and is still credited, is Guillermo del Toro, who was originally slated to direct. Do you feel his presence in the final film?

You know, I never felt Guillermo's presence there, which is a good thing because it had to be all Peter. But I'm a huge fan of Guillermo del Toro. I'm as obsessive about his work as I am about Peter's. And after we shot "The Hobbit," I went to meet him about another project. So yes, I am very passionate about his world and his exploration of darkness. But I do feel like it had to be built around Peter's aesthetic, because otherwise it was going to feel like a suit of clothes made from cloth from a bunch of different places. So, equally, there's a "Hobbit" in his head as thrilling as Peter's.

Yeah, I hope he gets to put out his designs or something.

I'm sure he'll do something, if ever the film rights come about.

What can you tell me about working with Andy Serkis? He was directing second unit on the films but did he have a hand in the battle?

You know, when we came back for the 20-week pick-up shoot, that was when we filmed most of the battle. And Andy wasn't around for that. But her certainly shot lots from the first two films. But Peter shot all of the main unit stuff for the battle sequences.

Have you talked to Peter about working together in the future?

I haven't dared to ask, but the opportunity to go to New Zealand and work with him again, I would jump at it. It's interesting because Thorin is an indelible character, it would be very hard to shake it off between two creatives who have collaborated so fiercely on one character. It would be very hard for him to see me as anything else. And I always feel like Thorin in his presence. So that would be a challenge for sure.

It's fun too because with your "dragon sickness," you get to play a little bit of the Golem role this time around.

You know that's interesting. No one's every observed that. It wasn't what entered my head, although I really admire what Andy did with that. I never considered that. I was looking at a lot of addictions and paranoia and schizophrenia and how that manifested itself in mental illness and physically. Because I wanted the dragon sickness to be physically debilitating, but it's more a disease of the mind, but to keep him rational enough to keep the story going and not be so heavy that we drive the story into an unwatchable darkness.

Were you always a Tolkien fan?

I read the books as a kid. When I told my mom I was going to audition for "The Hobbit," she said, "Well, you've always loved Tolkien." And she was right. I read the books very young and it was the first book I ever read alone, I remember reading underneath the sheets with a torch. And my mom would knock on the door, knowing I was reading "Lord of the Rings" at four in the morning and her saying, "Switch the lights out." But I couldn't. I couldn't put it down. And I was bereft when the stories were over, because I wanted to go back there.

There has been talk of these movies being transposed to the Universal theme parks. What would you want to see?

Oh, the barrel ride! That would be the most amazing thing! I've been on the barrel ride and it was incredible. It was a fully working machine with V8 engines and unsinkable barrels that would dip under the water. The moment we were on it, we thought, "This should be in a theme park somewhere, but twice the length." So yeah, it was really thrilling.

Is that your favorite sequence from all three movies?

No. The Battle of the Armies has to be the best. You kind of saw it coming. The barrel sequence was coming; Peter was giving you a taste of what was to come with the Battle of the Five Armies.

Where do you go from here?

I'm developing my own projects as a producer, and the next one I am going to be in. It's based on a true story, set in Ireland, that will be a long term project. And I'm going to do a movie next year called "Pilgrimage," about an 11th century Crusade.

Do you have interest in doing another one of these huge franchise movies again?


What's the appeal?

It's just great to be playing something that is well received and has a global reach. I now need let Thorin be absorbed by those people and then give them something else.

"The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" is in theaters Friday, December 19.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Based on 45 critics

Men, Dwarves and Elves must unite or fall to the dual threats of Sauron's Orcs and Smaug the dragon. Read More

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