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‘Bollywood films are great entertainment’

Richard Armitge and Sarah Wayne in a scene from Into the Storm

Richard Armitge and Sarah Wayne in a scene from Into the Storm  

“We’re having a beautiful summer, but today’s a bit of an overcast day,” says British actor Richard Armitage, on the phone from his London home, in an exclusive interview to The Hindu. This isn’t idle chat about the weather; from moody London skies, next stop, killer tornadoes in the American Midwest.

The British actor, celebrated as the smouldering dwarf king Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit trilogy, is currently gracing Chennai screens in Into the Storm, a disaster film about twisters laying waste a small town.

Armitage is known as an actor who goes deep for the role, and has even talked about dreaming in character during his Hobbit stint. Still, how can he prep to act opposite a “Category Six” tornado? By “studying Net footage about people dealing with tornadoes. I play the vice principal of the school, so am bound to know how to deal with a crisis, but I didn't want my character to know too much.” Given the film’s found-footage-format, “I was keen to develop a real, documentary-style feeling, rather than go for the dramatic.”

As for emoting to non-existent twisters: “You know, there was actually more on set than you’d imagine: props, 100-mph wind machines, us actors doing stunts and wirework.

On a daily basis, there was something surprising happening.” Personally, “the most shocking thing was to have a truck drop from the sky — via a crane — next to me! There was a line drawn on the ground that I was told not to cross — but it crashed pretty close, just three feet away.”

After the interview, Armitage will leave for the Old Vic where he’s headlining Yael Farber’s visceral revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible that’s getting rave reviews.

“It’s an extraordinary, cathartic play and (my character) undergoes this tremendous inner journey over three-and-a-half hours.

We play to sold-out houses and it’s an emotional experience every night, with people standing up, applauding.”

Armitage’s commitment to his craft — and the famous velvet baritone — are tangible, even down the terrible, crackling phone line. The actor continues: “I feel changed by this role, and it’ll be interesting to see how my work changes after.”

His work thus far has been nicely eclectic — a circus stint in his early days; voice work, theatre and TV roles that made him quite the heart-throb in England; and movies, beginning with supporting roles in art-house Frozen and blockbuster Captain America: The First Avenger, to a career-defining breakthrough in The Hobbit, to the leading man in Into the Storm.

Visiting India — and ideally with a film shot here — is high on the actor’s to-do list. He’s quite taken with the Bollywood film as a “great entertainment and cultural product.” While he has sung in The Hobbit, he jokes about his singing not being good enough for a Bollywood role.

Into the Storm has a storm-chaser gambling everything for that once-in-a-lifetime shot of the heart of a tornado. Similarly, I speculate, there must be a once-in-a-lifetime role his heart desires. “Ye-es, there is,” he replies after a pause, “and I may have just auditioned for it.” Tantalisingly, he refuses to say more. “I’ll let you know if it doesn't come through,” he offers. “Because if I do get it, you will read about it!”

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Printable version | Aug 7, 2020 4:48:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/bollywood-films-are-great-entertainment-richard-armitage/article6308791.ece

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