British actor Richard Armitage admitted it wasn't a walk in the park to play a J.R.R. Tolkien character in Peter Jackson's reimagining of "The Hobbit," the first installment of which is on its way into theaters.
Upon touching down in New Zealand, where the trilogy was shot, the cast had a lot of character preparation to do.
"We arrived in February 2011 and we went straight into a training program, which was called 'Dwarf Bootcamp,' which was literally boots -- these huge boots. We learned how to walk, we wrestled with each other, we did archery together, we did sword fighting, hammer fighting, horse riding -- everything you could possibly think of," Richard, who plays Thorin Oakenshield in the film told Access Hollywood at the film's junket.
In addition, the cast, which includes his former "Cold Feet" co-star James Nesbitt as Bofur, found ways to get to know each other better off set.
"We went round to each other's houses and we cooked food together, we went to the pub and got drunk together, so there was an incredibly great bonding time between the dwarves," he said.
Richard had plenty of experience sword fighting and horse riding in the BBC America series "Robin Hood," but it was something else that came in handy during the long days on set.
"I'd done a number of shows where I'd had to use sword fighting and I'd also done horse riding. I'd also pulled guns out of my pocket. That was less useful," he laughed, likely referring to his recent role in the PBS-import series "MI-5," where he played a British spy. "But, yeah, you draw on everything. I'd worked at the Royal Shakespeare Company, so the vocal work was really useful to kind of pull that from there. I'd worked in a circus, there were... all sorts of things that were really useful, but the one thing that I do have -- for lack of talent -- is stamina and that's the one thing I think everybody needed on this job."
An imagination was useful also, but Richard said what turned out on the big screen was still wilder - and more beautiful - than he dreamed of.
"So many moments... Actually, apart from the eagles -- which every single time I've seen this film absolutely blows my mind and I can barely keep the tears back and [it has] nothing to do with the pathos of the scene, just that feeling of flight moves me -- is the throne of Aragorn, in the beginning of the prologue," he told Access of the moment that moved him most. "When it got to [filming] that scene, I walked on and... it was just a green cross on the floor with a tiny green chair... [But in the film], they just made this incredible, almost space aged, sort of suspended seat in the middle of this stalagmite. It just blows my mind when I see that."
"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" hits theaters on December 14, 2012, followed by "The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug," on December 13, 2013 and "The Hobbit: There and Back Again," on July 18, 2014.
-- Jolie Lash
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