The handsome 41-year-old has appeared in the small-screen dramas "Strike Back," "MI-5," "Robin Hood," "Cold Feet" and "The Vicar of Dibley," as well as the popular miniseries "North and South." His portrayal of the brooding hero Thorin has brought him further international fame.
Asked in New York recently if landing the role of Thorin was a big milestone in his career, Armitage told United Press International, "Huge."
"It's kind of hard to describe, really," he acknowledged. "You get the phone call saying [writer-producer-director] Peter Jackson would like to meet you and then you wonder if you'll get the job and then it all starts to happen.
"And I had this incredible year and during this incredible year, I'm thinking, 'Even if no one ever sees the film, I've still had an incredible year.'
"But in every aspect of this agreeable year, my expectations have been surpassed. ... If this is the last piece of work I ever do, I'll be happy."
Armitage said he grew up reading and loving author J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit" and its sequels, "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
"It was read to me in school. I had a great teacher who did all the voices," he recalled. "Then I read it on my own and I was in a stage production of it. I played an elf. ... I feel like my imagination was crafted by Tolkien. He seemed to tap into that childhood intrigue of secret doors and hidden worlds. The journey we go on. ... It's like every kid's perfect world, isn't it?"
So, did Jackson say what he had seen Armitage act in that convinced him he was perfect for the part of Thorin?
"I don't know. Pete's a very, very quiet man. Apart from our meeting at casting we never really sat down and talked about the character. He liked to have that conversation while the camera's rolling and I'm not the kind of guy who will go up to him and say, 'Why did you cast me?' Because I don't necessarily want to hear the wrong answer," Armitage laughed.
Co-starring Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen and Andy Serkis, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is now on DVD and Blu-ray. The discs include a collection of fascinating videos that document the film's production.
"The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug" is due out in theaters this December.
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