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Richard Armitage: From Huncote to Hollywood

Richard Armitage is without doubt one of the most successful and accomplished actors to come out of Leicestershire.

He is probably best known for playing ‘Thorin’ in ‘The Hobbit’ films, based on the beloved book by J.R.R Tolkien. As a youngster, he found himself poring over the text and immersing himself in its fantastical narrative… However, ‘never in a million years’ did he think he’d actually end up in a Hollywood retelling of the story several decades on…

Picture: Kaitlyn Mikayla Photos

“I think he’d be mesmerised!” the actor tells Pukaar, when asked how his younger self would react to this remarkable reality.

“There’ll never be anything quite like that. The experience itself – two and a half years of filming in New Zealand, working with Peter Jackson on a character that I loved from childhood. It doesn’t get any better than that really…”

Richard hails the experience as a definite career highlight. Alongside his Hollywood success, he is also well known for starring as Lucas North in the BBC’s Spooks as well as in gripping Netflix dramas like ‘The Stranger,’ ‘Obsession’ and ‘Fool Me Once,’ which are all written by Harlen Cohen – a master of page turning fiction.

However, Richard is currently enjoying the fruits of his own writing success, after turning over a new page in
his impressive career. Recently, the 52-year-old became a best-selling author, with the release of his debut novel ‘Geneva’ – an offering which was hailed as ‘outstanding’ by Mr Cohen himself.

The crime-thriller was such a success, that it looks set to be turned into a TV drama – something which Richard is understandably excited about.

“My toes are on the edge of realising a dream that I didn’t really think was possible. If we do manage to get a broadcaster to engage with us and get Geneva made as a television series, that will be a huge achievement for me,” he said.

“As an actor, I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, but it was great to be the architect of this one.

The response has been great and people have been quite surprised. They said ‘I didn’t know you could write’ and my response was: ‘neither did I until I tried!’

Kaitlyn Mikayla Photos

Richard enjoyed his first writing rodeo so much so, that he’s written a second novel, entitled ‘The Cut’, which is set for release on August 22.

“It actually comes out on my birthday, which was intentional,” he enthuses. “It’s going to be set in a fictional village in the Midlands and my big objective is to turn that into a TV show and somehow bring it back and shoot it in Leicestershire.

“I don’t think I’ve seen Leicester on television or film in terms of drama. We see a lot of Birmingham – a lot
of Manchester, but Leicester and Leicestershire doesn’t always feature in TV drama. So it would be great to do that,” he revealed.

Richard is a big champion of Leicester, which he praises for its diversity.
In 2022 he was given an honorary doctorate by the University of Leicester and he is well connected to the city by virtue of his name.

Picture: University of Leicester

“My birthday is the day Richard III died, so that’s how I got my name,” he explained. “My Dad is very much into the history of all that, so when my Mum went into labour, he said ‘if he’s born on the 22nd he has to be called Richard!’

“Whenever I come back home, I love to visit the [King Richard III] Visitor Centre and Bosworth Battlefield, which I’d often be taken to on birthdays…”

Although Richard now splits his time between London and New York, his family still live in Huncote – the place where he grew up. He attended Huncote Primary School and remembers visits to Leicester’s Haymarket Theatre with great affection.

“The theatre was in its heyday and I saw a number of productions there which just set me on fire,” he said. “The reason I moved into show business was because I was a bit of a shy kid really growing up. Performing provided an escape and a way to build my confidence.

“I started in a local tap dance class in Narborough, and it was one of those places where I was able to come out of my shell a bit,” he went on to reveal.

“I realised that my storytelling brain was quite active, and I quite liked disappearing into stories. So that’s why I followed the path that I did.”

As a youngster, Richard played the cello and enjoyed performing in various musicals. However, he was often teased at school for his musical exploits.

“When you’re a song and dance man at a young age, you kind of get ridiculed for it. There was a fair bit of bullying, but I think I had that attitude of ‘well I’ll show you!’” he said.

And I think it’s fair to say that he certainly has…

Kaitlyn Mikayla Photos

Today, Richard has an exciting and deeply rewarding career, which has brought him rich experience and success.

“There’s a glamorous side to the business but there’s also a hard slog. I’m often drawn to characters who have conflict. There can be long hours and quite intense filming situations, but I love it – I wouldn’t change it for the world,” he said.

“When it came to pursuing a career in this industry, I didn’t really have a choice. I had a passion and I knew that
I could never quit – I just wouldn’t be happy. So I just went for it, worked hard and never looked back.

The profession that I’m in is very precarious, so I never take it for granted. I’m very lucky” he added.

Catch Richard in ITV drama ‘Red Eye’ coming to screens later this Spring.

By Louise Steel

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