Frustrating shopping experience aside – I have just been to the shop to pick up The Sunday Times, only to find that the Irish edition of that London newspaper omits the article about Richard Armitage – it has been very nice to finally read a longer article about the man again, thanks to the internet. I’m including the link to the (as yet) paywalled article HERE, as it will possibly become accessible without fee at a later stage.
So, are we back to Hamburg?
Older fans will recognise the reference. It harks back to a message way back from 2006, where Richard recommends the song to his fans. (Highlighted line in screenshot below.)
So, the heartthrob adage doesn’t sit well with Richard. We kind of knew that; it’s not the first time he has mentioned it. But I don’t quite see how he is “shedding” or has shed that image now. Has Thorin really been the pinnacle of heartthrob-ness, just because it was a major Hollywood film? I don’t think so. Any leading role puts him back in the spotlight, and he has had plenty of roles in the last six years that placed him on top billing or at least with emphasised guest role status. And with playing (heroic) characters on small and big screen comes exposure, almost by default. It is human nature to admire those who possess extraordinary talent, a brilliant mind, spotless manners or even a particularly attractive left-face smirk. And there is little you can do to deflect such admiration. Unless you become a hermit and limit all contact with the outside world.
“There is this thing of, ‘Is he just totty?’ Because the industry will sometimes write you off as a serious actor if they think that. I have always been conscious of that and fought against it, because I don’t really see myself like that at all.”
Aside from feeling a little bit defensive here as a fan myself, who writes fluffy little pieces extolling Richard’s wavy mane, and who bursts into expletives over tight shirts, I can say from the bottom of my soul that it actually takes more than follicle faultlessness and physical perfection to set my heart aflutter. It would be a lie if I said that my favourite actor’s looks didn’t matter. Initially, they were what caught my eye. But a split second later it was his convincing performance of the character he was playing, that drew me in, made me want to know more, and finally became the foundation for my general admiration. Over time, the appreciation and admiration became focussed on the capabilities and talents, and also extended to the way he conducted himself in public encounters with press and fans. We all know that superficial beauty does not hold attention for very long, not least because outward appearances change as we age. But talent and decency are timeless. If he makes my heart throb, then he does so with more than just his looks. Because heartthrobs can be admired for other talents, too!
Of course, I can understand his resistance to being adored. Apart from the professional reason he gave himself in the quote above, there is a psychological dimension to the dilemma. Adoration smacks of worship and veneration. While it is nice to be complimented for what we do or to have our accomplishments praised, being put on a pedestal also raises expectations. Once praised as a great actor/sexy man/profound communicator, you need to live up to those assumptions. It puts on the pressure to continually raise the bar – or to even reconcile your own self-critical sense of yourself with the external projections of others. And rather than make you feel loved and appreciated, it can make you feel like a fraud. Forbidding all adoration might seem the easiest way out. I don’t take that as the main message from the interview, though, because I am not just a *seeing* fan, but also a *thinking* fan. He is the “OoA” = Object of Admiration, as in “worthy of respect”. But with critical evaluation of the imperfection that makes the potential pedestal object to a fallible human being.
My favourite bit from the interview is this, though:
Now I understand that people aren’t here to see their favourite actor doing something, showing off. That isn’t the point of it. The point is, I am there to help them feel something, so it’s all about them, not me. That makes it so much easier.”
Good for Richard to have come to this conclusion. Even if some of it is factually wrong. I, a fan, *am* going to UV to see my favourite actor do something. Not showing off, by the way, but simply doing the work he does so well, putting his talent in the service of a playwright and director. But I book those tickets for the performance because I *know* that I will not only observe *him* but also the ensemble he is part of, because the play is not just one character. I will see the work of other great actors, of the playwright and the director, the stage/light/sound designer, and everyone else who is involved in staging the play. Together they will play a story in front of my eyes, that I will inadvertently connect and react to, with agreement, sadness, laughter, dislike or disbelief. He is right – the theatre makes us feel something, and ultimately makes us think. The actors are the spanners that loosen the cogs in our brains. And hey, I don’t really think that it is that wrong if the initial motivation to book a theatre ticket, is the opportunity for a fan to see their favourite actor strut his stuff. Have a little more confidence in the talent for intelligence in your fans, Richard 😉. We are not just hearts that throb, but we are also brains that work.
See, Richard, this is the case in point – if I thought you were just a heartthrob, I wouldn’t bother reacting to what you are saying! Besides, I really, really dislike your beard. 😉