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Author Topic: Hobbit star Richard Armitage's Irish film made him sick to his stomach - here's  (Read 285 times)


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Hobbit star Richard Armitage's Irish film made him sick to his stomach - here's why...

He’s the star of big budget epics like The Hobbit and the upcoming Ocean’s Eight with Sandra Bullock and Rihanna, but all Richard Armitage wants is to make a movie about 19th century witchcraft in Ireland. It may sound like a leap, but it’s nothing for an actor who has turned his hand to everything from musicals to Shakespeare to his new role as sadistic medieval knight Raymond De Merville in new period thriller Pilgrimage.

A tale of obsession and vengeance, Pilgrimage follows a group of Irish monks as they attempt to bring a sacred stone relic to Rome in 1209. Unfortunately for them, they run into De Merville, who wants to seize the holy stone for himself and is prepared to go to any lengths to get it, as one particularly grisly torture scene proves.

Pilgrimage is shot partly on location in Ireland, and Richard (45) says he fell in love with the west coast and can’t wait to return. “We were largely out in Connemara and while the first few days with no phone signal were a bit frustrating, I just thought, ‘Stop trying your phone and start enjoying the amazing food, the incredible skies, driving around the little roads, the sunsets!’

“It’s such an amazing place to shoot, I hope to come back and film again in Ireland very soon. I read a script set in Ireland 15 years ago and I basically became obsessed with it. Hopefully we’ll start filming it soon.” The script is for a film called Bridget Cleary, the true story of the last woman in Ireland to be burned as a witch in 1895. 26-year-old Bridget was burned to death in her sick bed by her husband, who insisted she wasn’t his wife at all but instead was a changeling left by the witches. Her killer husband, Michael Cleary, grabbed Richard’s attention.

Richard hopes to film in Ireland again next year

“I think the story is not about the outside world at all, it’s about a man floored by his own paranoia.” He didn’t pick up a cupla focail while in Ireland — “Absolutely nothing! I was always enchanted by the sound of the Irish language, but I picked up none” — but the Hannibal star may just be one of our own. “I believe I do have Irish roots. My mother traced our family tree, we thought we were originally from eastern Europe, but there are Irish roots there. For one thing, where my father is from in the north of England, so many people have red hair and blue eyes, there has to be Irish blood there.”

Richard’s clearly not afraid to go to dark places for his art - he was waterboarded for real as part of his performance in BBC drama Spooks - and in Pilgrimage, his character tortures a monk by using a primitive weapon to yank out the man’s intestines. “For the torture scene, the special effects team were spectacular,” he says. “They made an entire intestine out of sausages, when I pulled it out it made such a realistic squelching sound I threw up a little in my mouth. You can actually see it on screen, he looks like he’s disgusted by his actions.”

It seems only fitting that De Merville meets a grisly end later on in the film. “For the death scene, we had just half an hour of light left,” Richard says, “and the prosthetic girls had to put a special neck on me with a prosthetic pump to shoot out the blood, so in the end we had just five minutes to do the shoot — thank goodness we’d rehearsed! It made me sick to my stomach but I had to be truthful to the reality of the time.”

He’s not the only big star to appear in Pilgrimage. Richard shares the screen with Tom Holland, who plays Spider-Man in the new Marvel reboot Spider-Man: Homecoming. He reveals they were filming together when Tom, 21, auditioned for the role, and says he was never in any doubt his young friend would make a terrific web-slinging superhero. “Tom was fantastic. He was auditioning for Spider-Man at the time we were filming but he wasn’t just waiting around to hear back, like many actors do, he was so positive about it. He is a gymnast and an incredible acrobat and he was great to work with, I know he’ll be fantastic in the role.”

Next up for Richard is Ocean’s Eight, the all-female reboot of the crime caper series. Starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway and Rihanna, it’s a film Richard is proud to be part of. “Ocean’s Eight was incredible to film, it came very quickly and out of nowhere. To work with those people, idols I’ve looked up to for years, was fantastic, and I’m a big fan of the Ocean’s series. I play a role that’s dark and funny at the same time, it was a lot of fun.”

It’s just the latest step in a career that’s covered everything from live theatre to small screen drama to Hollywood blockbusters. But while switching between characters like Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit to convicted witch John Proctor in award-winning stage production The Crucible has done wonders for his career, Richard laughingly admits it hasn’t always helped his bank balance. “I always chose roles by going for something I’ve never done before, whereas most people want you to keep doing the same thing. It’s great as an artist but it’s less fruitful for your bank account! But I’ve always chased the role over the financial side.”

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