Richard Armitage, The Hobbit New York Premiere. Not my photo!
It was some enchanted evening, December 6, 2012. I will try to write about my impressions of the New York and US Premiere and Gala Party for The Hobbit now when still fresh in my mind. I’m not going to write any detailed conversations I had or was part of with Richard Armitage, or any of the other actors. First because it was a private party, though I know the cast was there because it was part of their PR/Marketing duties for the film. Second because I didn’t take any notes on our conversations or interactions and my memory is imperfect and I don’t want to misquote anyone. I will write about what I most remember, or moments with meeting the cast that touched me, surprised me, or made me laugh. But first here, below, the highlight of the evening, meeting Richard Armitage!
The afternoon tea with those going to the red carpet and evening film and party would not have been so delightful without sharing the experience with lovely RA friends. I hope that we have other opportunities to meet again. Richard Armitage is a very lucky man to have such wonderful fans.
I arrived early morning in New York City on December 6 after only three hours of sleep and over three hours of travel, looking forward to seeing The Hobbit and hopefully meeting some of the cast, and one cast member in particular. It’s no secret to anyone that even drops in accidentally on my blog that I’m a fan of Richard Armitage. First thing I did was walk from my hotel to the Ziegfeld Theater to see the preparations. The marquee had Bilbo and The Hobbit in all its glory, the press tent was under construction, and they were starting to put up the barricades for the red carpet. (Photos later once I get them out of my camera!). Excitement is building for the night to come.
I’ll cut the long story of how we all got to this point, but that evening, after what seemed like weeks of planning, three of us found ourselves sitting in the Ziegfeld Theater waiting to see The Hobbit in all its new 3D, 48fps, glory.
We have popcorn and 3D glasses in hand waiting for Peter Jackson and the cast to walk in and take the stage for an intro. What seems like a long wait, all of a sudden there’s Peter Jackson and all the cast, including Ian McKellen , Martin Freeman, and Elijah Wood. Then we spot the very tall man with a gray checked suit. Richard Armitage has entered the theater. Peter Jackson and the studio executives make their intro speeches and then the entire cast comes on stage. (See really bad photo below from my old phone). Then they move out and spread out throughout the theater. We hope Richard will sit in the empty seat in front of our row, but though he does sit on our side of the theater, he grabs a seat halfway down. The lights go out and the film begins.
(I’ll have my thoughts on the film the weekend it opens here in the US)
After three hours that seemed to go by in half the time, the lights come up and we’re ready to move out to the buses taking us to the Gala after party. But before we wait to see if we spot RA or any of the cast coming near us or behind us (we are seated at the last orchestra row in the back). As Andy Serkis comes by behind me, I tell him Gollum was great, and he smiles and thanks me. Then I spot Ian Mckellen and also tell him how wonderful it was. He also smiles and thanks me. I don’t see anyone else near. We leave and get on a bus for the gala after party at Gustavino’s.
I was lucky that my fellow RA friends attending with me are all young and attractive women, and in a room full of men I hope they don’t mind me saying that it helped us meet so many of the cast. Big old me was very happy to tag along and share in all of this.
One of the first of the cast we meet is Graham McTavish, who plays Dwalin. We have a very animated group conversation with him about his character, working on the movie, the brotherhood of dwarves, and our impressions of the film. McTavish is an attractive man in person and very much the charmer. I think someone needs to cast him in a film as a leading man. He’s not at all intimidating in person, very friendly. During the course of our conversation with him, without any prompting from us, he brings up Richard. As if by magic, Richard Armitage, who I didn’t notice in the room before, is now in an open alcove adjacent to the main party room where we all are. One among us, asked Graham if he will introduce us to Richard. Next thing we know we’re being whisked by McTavish to the alcove, and he personally does introduce us all to Richard.
What happens when fantasy meets reality? I’m not quite sure what Richard said in the first few moments we saw him, since my brain and body had a brief total meltdown. There I was, we all were, standing only a few inches from him. I’m 5’5” and I think the top of my head may have reached his shoulder at most. We identified ourselves as fans and he seemed genuinely happy about that. I believe I joked with him that we were about to shout “Look Back at Me” across the room to him, and he laughed a bit nervously. But what followed was truly amazing.
We had what we all described afterwards as a real conversation together. Imagine a group of people gathered after a film to discuss what they had just seen, and what scenes were their favorites, and just sharing the experience. That’s the way it was.
I have to say that after that first meltdown moment Richard put me at ease right away. I think I actually involuntarily touched him twice in his arm, something I tend to do with friends when I’m trying to acknowledge my understanding or agreement of something they said. Somehow it didn’t seem awkward at all, and he was perfectly comfortable and enjoying our conversation with him. He really loves this film, and the entire experience of filming it. We even got a little insight into a particular scene in a future Hobbit film that I will not divulge here, but maybe when the film comes out.** He has a beautiful smile, he should smile more often in films.
I could have talked to him for the entire evening, but after a while his PR person, who was standing next to him (I think the same blonde woman we've seen with him at other premieres) signaled that they had to move on. Richard apologized for having to leave us because he now had to “go to work.” It was really a charming way to tear himself away, flattering to be excluded by his words from the “meet and greet” work of the evening. Always the gentleman it was his polite way to close this encounter and move on.
How did he look in person? Richard Armitage is a beautiful, beautiful, man. The word handsome does not do him justice. Even the word gorgeous is inadequate. Does he look more handsome in person? He is thinner than he seems to be on television or movie screens, long and lean. I think standing next to him you feel his warmth and humor as a person, and that enhances his physical beauty. Add charm, wit, and intelligence and Richard is in a category all by himself.
We didn't take his picture or ask for an autograph at that moment, and I think we all agreed it would have been wrong. We had been having a genuine conversation with him and asking him for either would have broken the spell. I felt we all parted really as friends who happened to meet up at a party.
I didn't take any photos that evening, except for the bad one you see above taken with my terrible phone. We weren't allowed to take cameras to the gala, and as a matter of fact we were told when we entered the party we couldn't take photos. But the other ladies in my group did take photos, and two of them with Richard later in the evening, and I’m sure they will share.
At the end of the evening, two of us who didn't have a photo with Richard, decided we really wanted one. I had last seen him, and I’m talking maybe close to 1:00am at this point, turning the corner just a few feet from me towards the stairs. We went down to the bottom level of the party to see if he was there. The cast seemed to have a private area somewhere, because all of them would come and go from the main party room where we all were. We sat for a while, but decided he must have left.
I had my special moments!
Going back upstairs, we ran into Dean O’Gorman (Fili) and Aidan Turner (Kili). It was fun to see they were hanging out together at the party. Two handsome men in person too, Dean had an informal tuxedo (my limited knowledge of men’s fashions) and Aidan a dark suit. Aidan had his back to us, and was in conversation with someone else, so we started talking to Dean. He’s very charming, on the quiet side, also very natural, no pretense at all in him. At one point in our conversation I was telling him how I liked him so much as Fili and he leaned down and kissed me, twice, one on each cheek. You don’t know how surprised I was at that moment! Dean O’Gorman kissed me!
Stay tuned for shortly you’ll see a Dean O’Gorman tab at the top of my blog. I’m going to follow this charming and handsome man’s career from now on.
I turned to Aidan at that moment, didn't want to leave without talking to him. He had his back to me and I touched him on the shoulder. He turned around and at first I thought he was a bit annoyed and was not going to talk, but then he turned around fully and we all had what I can only describe as banter with Aidan Turner. He’s a wild man that one, same as his marvelous curly hair.
It was a magical evening.
Right now as I sit writing this there is one moment that is in my heart. Only a few seconds in a long evening that will be with me forever. During our conversation the four of us had formed a semi-circle around Richard, and I was on the end, closest in the alcove to the larger party area just beyond. As Richard Armitage was departing from us in my “direction” after our group conversation I said to him something like “It was truly a pleasure to meet you.” He stopped and looked into my eyes. Time stopped. To my surprise he took my right hand in his left hand. He then wrapped those long fingers around my hand and gave me a strong yet gentle and affectionate squeeze. He let go, merging into the larger party to meet and greet.
** Dec 27, 2014: Wasn't sure if I should recall this part of our RA conversation that happened over two years ago now. It has stayed with me waiting for the moment to see the scene on screen, but of course filtered through two years. I think we had asked Richard about working with Peter Jackson (this was during Hobbit AUJ premiere) and as an example he talked to us about filming the scene we all knew from the book of Thorin finding out Bilbo has betrayed him with the Arkenstone and in a rage almost throwing him off the the top of the mountain. Richard said they had many takes, filming the scene in different ways, that is PJ's way. But he thought there was one take, one time, when he and Martin had let their emotions take over and it had been very real (I'm paraphrasing of course from what he said) and Richard hoped PJ would use that take. Watching the scene now I of course have no way of knowing, and no way of asking RA, and I'm sure it's a conversation he has no memory of whatsoever now. I do wonder though.
(Stay tuned, I’ll have a future post on meeting almost all the other dwarves, Martin Freeman and Elijah Wood, and others at the party)
12/9/2012 - One of my premiere companions shares her own experience of the magical night:
12/9/2012 - One of my premiere companions shares her own experience of the magical night:
Note: This is only my side of the story of that night, there were four of us there together, and countless others in attendance. I only speak for myself, and no one else. Everyone has their own story to tell, I just happen to have a blog. Thank you for reading.