Friday, September 24, 2010

Hollywood and the Man

This is a huge conundrum in fandom- should the Armitage fly out to LaLa land to seek his fortune or stay put in the land of "quality" programming?

My first and best answer is if LaLa is the Armitage's heart's desire then he should follow it because it's best to follow your dream no matter how crazy it seems, and fail rather than never having tried. I speak from experience.  I went down to LA for very different (non showbiz) reasons at an even greater age and it didn't work out, but I will never regret the pursuit of that dream. I am satisfied that I followed through. And other dreams have been deeply realised.

Okay, having gotten that out of the way, realistically what can Armitage expect?  He's pushing 40 and he's superficially perfect for the evil villain role, which Hollywood is prone to assigning to most Brits, and especially Brits who present as dark and angular.  He is always saying he enjoys his role whatever it may be.  Lovely, but not terribly convincing to me; I do think he has an admirable and tenacious work ethic though.

It's really hard to get a grip on what he really wants.  I do know that ideally he wants the smart stuff.  Yet he seems to pursue the 'anything goes' stuff.  I am not sure what Hollywood has to offer; not sure what shows attract.  I suppose shows on HBO and heaven forbid, shows like True Blood.  My reaction is 'meh'.  You can do better than that.

Maybe it's big screen film he wants.  I imagine it is.  I compare his career to the now 'jumped the shark' Christian Bale, who kept churning out fabulous and largely affecting indies until he hit it big with Batman.  Since then, Bale has garnered a lot of bucks and few kudos.  Whither thou, Dark Knight?  Not to mention the loser fueled rage his personal character revealed, so repellent.

I think I've lost the plot on the Armitage.  He dreamed about having a career like Colin Firth, but Colin Firth has never pumped up and I don't recall him holding a gun and he's worn powderpuff polyester while dancing to Abba. Nor, to my knowledge, has he gotten naked.  Yet his career thrives in a quiet way (ETA: recently there is Oscar buzz...again). In effect, he is a working actor.  I don't think he has a brand.  Does RA have a brand?  He sure is getting there, I think.

RA works a background for his characters, what a journeyman. Even the shallowest, the most incidental seems to get the full treatment.  Only to have the baby clash with future events. You can't even believe all that he says about them because the writers might have a different future take on them.  Witness the volte face of Guy of Gisborne, the leaked radical turnabout of Lucas North. Sometimes it seems the man directs himself and sometimes that is a very good thing.  But perhaps not always.  In effect, he cannot envision nor predict the whims and vagaries of television writers and producers in the future.  I imagine the unpredictable change in direction can be quite painful at times to swallow. I'm beginning to think that, indeed, RA is destined to direct, and he could do it, too, in a film starring himself.  Because he is talented and an autodidact, his competence is really not in question for me (though I do wonder about that tango).

Fan: To Be Or Not To Be

Since I drafted the essay above several weeks ago, events have taken a challenging turn.  The Armitage has been spotted on the set of Captain America, one of those blockbuster wham bam boom superhero comicy thingies that fanboys adore.  Latest speculation is that he is some guy in a grey suit running out of a shop and gunning down people as he gets away and there's a photo posted by kadamanja that might prove it.  Speculation and hope are running rampant and high through all quarters of  Armitage's admirers to such an extent that it stopped and made me think.

It made me think, what does it mean to admire this actor's...well... acting?  How much loyalty does he deserve?  How much censorship is to be expected?  How much pressure from the fandom is meant to muzzle any dissent or criticism?  How far do you have to go in support of an actor and his work without being called out for being a traitor?  Certainly, I think there is a lot of ambivalence about the direction of his work in recent times, apart from the beefcake issue.  I have felt it, but not really deeply, because I know what I feel and I know what I think.

If, as speculated he has the minor role of a superhero in said film, or he has the very minor role of a bad guy common to Brits when it comes to American movies, the fact is that this is still a comic book film not meant for people like me;  I'm not a fanboy or girl, I am nowhere near that age; I appreciate his talent and acting skills and his ability to blow me away when he gets a chance to swallow even a thankless role whole and spit it out into the 4th dimension.  He is my "thinking woman's crumpet" and I don't see that changing anytime soon.  So, I feel disappointed. Even though I imagine that such a choice of role has more to do with advancing the career than anything else.  Frankly,  as an audience, that has nothing to do with me.

I see his pragmatic self going for it and I cannot fault him (I might make the same choices), but you know, you don't have to be part of some Army to hope for so much more when you think of him as an acting treasure, even though I imagine he thinks of himself as some guy (aka, bloke) scrambling to get parts and stay solvent and get exposure.  I do admire his ability to turn dross into gold but in a star top heavy movie?   What are the chances?  Overall...feh.  I. Am. An. Admirer.  And a specific sort of admirer and I am not going to change that leaning any time in the near future.  The flat belly, the muscles and the long legs can only go so far, you know?  So I'm guessing I am not the most loyal of admirers.  I have my standards.

The mantra for him I imagine goes like this: get me any part that will get me a foot in the door; I am open to all things; I will find any part interesting if I get it; Hollywood is the land of opportunity (editor: yeah, for you and a gazillion others, but don't stop trying); Hollywood will maybe make me rich enough that I can choose and produce my own projects (editor: go for it).  Ah, ambition.  Not so much 'niceness' there if you ask me, but ah, that burning desire- totally cool in a 'nice' man.

From someone (me) in the gods: don't expect me to like everything that he does and don't expect me to support it and don't expect me to leave my brains at the door of worship.  I don't disapprove, I just may not be happy about it for me or for the Armitage- sue me.  I am not remotely happy about a role in Captain America even though I can see the necessity of it and root for his achievement.  Colin Firth did Bridget Jones and I loved it and if RA had done something similar, I would have been delighted.  But comic book vacuousness?  Oh spare me.  Not my thing.  Like my thing actually matters.  Heh. I only hope to heaven that he doesn't go the Baleful way.

And if none of the speculation is true, then I stand corrected and will take the lashing.  I know that the Armitage has mentioned once again that he is planning to do the Restoration comedy, The Rover, on stage, next year, probably after Strike Back.  If it is true it will strike a nice balance with his work to date, including the suspected fanboy comic gig (and, if true, why is it such a secret????).  Fair enough.  Though I can no longer tell fact from fantasy where his stories are concerned.

Oh.  And no matter what, nevermind Mr Armitage.  I won't be seeing the film even if you are in it (unless you are the star). Seriously,  if it weren't for your personal investment in the business, would you? Still, I hope that the powers that be perk up like meerkats and sound the alarm.  Wishing you smooth sailing and hoping you remember the little people on your way beyond the shoals :).


  1. Thank you for this wonderful article.
    I do like comics as well, but must admit, I never heard about Captain America before RA. (Which is not surprising as I am living in Germany and am not the intended audience.)
    Still I was a bit disappointed about his role in one of these comic films. I must admit, I do not have your strength of mind to resist watching the film, when RA is in it. He always makes it worthwhile. Otherwise I would not have seen "Frozen", which I absolutely liked though it is a very unconventional story. Or "Moving on", where I would not have left him alone in prison ;o) (I must admit, I absolutely followed his string of arguments and not the protagonist's. I had the impression he willingly let her off the hook quite easily at the end and knew exactly what he was doing.)

    But in the end, I came to the same conclusion. RA would make an excellent producer or director, as he is so thoughtful about his roles and the character development. He keeps in mind all the small details and gestures and combines them into a believable whole. I would much more like to see him doing that than going to Hollywood (no disregard intended).

  2. I absolutely love your writing style and take on things, Pi. Every RA fan should be able to voice their opinion without fear of "lashing" after all. :)

    While "Captain America" isn't my thing either, I will probably see it since my husband enjoys that kind of movie and we try to compromise with what we watch together. (A romantic comedy for me... an action thriller for him...) If RA is in this superhero film, at least I'll have a little treat waiting for me this time! :)

  3. Well, I am not adverse to any particular movie genre as long as it is well done. But you are so right, they do tend to overuse the Brits as bad guys -- but what wonderful evil geniuses they are!
    I would much rather see "the Armitage" (as you say) :) as the hero -- and even better -- the ROMANTIC hero.
    I just hope and pray that someone out there with some pull will recognize his talents and put them to better use!
    Oh and by the way, I have seen Colin Firth in some less than stellar movies -- and he did indeed show some skin!

  4. Aren't you happy that this role, should it be the German villain and it looks like it, is not another beefcake role? I think a villain in a suit is a nice change. Actually I dreaded that he could be one of the superheroes in skin tight costumes that might appear and might even get there own movies. He is not of to LaLa land, a lot of British actors work on that project, and it will cost him only a few weeks. This movie may open some doors and if not, not much is lost.

  5. Even if I feel it is unfair, I understand your disappointment. There is a distinct gap between what he talks about in interviews, how he prepares for his roles and what he would like to do in the future, and what he actually does. His choices are the choices of a "TV-worker" not an artist. Judging from from what he actually does, having a secure long-term job comes first. That is IMO the main reason to accept roles in a series.

    Unfortunate after N&S his career did not take off the way it should have. The success of N&S cannot be compared to the success of CF's P&P. That is really not his fault, I still try to understand what happened. But as the big breakthrough didn't work, he had to keep working and slowly work his way up, without the advantage of having material like N&S. I understand why he accepted RH a year and a half after N&S, his career an the UK had not taken off and a stint in the US did not pay out (not sure if you know that he nearly got a part in a US series?) and he may have expected something better than it actually was from RH. It was a great chance that he made an impression and got offered a part in Spooks. Spooks may have it's faults but being the male lead in Spooks is still one of the most prestigious parts British TV has to offer and the series itself gets frequently nominated for BAFTAs and called the best thing on TV, no matter if it is true or not.

    What I don't understand is accepting Strike Back. With that he has tapped into the typecasting trap. Between two series of Spooks he could easily afford to try different things, return to the stage or do a small artsy film. That would IMHO have recommended him for quality roles in the future. SB does nothing for him except recommend him for roles that require running and shooting. Even if it is more than that, that is how it is perceived. And we see the result with Captain America.

    On the other hand, I totally approve of taking a minor part in a blockbuster, no matter what it is, as it really can open doors. And if not (it does not work out for everyone!) everyone who doesn't want him to go to Hollywood can be happy. If he continues with SB I really hope he drops Spooks and tries different things instead, including the blockbuster, but including the play as well.

    It is really so hard to judge if it would have been better not accept all the series roles. He could have been unemployed instead and forgotten by now. The great chance to play a quality role could have been just around the corner if only he had been patient. We don't know if being picky would have paid off.

    The sad fact is, so far he has not made a name of himself as a serious character actor. I think he is respected but not the one to whom they offer the meaty parts. And unfortunately outside British TV he is a nobody who can make no claims at all, so I cheer at the part in CA! You may not approve of the search for fame but I think a certain degree of fame is important. not for fame and money itself, but it helps to get better roles. Even if CA does not require any "acting" at all, with this he has entered a pretty small pool of British actor that get cast in films and that is long overdue.

  6. BTW Pi, it would interest me what shows you would consider worthy of him? I mean films or TV series that have actually been done over the last few years? Not something you wish to be done someday, because they may never be done, with or without him.

  7. @ all:

    Thank you SO much for your comments and especially for your thoughtful frankness, something I especially look forward to and savour on this blog.

    I am not opposed to seeing The Armitage in this film if RA afficionados, in their reviews, can convince me that it's worth my 12 bucks. Otherwise, I can't see me shlepping myself to a noisy cineplex to see it. I'm still trying to get over the fact that I saw young Star Trek and afterwards actually bought the DVD!

    @ Jane,

    No, I am not happy that his role in CA is not a beefcake role. I don't care for the comic trend in films. It's really not aimed at my demographic, which, in essence, means a lot of grownups. I have stated in my post that the role can foster contacts. Yet that type of role has nothing to do with me; I can choose to watch or not watch but it won't make any difference to his career choices. I have no problem with that.

    As to your question about what I would consider worthy of him? I don't presume. Not because I think he knows best but because that is not my area of expertise or understanding and I've never given it a single thought. I hate when people think they know what's best for someone. For all we know, he is quite content to be an action hero. I don't have to like it but it can be the reality.

    After having no answer for you for such a long time, I was watching The Mentalist tonight and I did have some thoughts about what I might wish for myself as an audience. I can see him in a character driven leading role on TV or even the silver screen. Patrick Jane is a character that finally is getting a chance to develop; this is NOT true of Lucas North. Lucas is being retconned to fit with the current story. Strike Back, IMO, is not remotely character driven. The Armitage bemoans the fact of being held to a handsome standard and longs to be a character actor but chooses a role that regardless of what he wishes is not character driven but action/plot driven and physically flashy.

    I think of shows that are character driven like Blood in the Wire, Wallander, Being Human, The Mentalist, Columbo (sorry, I don't watch much basic TV) where you can really sink your teeth into a role and make it your own and do it for a number of years. For example against all odds, RA drove the character of Guy of Gisborne, created and shaped it even though he was written as a 2 dimensional villain.

    I know that RA from his interviews hankers for the big screen because he thinks it provides more opportunity to stretch his acting wings and I so wish that for him. But IMHO, that is not necessarily so. When I see people like Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp (okay stone me for such heresy) get the roles and the accolades I know the score in LaLa land. And yet... at the same time I'm thinking of his esteem for the Bourne films and even though they are action films I can imagine him shaping the character to his will in a way that Matt Damon could not even begin to grasp.

    If you want to stretch your wings, in this day and age I think that television, especially British television has as much opportunity as big screen film or American tv. If I were to guess, I would say at this point in time, the Armitage just wants to act and expand his range like any other genuine actor worth his salt until he figures out the rest for his life. I think he will take any role which might afford him in his mind an opportunity for play. And at this point, I think the proof is in almost any long term role he's had, whether it ever became reality or not.

  8. so, I have finally found the much heralded pi blog!

    While I will end up seeing Captain America, whether or not Mr. Armitage is in it (because my hubby wants to see it, I hope he is so there is exposure for him to a wider audience.There are times I would like to b*tch slap his agent for some of the choices. Then I remember that there were 10 lean years that could instill fear and insecurity in anyone.

    I intend to use the fab phrase, "thinking woman's crumpet" (full credit to you if course).

  9. I read this some time ago and am sorry for the huge delay in commenting; events in my real life took a frightening turn this week. This is a really great post and it articulates some things I have thought off and on but much more coherently than I could have done (the question of why he takes clearly inferior roles, for example, is particularly well put here). I don't agree with everything in it, but I appreciate the directness. Now that I've read and parsed the tons of recent interviews and media with him I really wonder how much credence we can put in his statements about projects and aspirations. He often seems to be deliberately winding his fans up (and we go for it every single time). And of course the potential is always changing. My assumption, and there is no real reason to think this except for a sort of veiled comment in the first Donald Stephenson interview, was that he took SB because he needed to work and didn't have any other offers on the table. Now he's committed. I liked John Porter, I am happy to watch it, but it seems to me like potentially much more of a misstep than (say) RH was -- that was on Saturday evenings in the UK and got a big viewership.

    As I've watched everything he's done, I'll probably watch Captain America. I hope that if what he wants from it is the networking that he gets that.

    On the "how loyal are we obligated to be" question, this is something that I've felt personally as a blogger -- that there are things I might want to write that are more critical than my usual tone, but that I don't write them for whatever reason. It's not usually loyalty to him, though -- honestly, I say plenty of things I assume would disturb him if he knew about them -- but rather the question of the fandom. There appear to be real dogmas in Armitageworld that I hadn't anticipated when I started writing, and the writing itself has become important enough for me that I don't necessarily want to incur the wrath of the faithful. The result is that I often write about side issues while bigger ones fester.

    Which is why I admire this post so much.

  10. No-one "needs work" between two series of Spooks and potentially more. If Spooks got cancelled or they hadn't renewed his contract I would have understood that argument. He was free to do a thousand things between Spooks 8 and 9. Return to the stage, film a few guest roles like he did between RH 1 and 2, go to LA for auditions, make his first steps as a director by making a short film or simply go on a long holiday. So he must have thought the offer too good to say no.

  11. pi,I'm someone you mentioned in a recent message on c19, and I've left you a private message there because I think I really, really made a hash of explaining myself--I hope you'll come back at some point and read it; I know this isn't the right place to post this, but you said you were leaving, and I thought you wouldn't see it. I think I explained myself badly--we may be in more agreement than I indicated.

    And, incidentally, I love your blog.

  12. @pi,

    So I'm late to this party, but just wanted to make sure that this Meerkat was present and accounted for.

    Love the piece. I would point out which lines I love best, but it would be almost a rehash.

    Frankly, I've found myself hesitant to really cut loose on my disappointment because I guess I just like Richard Armitage as a human being, and hang me if I've grown attached enough to him as a person not to slice and dice. Oh to be back where I was two years ago. I could have done it then judging from my journal. In fact, I'm having a helluva time editing my Between the Sheets entry so as not to make hamburger of him when it's done.

  13. I've just discovered your blog pi. This is a thought provoking post and I too have reservations about CA - not so much for RA's career but it is not something I would go to the cinema to see. As someone above mentions, a small role in a high profile movie may be just what he needs to boost his career. It's such a fickle industry - I this leads to different roles for him. Does anyone wonder what might have happened if Mike Ogden had been given unlimted financial backing to make Charlie? I assume things were so up in the air that RA had to move on but I can't help wondering if that role might have been a good one for him. Pure speculation on my part, but is a role in an indie movie as good as a role in CA? We'll never know the answer :)

    Great blog - I hope you don't mind if I link it on my sidebar?