Richard Armitage stands at the eye of the storm in New Line Cinema's tornado-disaster thriller, “Into the Storm.” The British actor who gained international attention as “The Hobbit Trilogy”’s Dwarven warrior Thorin Oakenshield, literally flew to Michigan directly from the Trilogy’s set in Wellington, New Zealand to shoot the twister film. “Yes, I came straight from The Hobbit movies to do this—the flight was my break,” Armitage laughs.
|Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.|
“It’s difficult to prepare for a film like this,” Armitage says. “Even after studying the script and doing your work, you walk on set and run into an unpredictable set of circumstances. The tornadoes in this film are extreme and the way they are creating the effects is extreme too. Just trying to stay on your feet and keep your eyes open isn’t easy. But I like that! I like walking into a scene thinking it’s going to be one thing and then seeing how it gets turned on its head. It becomes a bit of an endurance test, which is great.”
Armitage stars as Gary Morris, a vice principal and father of two teenage boys, who over the course of the story’s roughly eight-hour span has to fight to get his high school graduating class to safety and also find his son, who is trapped in the storm. “He’s an ordinary man caught in extraordinary circumstances,” the actor describes, “someone who isn’t really a hero, but who has to step into the boots of a hero in the moment. I like to think that Gary is behaving in a way that he is not necessarily conscious of. It will probably take him some time to realize how close to death he has come.”
When asked if he thinks he’d react that way in the same situation, his answer is thoughtful. “I hope I would, but the truth is that you never know. Most guys think they would, but it’s a different thing to actually be in that situation. Would you run in or run away?”
On the morning of what would become the most terrifying day of their lives, many of the younger citizens of Silverton were anticipating one of the best: their high school graduation. A seminal moment in everyone’s life, it’s generally marked by memories one hopes will last a lifetime. Such recollections are usually expected to be good ones, but that’s not what the kids, teachers and parents of Silverton will have.
As vice principal of Silverton High School, Gary is largely responsible for making sure everything goes smoothly at the ceremony. However, even before he leaves his house that morning, the weather report gives him pause.
Armitage notes, “On any given day, Gary has a lot on his plate. He’s a vice principal, an upstanding member of the community, prominent in the school and somebody that the kids look to for support, someone they rely on. And he’s the father of two teenage boys, Donnie and Trey, whose mother died, so he has to be both mom and dad to them.”
“Richard is a very charismatic actor,” director Steven Quale states. “He has a quiet but commanding presence, and he brought a lot of inner strength to the character who, because he’s not the top dog at work, has had to learn to be very diplomatic. He’s a caring father, too, and he’s trying to apply that diplomacy to his home situation. Of course it doesn’t necessarily always work as well with your own kids.”
Armitage, who originated the part of Thorin Oakenshield in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” most recently reprised his role in the second part of the Trilogy, “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug,” and will appear in the final film, “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” due out in December.
His first film in the U.S. was the 2011 hit “Captain America: The First Avenger,” directed by Joe Johnston and starring Chris Evans in the title role. Armitage played the super hero’s nemesis, Heinz Kruger, in the film.
Into the Storm” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.