Richard Armitage sits at a curious place in his career. Usually leading actors his age have already been cast in sensitive dramas and romances apparently reserved for the twenty and thirty-something talent. These actors have already enjoyed the benefits (or pitfalls) of being an international A-lister. By the early middle-age, caster directors start funneling them into action hero roles in preparation for the slide into secondary character roles. But RA has been a late bloomer in his career; he didn’t breakout on the UK scene until his early 30’s with North & South and was not a recognizable name until Spooks. The Hobbit trilogy shot him onto the international scene as a potential regular A-lister in his early forties. Casting lightning struck.
Despite what has seemed to be a phenomenal stroke of good luck, let’s not forget that despite RA’s statements implying that he’s not really plotting his career but going where offers take him, he’s still an actor with an actor’s ambitions -he’s plotting his career. (Notice the willingness to do extra Hobbit PR, careful coaching, moving to the US, hiring a dresser, etc.). He has never been the demure, shy, unambitious, starving artiste some fans have fantasized him to be.
The question now becomes: can he garner a spot in the top tier and buck the trend of middle-age stall out by rising, not falling, in status? It remains to be seen. While RA received favorable reviews for The Hobbit, these films still unfortunately don’t enjoy the same critical acclaim in film circles, as evidenced by the anticipated Oscar snub. However, it did upgrade him from the so called “TV actor” and afforded him more parts from which to choose. Whatever direction he jumped would have an enormous impact on the future of his career.
Casting lightning struck again when he acted in The Crucible to great reviews under the direction of renown Yael Farber. This gave him more status and visibility on the international stage. His career is primed for what? More stage work? Films? Today, it was announced that RA will play a serial killer in NBC’s Hannibal. While this was a return to TV, an American show provides high public visibility on the way to the holy grail – an A-list film career. So, he’s coming full circle again, but with higher stakes.
Back when he was rarely seen and did very little between filming the Hobbit movies, I wondered if he had failed to strike while the iron was hot and that his PR people had fallen down on the job. Clearly, that’s not been the case. He and his people have been very carefully and methodically planning and waiting for The Next Big Move instead of taking the first thing to come along. He’s proving quite adept at the waiting game. I watch his career now with great interest indeed. If he continues to play his cards right, he could be touted as The Next Big Thing.
I can see the headline now: 40 Is the New 30.