August 21, 2013

HAPPY BIRTHDAY Mr A !! + From Russia With Love Birthday Greeting + NZ Tourism Vid Narrated by an Obvious Admirer + Hilarious Surprise New Birthday Fanvid from BCCMEE + Playing John Thornton from the Richard Armitage Online Website

                                                 Birthday hug anyone?
       Birthday tribute to the breakthrough role - John Thornton of North and South..

North and South : Playing John Thornton (1)

John Thornton was Richard Armitage's biggest role to date, and it was to have a significant effect on his career.

Richard Armitage as John Thornton in North and SouthCasting

"I just couldn't get this part out of my head and I kept reading the book. I tortured myself with thinking I hadn't got the part.” [7]
Given the power and conviction with which he played the role, it seems, in hindsight, as if Richard Armitage was the obvious choice to play John Thornton. But in fact, the casting process for Thornton was a long one.
Richard Armitage was one of the first people who was seen for the role.

“I read the book before I went in to be cast. I got through it as quickly as I could. I felt that I owed it to the role to know as much about it before I attempted to try and convince someone to cast me as Thornton.” [1]

“Within the first pages, I thought, ‘I’m right for this person and for this role’. My roots are in that part of the country and that kind of industry. My grandmother was a weaver. Others were coal miners. I know the landscape. And I knew the John Thornton type.” [14]

But it was six weeks before he was called back to read for the part again. By this time, Daniela Denby-Ashe had been cast as Margaret Hale, and he was asked to read with her. "Something great happened when I read with Daniela. Something clicked.” [5]

The producer, Kate Bartlett, said, “We did read with a lot of actors and put a lot of combinations of Margarets and Thorntons together until finally we came up with the mix of Richard and Daniela, which I think was perfect.” [2]

Daniela Denby-Ashe said, "As soon as I saw Richard, I knew he was Thornton. Just in the way he holds himself, he has a real presence." [5]
“When I was cast in the role of Thornton my initial reaction was shock. It had been a long casting process and I realised it was the role of a lifetime. But then, of course, I was incredibly honoured to have been asked to play it - I’d fallen in love with the novel. And then other emotions kick in, like fear. It was a huge mountain to climb and there’s a lot of expectation for that role as well; it’s a big favourite of many people.” [1]

As usual, Richard Armitage’s research for the role was meticulous.

“Obviously I started with the novel and the novel was around all the time and there’s a great deal of rich, historical information in the novel. But I felt it was important to understand the industry that Thornton is in, so I researched the cotton industry and I went to the various places in England where there are working museums, one of which turned out to be one of the locations, which was brilliant.

"I also read. I think Engels has written a book which was based around the working classes in the 1850s which is incredibly detailed about the poverty – so I looked at that for a start. And then I read around the etiquette of the 1850s as well. Although the Thorntons don’t necessarily abide by those rules, I felt it was important to know as much about the period as possible.” [1]

Given that the novel deals with the beginnings of unionisation, he also researched the history of the early socialists. “I studied the union movement. It was very important. What we take for granted now was just being born then.” [7]

But above all, there was Gaskell’s novel. “Primarily it’s the novel that is the point of reference.” [1]

The character of John Thornton

“[Elizabeth Gaskell], for me, is probably the most exciting of the Victorian novelists. Unlike others, she manages to get inside the male mind. The male is usually only a fantasy figure. The idea that this male mind was written by a female writer was brilliant." [13]
“He is courageous. He has suffered great tragedy in his life and kept his family together. He has this reputation that precedes him, based on his expectations from his workers, and I think that's quite an exciting dynamic to start with."But during the course of the story his layers get peeled back and he reveals somebody else inside who is actually quite sensitive and lonely. He needs a lot and he finds it through Margaret.

"That dichotomy between the powerful, realistic  entrepreneur and this kind of vulnerable boy is really exciting to look at." [12]

"During the course of the story, he is faced with exactly the same prospect [as his father] — of losing everything again. But it's a catharsis for him. He realizes the only thing that matters is his family, his relationship with his mother and his love for Margaret, which he believes will never happen.

"He goes from being a powerful entrepreneur, who must be practical in order to succeed, to someone who is prepared to shed all of that for love. It's an amazing scene for a man of that time. It's not about Victorian manners. It's very now." [13]

The character of Thornton has been compared with that of Jane Austen’s Mr Darcy. Richard Armitage saw some similarities, but also differences. “With Thornton, he's fighting for survival. He's clinging onto his empire, so there's a bit more desperation. There is a real survival instinct with his aggression.” [4]
Thornton’s relationship with Margaret is at the heart of the novel and the drama.

"[Margaret’s] breeding and her mental attitude are at odds with her actual financial means, while John doesn't have the intellectual means but has the financial means. Each has something the other wants.

"I also think part of the attraction has to do with the antagonism of their relationship. She challenges him. No one has ever done that to him apart from his mother, and he and his mother have a strong working relationship.

"Most of the women presented to him are silent and very conformist, but Margaret is different. There's a very fine element of his mother he sees in her. It's not necessarily an attraction but something he thrives on." [13]
But writer Sandy Welch saw a problem with the way their relationship was written in the novel. She said, “The only problem dramatically is that all the prejudice comes from Margaret's side. Mr. Thornton likes her almost from the start. One of the only liberties I've taken is to even that up a bit. When she first sees Mr. Thornton, it will be inside his cotton mill, where he appears in quite a brutal and dangerous light.” [5]

She was referring to the scene in which Thornton is seen beating and kicking a worker he has caught smoking in his mill. This scene was not in the novel, and its inclusion in the adaptation was controversial.

“That was an addition to the book as we needed an instant impact. When you understand why he's done it, you're torn between hating him and wanting them [Thornton and Margaret] to get together,” said Richard Armitage. [4]

One of the adjectives often used about his portrayal of Thornton is ‘smouldering’. He joked about this when asked what the secret of a good smoulder was. “A pint of petrol and a match. Seriously, you look at the person, think of them in the most desirable way you can and then suppress the desire to do anything about it. There are many ways to smoulder. You can smoulder with your back.” [6]
See page 2 at the link above...
Example of the Richard Armitage global fanbase -- here's a birthday greeting from Russia with love..
               The train station scene as written in the North and South script:
[Not so sure, Margaret looks toward Henry who is still sitting in the train watching them. John and Margaret sit down.]
Margaret:   I have to get this right.  [Her glance keeps dropping from his.]  It's a business proposition. [swallowing and continuing swiftly]  I have some fifteen thousand pounds.  'Tis lying in the bank at present, earning very little interest.  [a nervous glimpse up to see him smiling indulgently as he listens and looks intently back]  Now, my financial advisers tell me that if you were to take this money and use it to run Marlborough Mills, you could give me a very much better rate of  .... interest.  [Slowing down she looks up again breathing quickly. He is smiling into her eyes, and she drops her eyes again to her lap at her hands holding the rose.]  So you see, it is only a business matter.  You'd not be obliged to me in any way.  It is you who would be doing ... [John's arm moves and he grasps Margaret's hand in her lap.] the service.   [Her voice fades off and she caresses John's hand.  Suddenly she lifts it to her mouth to kiss it fervently.]
[John is visibly moved.  He slowly puts his other hand to her face, gently persuading Margaret to raise her eyes to his.  Slowly, tenderly, he begins to kiss her, softly at first.  Then more firmly he holds her face to his.  Henry looks on from the train.]
Conductor:   London train about to depart.  London train is about to depart.
[John and Margaret draw apart looking searchingly into each other's eyes.  Margaret looks troubled.  A whistle sounds as Margaret abruptly stands and walks quickly to her train.  John gets up more slowly, watching her go with a resigned sigh and a wrinkled brow before he turns dejectedly away.]
Margaret:   Henry, I...
Henry:   [Standing at the compartment door, he hands Margaret her bag.]  Goodbye, Margaret.
[Margaret takes her luggage, exchanging a long look with Henry. He looks grim, shuts the door and sits back down.]
[Margaret's reflection appears in the glass of the compartment John Thornton is standing in front of.  He detects a movement behind and turns around.  Seeing Margaret he smiles warmly at her.]
John:   You're coming home with me?  [Margaret answers with a glance. In a moment, Thornton followed her onto the train carrying her bag and shutting the coach door after himself.  The train pulls out of the station, it's whistle blowing.  Countryside passes by the windows, but Margaret and John only see each other.  Smiling softly they kiss, once, twice, and again, John's arm around Margaret.  Dropping her head shyly, she turns to look out the window again, just as we saw her at the beginning of this story.]  EXCERPT, Chapter 9..Mr Hale informs Margaret and her mother that Mr Thornton will be coming for tea:
'Oh, mamma, that shows you never saw Mr. Thornton. He looks like
a person who would enjoy battling with every adverse thing he
could meet with--enemies, winds, or circumstances. The more it
rains and blows, the more certain we are to have him. But I'll go
and help Dixon. I'm getting to be a famous clear-starcher. And he
won't want any amusement beyond talking to papa. Papa, I am
really longing to see the Pythias to your Damon. You know I never
saw him but once, and then we were so puzzled to know what to say
to each other that we did not get on particularly well.'
'I don't know that you would ever like him, or think him
agreeable, Margaret. He is not a lady's man.'
Margaret wreathed her throat in a scornful curve.
'I don't particularly admire ladies' men, papa. But Mr. Thornton
comes here as your friend--as one who has appreciated you'--
'The only person in Milton,' said Mrs. Hale.
'So we will give him a welcome, and some cocoa-nut cakes. Dixon
will be flattered if we ask her to make some; and I will
undertake to iron your caps, mamma.'

Lego Teaser Trailer - 


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for commemorating RAs pivotal role in N&S on his 42nd birthday. It was great to read his observations again. I hope he realizes what an enthusiastic international following he still has from his riveting performance as JT. He's great in every role, but what a gem he created with this work.

Ricrar said...

It was a pleasure to assemble the birthday N&S tribute. It does seem to be the role that has steered many fans all over the globe in Richard's direction.

After hearing today's news that Batman will be played in future by Ben Affleck, leads me to wonder if RA will announce his next role shortly. Wouldn't surprise me if he'd been waiting for the Batman news before making a decision on his next career move.
Enjoy your weekend and thanks for the lovely message.

Happy Birthday Greeting said...

This is such a nice post! Cheers to you and happy birthday to him!