'The Hobbit' star Richard Armitage has revealed that he lacks his co-star Martin Freeman's optimistic view of the world, and probably takes himself too seriously.
The heartthrob actor plays the troubled Dwarf Prince Thorin in the second part of 'The Hobbit' out this week, on an epic mission lightened only by Freeman's Hobbit-y happenings...
Richard Armitage reveals he lacks the optimistic worldview of his co-star Martin Freeman
"Martin Freeman brings so much of his own personality to bear," Armitage acknowledges. "He doesn't impose humour on it, but he sees the world as quite a funny place, whereas I see the world as a serious place, and I take myself too seriously."
There's a glint in Richard Armitage's eye as he explains all this, which leaves me wondering if he and Freeman are as different off-screen as their characters are on it. It's true Armitage is invariably cast as the glowering, enigmatic hero - think Lucas North in 'Spooks', and before that troubled mill-owner Mr Thornton in period hit 'North and South' - why always so humourless?
"Once you don't smile on film, they say 'let's have that bloke who doesn't smile,'" muses Armitage - unsmilingly. "I'm probably not very good at rom-com, being funny on demand, I'll leave that to the comedians."
Richard Armitage as Prince Thorin in 'The Hobbit' - "he's a got a lot on"
Armitage's permanently furrowed brow gets another outing in Peter Jackson's epic second part of the saga, when his character Prince Thorin continues his mission to reclaim his lost kingdom of Eribor. Does Armitage wish he could lighten up a little?
"I'm sure, in another life, he's a great laugh," he says of Thorin. "He's a prince waiting to be a king, do they get to have a laugh? And he's on a mission."
In between the breathtaking physical adventures Jackson has once again brought to life on the big screen - there's one scene involving beer barrels in the river which is spectacular - Armitage savours his character's return to the mountain of his clan, and the quiet scene where Thorin finally enters through the doors to his lost kingdom.
"In between the melee and the chaos, it's a quiet scene, when his dream comes true, one that he'd abandoned all hope for. It was very satisfying to do."
Armitage lived in New Zealand throughout the 18 months of filming all three films back to back, and admits it was strange coming back to normality, after flirting with the idea of making the Antipodes his permanent home.
Richard Armitage with Peter Firth in 'Spooks', where he turned out to be... troubled
"And then the movie ended, and I realised that when Peter Jackson isn't making a movie in New Zealand, it turns into the quiet backwater it's meant to be," he laughs.
"I didn't fall out of love with it, I just stopped looking for a house there."
Now returned to his base in New York, Armitage is eyeing the future and hoping to turn up in more contemporary stuff, a plan he's not sure is aided by his enormous fanbase, mostly female, who've lapped him up as the brooding hero outlined above. He's evidently ready to cut his teeth on the kind of material that really made his name in 'Spooks'...
"I wish had the luxury of that kind of choice, I'd definitely be in those kind of films, but I don't have it yet."
He laughs when I tell him I found one website, dedicated to him, but with only one picture on it, the same one over and over again...
"See, I don't think that person gets to play something political and current," he shrugs, bemused. "The equation, you can never put an answer to the end of it, all of it just happens to be something you fall into. There's no why and wherefore."
Words that sound more like those belonging to the Humorous Hobbit, than the thorough, humourless Thorin, and possibly Richard Armitage, after all.
'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' is out on Friday 13 December. Watch the trailer below...