A is for Action

In the beginning, Richard Armitage made scores of fans – and he keeps on making them! Welcome to the first day of FanstRAvaganza 3. A is for Armitage is proud to kick off the freeform chain in the excellent company of White Rose: Sincere and Simple Thoughts and FunkyBlueDandelion.

For my own contribution to this year’s event, I took a cue from the name of this blog and reasoned that a single letter to describe such a diverse & talented actor like Richard Armitage simply wasn’t enough. The man ought to have his own alphabet and what better occasion to launch the Armitage Alphabet than the illustrious FanstRAvaganza 3?

I’ve always enjoyed watching Richard in action, so to speak. On the small screen he wielded a sword and handled a longbow as the tragic but lusciously leather clad Sir Guy of Gisborne. Who could resist!

As the gorgeous and enigmatic MI5 agent Lucas North he kept us safe in our beds for years by chasing terrorists and other nation-threatening thugs around London, taking them out with his Glock 17 or some good old-fashioned hand-combat techniques.

As the marvelously muscular John Porter he toted some seriously big guns in Chris Ryan’s Strike Back only to come to a sticky end in Project Dawn (which I still can’t bring myself to watch!).

Richard’s move to the silver screen seems pretty action packed too. Heinz Kruger may have taken less than 5 minutes to fail in his attempt to assassinate Captain America, but he packed a lot of action in that small slot. Gun fights, a car chase, hostage taking, a submersible escape, a near drowning and a suicide. Phew! I get exhausted just thinking about it!

And as we speak, Thorin Oakenshield may well be strapping on his heavy armour and picking up his mighty blade to reclaim the treasure and his kingdom from Smaug the dragon.

I’m being slightly facetious of course, but I do think Richard plays these action parts so very well. I’m not one for gratuitous violence on screen (or in real life for that matter!) but what sets his performances apart is the fluency of his actions and the credibility of his characters. From what I can gather, he meticulously prepares for his roles and likes to do his own stunts. If it was just guns and muscle I really don’t think I would have been this impressed but by fully immersing himself into the world of his characters, Richard manages to really get his head around what makes them tick.

To prepare for the part of John Porter he trained with ex-SAS soldiers and it really shows. Not just in the physical aspect – although the muscles are indeed very impressive – but with regards to the psyche too. What makes John Porter work for me is that he really moves like a trained soldier. The fighting scenes are fluent and instinctive. When he has to kill, he doesn’t hesitate and his movements have the agility and efficiency that comes with years of training and experience.

What makes this character credible though is that Richard gets the emotional part right as well. John Porter doesn’t go back to fight for the sheer hell of it. He fights to win back his family. He fights for love. These are the things that are not directly written into a script. There is no text to tell an actor what his character is all about. He’ll have to ferret it out for himself and, more importantly, get it across to the audience in action, not words. And that’s the kind of action acting I admire so much in Richard Armitage.

All of this had me wondering though. With so many great action scenes under his belt and following the example of the ever popular Little Guy, isn’t it time Richard Armitage was given his own Action Man figure? Perhaps it could even be marketed as Armitage Man?

For more freeform contributions to FanstRA 3, see my partner’s post at White Rose: Sincere and Simple Thoughts and FunkyBlueDandelion. Tomorrow, the freeform tagteam continues at Melanie’s Musings, An Obsessed Fanatic and Do I Have a Blog?. All FanstRAvaganza 3 links can be found here.

[Screencaps courtesy of RichardArmitageNet. The ‘Armitage Man’ artwork is my own and is based on a screen cap from an Action Man review – source unknown]

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FanstRAvaganza 3 is coming to this blog!

A is for Armitage is proud to announce it has been invited to participate in the third FanstRAvaganza event. I am so excited! This is a first for me, both as a Richard Armitage fan and an RA blogger, and although I feel just a teensy-weensy bit apprehensive I am thrilled to bits and really, really looking forward to it. An entire week of coordinated VirtualWall-to-VirtualWall Richard Armitage related posts, introducing me to even more wonderful RA blogs and bloggers. My idea of heaven! Of course I’d love to tell you what I’ve got planned for this event but, alas, I have been sworn to secrecy – all very Lucas North! – so I can only advise you to watch this space.

The first FanstRavaganza was organised at the Richard Armitage Fan Blog in 2010 to present a special week of blogging on Richard Armitage and his fans. It proved so successful its organisers decided to run it a second and, you guessed it, a third time! The name of this event was thought up by Servetus, who is the owner of the wonderful me + richard armitage blog. Although she herself feels it’s ‘too long and seriously hard to type’, the name stuck and I’m glad it did as it’s got quite a nice ring to it 🙂

FanstRAvaganza 3 will kick off on Monday 12 March and concludes on Sunday 18 March. This year’s event will be anchored by the following core blogs;

An RA Viewer’s Perspective from 33° 0′ South of the Equator

bccmee’s Richard Armitage Vids & Graphics

CDoart: Richard Armitage & History & Spooks

Confessions of a Watcher

me + richard armitage

RAFrenzy

Richard Armitage Fan Blog

The Squeee.

These anchor blogs will post on most of the days of this event and will feature work from ‘tag teams’ of other blogs, like this one. The tag teams will, in turn, each link to the next blog which is scheduled to post a FanstRAvaganza contribution.

Check out the anchor blogs daily during the event for updates and new posts or visit the FanstRAvaganza Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FansRAvaganza. You can also get event updates on Twitter by following https://twitter.com/#!/FanstRAvaganza or the hashtag #fanstRA.

Only 43 more nights to go! I can’t wait!

[FanstRAvaganza graphics courtesy of bccmee]

Guns, gloves and gadgets

One of my Facebook friends re-posted the wonderful 30 day Richard Armitage challenge from http://recycledvinyl.tumblr.com/ today and the first of a long list of questions about our favourite actor is ‘What was the first role you saw Richard Armitage in?’. Well, I’m going to be brave, take a deep breath and make  a clean breast of it. I was terribly late coming to the Richard Armitage party! Richard didn’t hit my radar until he stumbled towards Harry Pearce as the somewhat undernourished MI5 agent Lucas North in season 7 of Spooks. I know! I know! How DID I manage to miss John Thornton? I really have no idea but will stick with the feeble defence that I used to be a bit of a workaholic and didn’t watch much TV at all. In fact, I’ve been without a TV altogether from time to time and most of that was during the pre-iPlayer era, so no chance of catching up with any of those wonderful BBC programmes I might have missed. It may, however, go some way to explain why Lucas North is still my favourite RA character to date. I have a real soft spot for this troubled soul. His black hair and grey-blue eyes, that designer stubble and – I never thought I’d say that – those tattoos. How long did it take to apply those and who, oh who, was the lucky lady who got to rub these on?

I know that Spooks, with its propensity for guns and gadgets, has precious little to do with the reality of how MI5 operate – yes Mr Le Carré, we’re not that naïve! –  but I  loved it no less for that. I have watched Spooks from the very first episode and it has brightened my life for ten glorious years. I loved everything about it. The somewhat larger than life characters, Harry’s witty one-liners and clever retorts, the unavoidable plot-holes and, above all, its liberal use of far-fetched technology and gadgets. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to lay my hands on the iPhone app which would enable me to download all the encrypted data from a secure network within the customary 60 seconds. Or, failing that, the app that will get me the password to said server within those same 60 seconds. I’d never have to work again! How did MI5 cope before the invention of this unintentional bit of (sp)iWare?

Skimming some old Spooks episodes for inspiration, I actually came across one such tech-crazed scene with our delectable Lucas North (in full biking leathers!) and simply couldn’t help myself. I just had to use it to try out my not-quite-so-recent iMovie video-editing software and post it onto my new ‘A is for Armitage’ YouTube channel to see if it would all work. Well, any excuse really!

Every MI5 agent needs a good set of gloves!

And then there’s the guns mentioned in the title of this piece. Is it wrong to admire a man who packs a piece with style? Probably, but  I just can’t help myself. I’m not a massive supporter of the gun culture per se but, as they say, ‘guns don’t kill, it’s the people who use them’. Lucas probably killed more than his fair share (has anyone actually kept a tally?) but up until season 9 he mostly deployed his Glock 17 for Queen and country.

There’s something about the instant justice of Spooks that can’t help but appeal. In times when too many criminals go unchallenged or get sentences that are frankly laughable we can’t help but cheer when a villain is swiftly and irrevocably dealt with. We know that’s probably not the way it works, or even how it should work, but it’s strangely satisfactory non the less. We know it’s all fiction and so we are allowed to cheer on the winning team without feeling heartless or callous.

All those killings, however justified, must have taken its toll though. And that’s another reason I loved Spooks – its MI5 agents did not have emotional immunity. They were human and had nervous breakdowns. They fell in love and craved a normal existence that was forever lost to them. They were fallible. They were as mortal as you and I and, sometimes, their luck ran out. They lose themselves to the job, as Ruth Evershed so aptly observed in the final episode of Season 10; ‘With every lie we tell, our true selves got buried that little bit deeper and I worry that one day I wake up and look for it, look for me, and I won’t be there any more.’ Or, like Lucas/John – damaged and beyond redemption – are consumed by it; ‘This job, what we do, is a machine. Good people go in, they get chewed up, they get spat out. That’s how you make sense of it.’

Not waving but drowning?

For a man who doesn’t like water Richard Armitage sure manages to land a lot of roles that confront him with this element. His recent incarnation as the dastardly German assassin Heinz Kruger showed him nearly drowning when Captain America unceremoniously punched a hole in his snazzy submersible.

Given that one of Richard’s earliest memories is of falling into a neighbour’s pond in his pushchair, it isn’t entirely surprising he feels a little uncomfortable around deep water. It must have taken considerable effort to overcome this fear in order to complete filming for Captain America. In an interview for TheTelegraph he explains he did four weeks of scuba training and made himself swim fifty lengths every day in preparation for playing Kruger (the clue is in the word ‘made’!). It probably helped a little but it’s apparent it didn’t stop the panic at being left at the bottom of a deep water tank without goggles or breathing apparatus as in the same interview he describes his distress at being asked to do a second take for that scene.

He had a better deal as Lee Preston in Cold Feet, of course, where he mostly managed to hang around the pool looking incredibly hunky and sexy in his Speedos.

But he still had to jump in at the deep end in episode 4 and, try as he might, couldn’t quite hide that this didn’t agree with him. His body language (head firmly held out of the water) clearly shows he doesn’t like taking a swim. Apparently Richard had taken aqua aerobics classes in preparation for that role. Hands up anyone who wishes they’d been in his class!

And then there was that most harrowing waterboarding scene in Spooks 7. Being the thorough professional he is, Richard actually submitted himself to this form of torture in preparation for his role as MI5 agent Lucas North. The Telegraph interview records Richard saying ‘They put a wet cloth over your nostrils and mouth, hold it tight and pour water into it. It’s like suffocating underwater.’ Now, that took an enormous amount of guts and it’s astonishing he lasted the five seconds he said he did.

I’m quite happy in the water myself but, back in the days when I started kayaking and was practicing my Eskimo rolls and rescues in the pool, I managed to get myself into trouble once. I can vouch that running out of air is deeply disturbing and every cell in your body just wants to draw breath, regardless of the fact that you’re submerged, trapped up-side down in an unwieldy piece of blow-moulded plastic.

So what happens when a person drowns? Drowning is classified as suffocation due to immersion of the nostrils and mouth in a liquid. It’s not just asphyxiation due to suffocation though – things are a bit more complex than that. Inhaling water will cause disturbances of blood electrolytes and fluid balance. If fresh water is inhaled, it passes from your lungs to the bloodstream causing an expansion of blood volume, haemodilution (thinning of the blood as red blood cells are spread more thinly in the increased volume of plasma) and haemolysis (dissolution of red blood cells with the consequent liberation of their haemoglobin). If salt water is inhaled, the salt withdraws water from the blood which enters lung tissue, displacing the air. At the same time electrolytes (sodium, chloride, magnesium) will pass into the blood causing haemo-concentration (thickening of the blood with increased proportion of red blood cells). All of which sounds, and probably is, extremely painful.

Drowning happens in phases. Natural survival instinct kicks in straight after submersion and you will struggle to surface and stay surfaced. As the struggle subsides with exhaustion, drowning begins. In the early stages of drowning, you may initially gasp and aspirate small amounts of water, hyperventilate and/or try to hold your breath. Breathing in even small amounts of liquid, however, will trigger laryngospasm during which the trachea is sealed to keep the water out. In other words, your body is now forcing you to hold your breath until carbon dioxide accumulation forces respiration, resulting in an inhalation of more water. Gulping of water, coughing and vomiting will quickly be followed by unconsciousness and from there it is all downhill.

Drowning happens very quickly. Unconsciousness usually occurs within two to three minutes of submersion and as unconsciousness will cause involuntary respiratory movements, causing more inhalation of water, death generally occurs within two to three minutes after that. And if you think a little bit of water can’t do any harm – think again. It takes a relatively small amount of liquid to interfere with the body’s ability to breathe. A tiny amount entering the lungs can cause irritation, and the resulting fluid produced in the lungs can accumulate and cause drowning up to 72 hours after immersion!

So taking the above into account, I doff my cap to Mr Armitage for having the courage to film scenes like that for Spooks and Captain America. Talking about suffering for your art! I’m just hoping, on his behalf, there won’t be too many wet & watery scenes in The Hobbit.

[The Captain America picture is my own; Screencap of Heinz Kruger is courtesy of Richard Armitage Central; Screencaps of Lee Preston and Lucas North are courtesy of RichardArmitageNet; The Telegraph interview is courtesy of RichardArmitageNet; The Independent quote is courtesy of Richard Armitage Central; Facts about drowning were gathered from Ambulance Technician Study and Dundee University.]

A new year, a new blog…

So, 2012 has arrived and it’s time once again for those traditional New Year’s resolutions to be made and broken. Believe it or not, starting a new blog about Richard Armitage wasn’t even on my list, but as I was posting my New Year’s wishes to Armitage fans all over the world, trying to catch up with last year’s blog posts, temptation got the better of me.

So, does the world really need another RA blog? Well, probably not.  But do I want to write my own RA blog? You bet! And what better time to start one than the year that will see the first of the two Hobbit films hit the cinema? OK, I’ll admit, December is still a long, long way away and I haven’t a clue what I will find to post about but what the heck! As long as we’re having fun!

Before I start though, I would like to thank all those die-hard RA fans with blogs and web sites who have inspired me over the years. To mention just a few: BccMee, whose brilliant fanvids and graphics never fail to make us laugh out loud; Frenzy who  shares her wonderful musings with us through her RAFrenzy blog; Alfie, whose lovely posts can be found on RAlfieism; Servetus’ witty posts on the popular Me + Richard Armitage and Gratiana Lovelace’s thoughtful pieces on Something About Love (A). Then there are of course RichardArmitageNet, Richard Armitage Central, RichardArmitageOnline and the (closed) Facebook group Richard Armitage Friends Network, all of which I visit on a near enough daily basis. There are many, many others who probably deserve a mention here as well for having entertained and inspired me and, over time, I will add you all to my blog roll – promise!

Well, as I wanted to get started straight away (strike while the iron is hot and all that!), this site comes with a minor health warning as it is very much a site still under construction. So, please, ladies & gentlemen, don your hard hats! I’ve only just managed to create a holding banner in Photoshop today and that’s pretty much it, so please bear with me as I add bits and pieces to this blog over the coming days (or weeks).

But an RA blog wouldn’t be an RA blog without a juicy picture, so to finish off this first entry I thought it only fitting to post a shot of my favourite RA character, the delectable Lucas North, just after he’s copied my blog onto a memory stick 🙂

(Screencap from Spooks series 7, episode 6 courtesy of RichardArmitageNet )

Thank you so much for visiting my blog. Please feel free to comment and, if you’ve enjoyed your visit, please come again.