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Before he plays a role he compiles a selection of music that helps him get into character. “Philip Glass, some Iron Maiden, Arvo Pärt, Kings of Leon,” he says.A combination of melancholic, fierce and hairy — sounds about right.Then there was three years at Lamda, which clearly fired his Method leanings. “Some people pretend and do it very well but I’m not very good at pretending.” He knows that being waterboarded “sounds like an actor being a bit too invested in the role but I’m more interested in presenting the truth than a fake reality”.He describes waterboarding, incidentally, as “the worst kind of panic, like that moment when you start to feel out of control underwater”. We can’t go into much detail about the new Hobbit film because Jackson, an infamous last-minute tinkerer, hasn’t finished it yet.Armitage knows it was a risk to go back to the theatre after 13 years, having made his name on TV and then in film: “We could have come out with terrible reviews.” Instead, there were raves across the board.His relief is palpable: he worried about being typecast as an action hero.

Richard III, meanwhile, was our last king to die in battle, as Thorin does in Tolkien’s novel (but not necessarily in the forthcoming final Hobbit film, The Battle of the Five Armies — more of which later). Well, the 43-year-old Armitage is also a practitioner of a technique that you might call “mixtape method acting”.

“I don’t know why I’m the kind of guy where they just want to put a gun or a sword in my hand,” he says.

I do: it’s because he’s built like a lantern-jawed phone box. “I look at people that get fast-tracked and suddenly explode and think: ‘What does that feel like?

g Thorin to the real world pushed Armitage to new levels of research eccentricity.

His interest in Hitler arose because Oakenshield’s bunker mentality, in which he turns on his closest friends, including Bilbo Baggins, reminded him of the Führer’s last days in Berlin.

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