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Although many of us found it hard to stomach his murder of poor Maid Marion when he played the sensually sadistic Sir Guy of Gisborne in Robin Hood. Richard Armitage reminds you of those calm, classic leading men of the 1940s and 1950s - the men with the depths below the still waters.

Speaking personally, it was a blow that Armitage's MI5 agent , Lucas North, went through an entire series of BBC1's Spooks without a single smouldering look, let alone a decent love interest. In truth, would this superb actor rather play Richard The Third at Stratford than have besotted women sending him chocolate underpants through the post? Lately, Richard has issued an apology to the Armitage Army for appearing to ridicule his more obsessive fans.

Since then, Armitage has recorded many notable audiobooks and has worked as a narrator on many TV and radio shows and adverts.

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

Richard Armitage arrives in the tiny, cluttered stage manager’s office of The Old Vic straight from rehearsals for Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.

He’s bearded and dressed in thick shapeless trousers, heavy boots, and a rough collarless cotton shirt open at the neck to reveal a broad chest. Anyone who knew the 42 year-old only as the dwarf Thorin Oakenshield in The Hobbit films might have quite a shock.

“It has lines that feel relevant in 1692, relevant in the Fifties, relevant today and relevant tomorrow, in 10 years, in 20 years, while we’re still destroying each other in the way that we do, in that insidious human way.” He promises that acclaimed director Yael Farber’s production will be a full-blooded affair.

“You can’t play this story without addressing sexuality in this particular society in this time, the masculinity of the men, the femininity of the women, the vulnerability of prepubescent girls.

Can it escape that allegory and find another, I ask him.

“It’s ultimately a timeless play, I think,” says Armitage.

Richard Crispin Armitage (born 22 August 1971) is an English film, television, theatre and voice actor.

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