On All The Ways I Loved The Red Dragon Trailer…

It’s official. I’m completely bugged out. And how do I know I’m bugged out? Because earlier, after waking up and needing another “fix”, I found myself glued to the Hannibal trailer again, on my laptop using my earbuds, with the sounds of kids and TV and tablet in the background just fading out. I was once again mesmerized to such a degree that when Hubby tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I’d like some bacon and eggs, I jumped out of my skin and yelped! Much to the amusement of Hubby and kids, LOL.

Last night, when I first watched the exquisitely done trailer for the 6 episode Red Dragon Arc that will conclude Hannibal‘s run on NBC, the closest word to describe my initial reaction was electrified. Although it was past 10pm when I first watched the trailer, and prior to watching it, I was exhausted and intending to go to bed early, this incredible footage of Richard Armitage embodying the complex character of Francis Dolarhyde acted like a triple shot of espresso into my system and suddenly, there was no question of me going to bed early. I watched it repeatedly, reveling in it, really, just addicted to everything about it.

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That “Look”…. that intensity, and the cinematography of the entire scene… color me #mindblown!

As I said after viewing the first 2 episodes of Hannibal S1 the same day that Richard’s Dolarhyde casting was announced: “stylistically, the show is very different from anything I’ve seen Armitage do, and it will be fascinating to watch not only his portrayal of the sick fiend that is Francis Dolarhyde, but the incorporation of Armitage into the overall composition and feel of this series is going to be completely new and different.” Well, based on what I’ve seen in this trailer… I’m not going to be disappointed. I loved the musical accompaniment to the footage, especially in the initial series of shots as they introduced Dolarhyde- the cinematography and quirky percussion-driven soundtrack was simultaneously beautiful and jarring, just drawing me into the character, conveying his unique dichotomy of shyness/vulnerability and fierceness/intensity that makes the character so compelling and so terrifying. “Do you see me now? Yes. Do you feel me now? Yes.” I see him, and feel him, in the gut. In an instinctual way that Hannibal is so brilliant at accomplishing through some voodoo combination of artistically irresistible visuals and visceral musical score.

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This little startle, this endearing vulnerability, as Reba reaches out to touch his face. Remember, this is the man whose earliest knowledge led him to believe his own name was Cunt-Face when he was at the orphanage. And here it is. This. A brief glimpse of that back story in a facial expression. A perfect little taste of that Armitage brilliance.

So unable to sleep, I decided to start making Francis Dolarhyde gifs (I did THIRTY!) last night, and when I started studying the gifs, and playing with the light settings, I was blown away by the subtleties of facial expression and body language. If I didn’t know by now that Richard Armitage can inhabit a character and become that character completely, just several minutes of footage of his work here would have convinced me, and should convince anyone, of his astounding “immersion” capabilities. I can’t tell you how eager I am for more of this, despite the dark and creepy atmosphere and the knowing I have that the journey is likely to be both heartbreaking and terrifying. If the trailer can have me on the edge of my seat and bugged out completely, what will 6 full episodes be like? Prepare to be overwhelmed!

Another wonderful thing about this trailer was that we were able to hear shy and taciturn Francis Dolarhyde’s voice for the first time (!!!) in a few moments of dialogue. Having read the book, I’ve been aware that this would be what could make or break the character, because it’s so critical to the “vulnerability” aspect and the empathetic response that we are supposed to experience. The character was born with a severe craniofacial birth defect, and though later in life he has reconstructive surgery to repair the cleft palate, he has a persistent mild speech impediment and is extremely self-conscious about it. He is acutely aware of and feels such embarrassment over his speech patterns, especially with the “S” sounds, that he will pause and consider ways to rephrase his dialogue so as to avoid “S” sounds whenever possible. We didn’t have a lot of dialogue in this trailer, but what I did hear was absolutely spot on for my expectation of what this type of speech impediment would sound like. Only three lines of dialogue, yet I found myself falling a bit in love with that voice, because I’ve never heard Richard Armitage sound so… fragile.

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Love the eyelashes. They seem to flicker over words that are most difficult to enunciate.

The first line we hear is Francis speaking to Hannibal over the phone. The dialogue itself, when written, could be delivered in so many ways. “Dr. Lecter, I am… delighted… that you have taken an interest in me.” But Armitage’s delivery, using a very soft voice, stumbling lightly over the word “delighted” and with the slight hesitations of a deeply timid person, perfectly captures  the tentative hopefulness in his voice that what he is “Becoming” would be of interest to one he admires and aspires to be… the way one might speak to a deity with whom one someday hopes to acquire equal footing.

 

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Francis does something he’s never dared to do before in his adult life… reach out to a woman.

I deliberately closed my eyes to listen to “Miss McClane, can I give you a ride home?” so as to experience it as a blind woman might… this line was delivered flawlessly when I shut my eyes and listened. He asks her so politely, yet so awkwardly, perfectly embodying a man who is entirely uncertain of himself, and completely inexperienced in any sort of attempt to engage with another human, and particularly with a woman he likes. And yet, just listening to the endearing sweetness of it as he slightly lisps over her name, I could almost feel how she would feel in that moment, because you can tell, just by his voice, that he’s overcome a struggle to get up the nerve to ask. For me, anyway, it would be very difficult to say no to him after he’s tried so bravely to overcome his own discomfort with even the idea of gallantry.

 

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OK, so maybe there is a smile there at the beginning… but it’s definitely no kind of reassurance to see that kind of smile on a… biter.

Then came “Trust me. I’m smiling.” It starts with a whisper… and I know from the book that he was battling his inner darkness and an impulse to be vicious… so that whisper of “Trust me” is imbued with shades of darkness and internal struggle. Then his voice breaks slightly over the word “smiling” and again, that slight speech deficit. I can’t WAIT to see the rest of this scene. I was gripped in the book with fear for Reba’s safety, alone in her house with this psychopath who is more than capable of savaging her. Any woman alone with him would be in mortal danger… but her blindness, her inability to see his facial expressions as he considers his options… it’s the finest sort of suspense.

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Really. Those underwear don’t leave much to the imagination. That’s artistry. *Wipes chin*

And speaking of things I can’t WAIT for…well, I couldn’t make a post about the brilliance of this trailer without acknowledging its effects upon my ovaries. WOW. The team that put together this trailer certainly didn’t stint us on drool-worthy material, did they? It’s almost as if they suspected a large contingent might be, er, anxiously awaiting an eyeful, and by all that’s heavenly, they delivered. Let’s have a grateful round of applause, shall we? For the producers, for Richard, for the slow camera panning and the quality of the footage, down to each drop of sweat and each jaw-dropping moment of the bodybuilding routine that was lavished upon us… yeah. WOW. More of that, please! I think Richard has surpassed all former levels of buffness for this role, and I we can probably all agree that there promises to be a tremendous amount of eye-candy for those willing to venture over to the dark side. =)

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*Shudders*

But if this is anything to go by, this flash of hideous monstrosity… we will be visiting a very dark and terrifying place when we go on this journey with Francis, indeed. The gif above, showing the man, is all that is attractive. Which makes this… the stuff of nightmares…. all the more discordant and repelling. What a contrast between the tentative and awkward man with the hesitant speech, the intense and powerful man with the muscular physique, and this, the repulsive face of The Dragon… all I can say is that the makeup effects and the absolute commitment to inhabiting evil by the actor here are amazing. It’s awful, and it’s awe-inspiring. He’s going to scare my pants off, and I’m not exactly sure if I’ll like it.

It looks like these last six episodes have the potential to be a tour de force by Richard Armitage. It’s entirely new ground for him, and though it’s not without trepidation, I’m entirely eager to experience it. *Gulps*

Staged. An Interesting Foray Into Richard’s Early Work

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I have to admit, I didn’t find Richard Armitage as appealing as usual when he was a baby-faced twenty-something. Not sure if he’d have caught my eye “back when”… I guess some men really do improve with age.

So I finally got around to watching the DVD of Staged that arrived in the mail at some point a couple of months ago. Believe it or not, I do have a stack of unwatched early Richard Armitage material. You’d think that with all the time I devote to my Richarding, and having now been Richarding for about one year, I’d have long since watched this stuff, but always for one reason or another, I find myself rewatching favorites, reading blogs, playing games on the forum, and occasionally updating my own blog with this or that. But earlier this week I found myself with about 15 minutes, charts all caught up, nothing much else to do, and Staged sitting next to me. Knowing it was a very short production, I decided to pop it in and have a look at a very baby-faced Richard Armitage.

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This is just a cute gif of RA as Darryl Newman, busting out in laughter. Something that made me smile. Can’t help but wonder if he’d laugh like that that looking back on his own alleged American accent in the film. =)

Overall, I don’t think my ~$25 (if I recall what I paid correctly) was necessarily worth it. The script certainly didn’t merit $25, and the performance wasn’t exactly of the caliber I’m accustomed to from Richard Armitage. If he’s embarrassed that this is “out there” (which I seem to have picked up on somewhere, but can’t recall who implied it), then I think that’s a little harsh on himself… but nonetheless, I would have to agree that it’s a bit of a sophomoric effort. Especially if that’s supposed to be an American accent. Um, if so, it was terrifically bad. I have to say, I thought his American accent in Into The Storm had a few sketchy moments, but overall was decent. If I hadn’t known he was British, I might not even have noticed anything was off. So props to RA for making a huge improvement there in the decade and a half since Staged was created. But even if that was not an early failed attempt at an American accent, there were other aspects that didn’t exactly wow me.

That being said, I did enjoy Staged simply because it offered an opportunity to see Richard Armitage when he was such a fledgling. I don’t think I’ve seen him in another black and white film, so that was interesting. I was definitely intrigued when RA’s character, Darryl Newman, spoke the lines that turned out to be, if not prophetic, then certainly somewhat of a mirror to his real life, when his counterpart, Lily, asks Darryl what caused him to want to return to the stage after a successful run as a film actor:

Darryl: You know why. It’s been 12 years since I’ve done theatre. Stage is what made me. I miss the days when I’d  pour myself into a role. One you could really sink your teeth into. You can go lost in a character for days… and it’s emotionally draining but for some insane reason I loved it. Get a kick out of really shaking people up, making them actually believe I was somebody else.

Lily: You like to keep your true nature hidden, don’t you?

Darryl: People see what they want to see. Trouble is once you become a commodity, you have to play into people’s fantasies of who they think you are. Unfortunately after a while they stop taking you seriously as an actor.

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Richard Armitage as John Proctor in the critically acclaimed production of The Crucible, Old Vic Theatre, London 2014

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Himself looking a bit exhausted when I met him the second time at the Stage Door in London. Exhausted, emotionally drained, but satisfied, I think.

I can’t help but notice that Armitage really has wanted to “return to his roots” and recently, after 12 years onscreen, did exactly that with his phenomenal debut as the leading character with The Crucible… while unlike Darryl, I don’t think that the stage was originally “the making” of Armitage- (I’d argue that North and South was “the making” of Armitage)- it is true that he did start out there, and upon his return to the stage, he most certainly did “pour himself into the role” of John Proctor, and was rewarded with critical acclaim and even an Olivier nomination for his efforts. One can’t look at the many stage door photos toward the end of that run and not feel that the process was draining for him, as he looked increasingly haggard and exhausted, and I think most would agree, too, that he really shook people up in the process. So in that sense, Darryl’s words did in the end rather eerily forecast Armitage’s career in real life.

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Richard Armitage, circa 2013 Berlin Premiere of DOS. Definitly looking like a hot commodity here. And see what I mean? He’s like a fine wine. Improved immeasurably with age. (Photo found on Something About Love!)

I have to wonder how much the second line from the script above also might echo reality for Richard Armitage. He’s inarguably now entering a stage in his career when he’s something of a commodity, and I think some of the debates that rage in the fandom more often than not stem from the very problem Darryl muses about… how much does he feel he has to play into people’s fantasies of who they think he is? I know it comes with the territory, but I’d imagine it’s not always easy, living up to expectations. And I have to wonder if he ever feels like he’s not taken seriously, (*coughs* thinking of my own Nipplegate Spoof) despite his recent success leading The Crucible. Well, RA, you’ll just have to knuckle down and do another play. Wow everyone again. I’ll try not to look at your nipple next time.

 

 

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I’m afraid I wasn’t swept away by the passion in this scene. I was instead captivated by Richard’s former moles.

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We see here how nicely Richard has filled out, and we don’t see the same moles from circa 1999. I think that’s a scar on his right deltoid muscle. Either that, or the mole has lost pigment and flattened quite a bit….

Speaking of nipples, Staged did offer another opportunity to ogle a much younger Richard Armitage in bare chest mode. I’m happy to report that he’s filled out nicely and put on some impressive muscle since then, but he was nevertheless attractive even when he was more of a bean pole. Some other important considerations that viewing Staged has created for me: did Richard Armitage have some moles removed since then, or do his new muscles just distract me? I had to have a look, and yes, I do believe he’s had some of his moles removed since then, though he hasn’t had them all removed. I think the rather prominent mole on his right deltoid area has been removed, but left a little scar. And those on the right trapezius area have also disappeared even as the muscle has notably developed.

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Kiss approach circa 1999…

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Kiss approach circa 2004…

Right. So, moving along… I did notice one other interesting thing about Richard’s performance as Darryl Newman. I couldn’t help but notice that his “approach” as he went in for a kiss with his ex-wife, who we are supposed to understand he still carries a torch for, was really rather similar to his “approach” as he gazed at Margaret as John Thornton in North and South. Check out the tender gaze, the blinking eyes… the little eyebrow lift. I have to say the addition of that very eloquent and gentle hand on Margaret’s face was an inspired improvement, but Darryl’s approach was really quite well done.

That’s about all I have to say regarding Staged. It was enlightening. He’s put on muscle. He’s lost some moles. He’s matured both in appearance and in his performance. All in all- I’m glad I watched it, but probably won’t spend much time on it in the future.