EXCLUSIVE: “Sleepwalker” star Richard Armitage is Living the Dream

By: Izumi Hasegawa   October 24, 2017

Sleepwalker is one of those films you have a big a-ha moment and then wonder why you didn’t catch everything the first time, starting with one of the lead characters in the film played by Richard Armitage.  We chat with the thespian turned actor exclusively on his character, Dr. Scott White,

Q: Are you in London right now?

Yes, I’m in England at the moment with my family.

Q: I understand you stayed in Japan for seven or eight weeks while working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Do you remember any Japanese words or the places you visited?

Oh no, I didn’t really remember any word. But, we had an amazing time we were working at the Globe in Tokyo to a sold-out audience who were performing the Scottish play Macbeth. And then I took the Shinkansen down to Hiroshima for a visit. Tokyo and Japan is one of my favorite places to visit. I returned with the press tour for The Hobbit we had a premiere there as well. So, I have a deep affection for Japan and particularly for Tokyo so I hope to go back there sometime.

Q: What was your interest in visiting Hiroshima?

I was interested in the memorial and I was interested in what happened there and you know there’s so many beautiful parts of Japan and we were able to visit a city and historic place. And I also wanted to experience the train but I was just really fascinated with it and you know our production of Macbeth was set in a kind of modern context and I thought that it would help the production and I actually took a lot of inspiration from the memorial and from some of the things in the museum and I’ve used them in other movies have ideas and feelings about Hiroshima.

Q: What were one of the films you used some of your inspirations taken?

Actually, some of the elements in The Hobbit. The idea in the beginning of the film when the dragon comes in and sort of blast the doors out of their homeland. I really felt like I wanted some of the inspiration for on trying to understand what that felt like. It sounds like a strange comparison but it came from seeing some of the things in the museum because that kind of extreme devastation is something I’m not that familiar with. So, I was able to use that.

Q: Talking about your newest film, Sleepwalker, what was your initial attraction to this project and role?

I really liked the idea of something which was a psychological thriller and I liked the idea of unsettling an audience so that they don’t know what is real and what is not. And I think if anyone has ever had a very vivid dream sometimes dreams come back to you when you’re awake and sometimes you wake from a dream that it was so real that you are convinced that it happened. I love stories like this and I like the scripts that were written and Elliott (Elliott Lester, director) was going to direct. I liked the idea that the audience would never quite know when the central character was awake or asleep. Taking on a character like Scott White (played by him), he was a dream analyst or a sleep doctor I thought was interesting as well because you’re very vulnerable when you’re in that kind of unsure position and it was a story that interested me a lot.

Q: I heard you personally experience pretty vivid dreams, so do I, which is why I don’t go to evening screenings of horror movie because it affects my dreams. Do you have any rituals  you do or don’t do before you go to bed?

I try not to look at anything electronic. If I’m going to read I’ll try to read a book. I’m not somebody that falls asleep immediately. I do lay with my thoughts for a while and sometimes I like to try and program something that I would like to dream but it doesn’t always work. And also because of the work that I do I’m usually thinking about something imaginative because I’m an actor and so for the next day if I’m going to work on something I usually am imagining it. And sometimes it does enter into your dreams. You know for example when I worked on The Hobbit I did dream a lot of very vivid dreams about the people I was working with. But I think you go through stages in your life where you do dream very vividly. It’s really interesting to listen to the stories that come through your dreams because it’s really your subconscious.

Q: Talking about the other side of dreaming, you made a dream come true by becoming an actor. What made you decide to go for it and take the plunge into becoming an actor. Also, when was the moment you realized you made it?

I’ve never really felt like much of a performer. It’s interesting I feel like to perceive this art form is very much a personal journey. I’ve always enjoyed stories and storytelling and it comes from my love of books and literature. But at the same time, I visited the Royal Shakespeare Company back in the late 90s and I saw a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and I was so transported by the story and the idea of all the actors on stage having such a good time and really bringing the audience into the same world. It felt like it was a really, a really lovely exchange of joy. But at the same time the catharsis of an exchange of misery can have the same thing. So, the year before last, when I worked on The Crucible in London on stage taking the audience on a journey with me and having them feel what was happening on the stage very much through themselves I think it’s a really interesting interaction and so I think I’m somebody who enjoys a certain level of empathy and imagination and that’s what brings me to my art form.

Q: And let’s talk about another dream. I read a story that you want to play Richard The Third because you share some similarities with him. Has this dream come true?

Yeah, I don’t know necessarily weather I’ll ever play that character in Shakespeare’s context but I may be involved in either a production or a piece of writing about me. His story is fascinating. I recently visited the burial place where they found his remains in Leicester (England) which is my hometown. It’s a really interesting place to visit and it raises a lot of questions about the story that we’ve been told about Richard The Third how it differs from the truth. So, I think revealing the truth of his story is very interesting. But later on, next year I think I’m going to be playing Macbeth on stage in London which is a bit of a dream come true for me and a full circle from when I first went to Tokyo. We just spoke about. It was one of my first jobs so I’m finally getting to take on that role which is going to be very interesting for that part of the bucket list as well.

Q: On your way to achieving your dream of becoming an actor I would imagine you have had your share or dream and nightmare auditions. What was your most memorable experience that you can laugh about now?

I think the most memorable audition I think was for a fizzy drink commercial. It was for tropical fruit flavored fizzy drink and I had to go into a room and French kiss a watermelon with a hole in it. And then I came out and realized that there’d been a queue of other guys ahead of me who would also put their tongue into this hole in the melon. It was it wasn’t a very nice feeling and I also didn’t get the job so it was a bit of a worthless experiment.

Q: What are you into right now?

Well I’m actually having some time at home at the moment so I’m going to be with my family for a while and you know it’s been great to be back in London and I’ve seen a lot of theatre and it’s really reignited how much I enjoy that audience interaction and being part of an audience not just being on stage to sit in an audience and share this collective experience of something incredibly moving or very exciting or very dramatic what’s happening in front of you. And really enthralled by this sort of theatrical experience and so I’m really searching for my next theatre piece possibly before Shakespeare next year. So, I think it’s a remarkable thing that we do and I’ve really enjoyed exploring other people’s work so that’s what I’m doing in my downtime.

Q: Do you like to read?  If so, what type of books are you into?

Yes, I have a lot of books that I’ve been reading actually. There’s been some great literature that I’ve read. I’m actually reading a book at the moment called “Homo Deus” which is about where mankind is headed in the next one hundred fifty to two hundred years. What we’re going to be revering, what we’re worshipping and it sort of plagues me into science fiction. I recently did an audiobook of “The War of the Worlds” by H.G. Wells which was really, really exciting. So, I’m kind of fascinated with science fiction at the moment.

Q: In your upcoming film, Oceans Eight. I saw some photos of you walking with dogs. Could you talk about your character in the film?

I play an English art curator. His name’s Claude Becker and he runs a New York gallery and it’s the sort of the catalyst for the crime that is going to take place in the movie and for the setting up of the character that which Sandra Bullock plays. So we have a relationship together prior to the movie starting but it’s a really interesting character and it was a lot of fun to play and I love my dogs and I had a beautiful apartment fabulous clothes and then I got play amazing scenes with Anne Hathaway and Sandy Bullock and we worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art for two weeks and I met all the cast, Cate Blanchett, Rihanna, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling. It was an incredible cast.

Q: Are you good with dogs?

I’ve never had a dog but I love dogs. I didn’t used to but I really enjoy their company now so maybe I’ll get a dog one day. But those wolf hounds were absolutely amazing. They were so sensitive and gentle and lovely.

Q: Talk about Berlin Stations, is the filming done for the second season?  Are you still going back to set?

We are finished filming. There’s a little bit of post-production left to do. But yeah, it’s all it’s all finished.

Q: Do you watch it at home?

I wish I could but I’m not in America at the moment so I am not able to watch. But yeah, I tend to sometimes kind of like to tweak with the stories so I will do that. I haven’t seen much of the second season yet but I will. Yes.

Q: Some of your characters relate to you on a personal level and others do not. I read the story that you write a diary of each character. Is that true? Is it something you hold onto after the production is over or do you just throw it away?

Yeah, it’s really, I suppose, it’s kind of a diary. It’s more like a biography so I’ll try to learn like a history of who the character is when he was little, where he was educated, where he went to university, what jobs he’s had, what relationships he’s had, where his political heart is. Then I’ll create a sort of small kind of [inaudible] on him and then all transfer some photographs in there. It’s digital now really rather than it being hand written but now I put music in there. What kind of music he liked. It’s just a way of referencing a person quite quick. I’ll use parts of my own life and then some things are completely imagined. That helps me get to the place that I’m going so that you can create something that feels real.

Q: You have played so many characters. Which character is closest to yourself?

That’s a really good question. I played a role in a TV show called Sparkhouse. The character of John Standring. That was a while back. I see he was quite close to me but also in North & South: Deleted Scenes character of John Thornton even though he wasn’t in this kind of contemporary time his attitudes and probably his personality were quite close to where I feel I am.

Q: How would you describe the side closest to you?

Probably his sense of reserve, his irritability and his kind of slightly grumpy but kind personality that’s how I would describe myself.

Q: This film, I feel it is love story as well. So how do you see your character in this film? Are you like a romantic guy? Grumpy guy?  What type of boyfriend are you?

I think it’s something that I bring to the characters that I’m playing is that you know as a person I’m very romantic and I like poetry and all kinds of things that sort of awaken your heart. And then I play a character, I just make a decision whether they have those skills or the passion as well. And with Sleepwalker I really wanted Scott White to… I mean I’m sort of playing two characters in a way because they’re two versions of a man who is in her perception so at times he’s very scientific and very clinical. But he has an interesting bedside manner and then other times he’s not the doctor at all. He’s a friend and a lover. And so, you get to play with lots of different character facets and different character traits that you can introduce. And really the character in the movie is her projection. It doesn’t really exist if you know it. So, I mean I had great chemistry with Ahna (O’Reilly, played leading character, Sarah) and we became good friends afterwards. We don’t see each other all the time but I went to see her play in New York and she came to see my play in New York so I actually have great affection for her. So, I hope that found its way into the film.

Sleepwalker is on VOD now.

For more info, visit the film’s official website at, http://www.marvista.net/catalog_items/512

Interview by Izumi Hasegawa – https://twitter.com/HNW_Izumi

Edited by: Jody Taylor – https://twitter.com/RealJodyTaylor

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