As Thorin Oakenshield, the leader of the 13-dwarf team out to best a dragon and return their people to power, Richard Armitage has his work cut out for him in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” But the British actor probably wasn’t expecting that work to be quite so harrowing, like when they filmed an elaborate action sequence involving the dwarfs riding in barrels down a raging river.
“I think the most dangerous part of filming the barrel sequence was when we were in these little cut-off ‘Flintstones’-style barrels which were powered by our feet. It was like dodge-ems and we were bumping into each other,” Armitage says. “It came together in quite a few different places on the Pelorus River, which was an extremely fast-flowing river. I did end up getting dragged under by that current.”
And if the forces of nature trying to drown him weren’t enough, he also had director Peter Jackson’s best technicians trying their hands at it as well. “We went into a soundstage where Pete had built a kind of water course powered by two V8 engines. It was like being at a theme park for two weeks,” he remembers. “They were dumping tons of water on us and trying to get us to go under the water. But I think Martin had the most difficult role in that, because he wasn’t in a barrel. But I think it was worth it.”