Richard Armitage is talking about his character the Red Dragon and all the complexities surrounding the serial killer Francis Dolarhyde as Hannibal introduces the famous murderer.
On Saturday, American audiences will get to enjoy one of Britain’s most talented actors, when Richard Armitage (The Hobbit Trilogy) makes his debut as Francis Dolarhyde, also known as The Tooth Fairy. The episode is called “The Great Red Dragon” and from what we have heard of a screening that took place Thursday, Armitage doesn’t utter a word, but is more than compelling.
Showrunner Bryan Fuller has praised the 43-year-old and said that while editing the Red Dragon episodes him and his staff cried from the powerful performance. This comes as no surprise to Richard Armitage’s legions of adoring fans, known as The Armitage Army, as they all recognize his versatility and ability to take on very intricate characters.
The Red Dragon is unlike any character the Brit has portrayed thus far in his career and Armitage admits in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter that there was only one way he would have signed on to do Hannibal.
“I studied Bryan (Fullers)’s script for 308, but I also looked at the novel that Harris created and I was specific about whether we would see Francis committing those crimes. If we were, it would be something that I probably wouldn’t have been able to take on. I found it too disturbing and it was something that I wouldn’t want to depict on-screen. But and in a way that was quite helpful to the character because he has separated himself from his own crimes. When he watches them back on film, he is so abhorred by what he’s done, it takes him to a place of anguish whereby he tries to destroy himself.
For those who don’t know who Francis Dolarhyde is, he is a ruthless serial killer who has murdered two entire families when we meet him in Thomas Harris’ novel, Red Dragon, in which the character is based. This is how Harris describes the deranged man, according to Richard Armitage.
“Thomas Harris described him as a body builder, which I feel was useful to an extent, but I didn’t feel the character had any kind of vanity toward himself. In fact the way that he’s trying to change his body because he’s so unhappy with his own physical power, it was about strength rather than appearance. So it started with as much gym training as I could use, but I also found a passage in the book that described his movement as being stylized like a Balinese dancer, which didn’t quite work for me. I went to a Japanese art form called Butoh, which is a biological exploration of the body. Francis is somebody who is so uncomfortable in his skin; he’s trying to shed his skin and writhing around inside his own body really, trying to escape.”
The Red Dragon is an awkward, yet calculating man with a cleft palate, who was abandoned by his mother when he was young and raised by his grandmother, which he reveres. Dolarhyde’s speech impediment is a big part of the story and the character’s behavior, and Richard Armitage says he studied people with similar conditions such as a girl who was in therapy for her cleft palate. In the novel, Dolarhyde is very deliberate in his speech and avoids certain words because of his impediment.
“The Great Red Dragon” is set three years after the events seen in Episode 7. Hannibal (Mads Mikkelsen) is in a mental facility and Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) has married and now lives with his wife and her son. However, when the serial killer strikes, brutally murdering two families, Dolarhyde is the means by which Hannibal and Graham come together once more, when the latter reaches out to solve the crimes.
You can watch Richard Armitage debut as Francis Dolarhyde in Hannibal this Saturday on NBC at 10 p.m. ET. You won’t regret it.
[Image via De Laurentiis Co.]