(Any similarities to other RDC5 accounts, i.e. by Kate and Guylty!, is entirely coincidental. Mercifully my account will diverge at various points and it won’t read so much like a version of Groundhog Day.)
Red Dragon 5 Convention? Pah! I couldn’t be seen dead there. I adore Richard Armitage’s Dolarhyde but wasn’t mad about Hannibal itself – at least not enough to attend a convention. Why had RA agreed to attend? It seemed demeaning. I wasn’t a Fannibal. I’d feel a fraud and might be uncovered and shamed in some grotesque and horrible rite. It was expensive and indulgent. But the devil [dragon?] on my shoulder started to gain the upper hand. “It’s the Armitage!”, it muttered, “Heathrow isn’t far”. I had also unexpectedly been repaid a large bill. The Con would be a chance to get a photograph with him at last, after previous appalling attempts, and – it’s the Armitage! In person. By the time I’d decided to go, the Gold tickets had gone but there were still Regular tickets. So I bought one. Hannibal himself, Mads Mikkelsen, was announced and, for a while, Hugh Dancy, and I couldn’t wait.
My memory isn’t good enough to relate all that RA said nor are my photography skills worth exposing. Such wonders have been archived in the RDC5 blogs of Guylty, who captured the experience so well and took wonderful photos, and Servetus who diligently harvested tweets and images. Kate also has written some great posts about RDC5. Here are a few scattergun reminisces and thoughts of mine.
The Con was held at the Renaissance Hotel, which was the perfect setting – the long corridors had the sinister look of those in The Shining (but then I suppose most hotel corridors do).
The first sighting of Richard was at the opening ceremony. One by one the guests came on stage, RA second before last. After some gloriously silly shadow-puppetry, foreshadowing the Red Dragon’s entrance, he appeared, not seeming as tall as expected, and, as if in character, wearing a leather jacket, black jeans and boots, with dark short hair and not too much beard (hurrah). Dolarhyde was back on stage.
RA was absurdly handsome – of course – and looked healthier and younger than his drawn and frail appearance in photographs last year. Maybe it was the weird situation of the Hannibal con or my excited nerves but I felt uncharacteristically emotional seeing him in the same room, more so than on a previous occasion in Leeds. Perhaps it was the warm reception of the audience cheering and responding to his friendliness and good-naturedness (on stage).
I had volunteered to steward at the event and was luckily given a slot at both the Saturday and Sunday photo sessions. This was a privileged opportunity to spend time observing the Glorious One, although I alternated between neglecting my duties to peer surreptitiously at him and then reluctantly averting my gaze because I felt like a sinister voyeur. RA was dressed in similar dark clothes to the previous day but his manner was quite different: face set, avoiding eye contact and looking stiff and uncomfortable. On stage, addressing the Fannibals, he could play to the audience, be in character; it is not the same as meeting people individually, as himself or a version of himself.
We were told that, as stewards, we could leap in to the photo queues when we saw an opportunity. What! Not queue for ages patiently? I can’t do that! I’m British! I stubbornly joined the end of the queue for Richard Armitage. We had been warned off inappropriate touching or lifting (like that was going to happen with a 6ft+ man). When near to the object of desire we found out that Richard had asked not to be hugged. This was in stark contrast to the other side of the room where other Hannibal guests, Mads Mikkelsen and Jeremy Davies, were squeezing the life out of fans and I had been looking forward to a similar bear-hug with RA. Disappointing but I can’t blame him, whatever his reasons.
When my turn came I just couldn’t look him in the eye, due to my own shyness and awareness of the disparity between my rapture and his likely discomfort. I lurched next to the Armitage, looked at the camera, thanked him, all of it a blur.
Just as I was leaving I felt a deep voice vibrating really close to my ear as, giraffe-like, Richard had swooped down from a great height to whisper, “You stepped off the mark!” Small crumbs, I know, but his voice was so intimate and unexpected that it shot volts through me. What had I done? Groped him by mistake? Was it because my sleeve had ‘accidentally’ touched his? I realised later that there were taped marks on the floor to indicate where to stand. This wasn’t the first time I had brought out the headmaster in him: at Leeds for the Urban and the Shed Crew premier I had received an admonishment from him for not taking a selfie properly and now here was another finger-wagging.
I still don’t know what the implications of not standing on the mark were – a badly composed photograph or standing too near to a guest perhaps. It was too late to do anything about it anyway.
Here is one of many replica poses by RA from the photo shoot.
After the photographs there was a Richard Q&A, he seemed slightly more relaxed but still rather diffident. These are the best of my shaking photos, which is not saying much.
I love the bit of hair sticking up at the back of his head.
From my position RA was quite difficult to see, because of the elaborate flower crowns, so my best view was of the enlarging screen at the side.
Most of the Q &A responses have been reported elsewhere so I won’t repeat them but one of his answers struck a chord with something I’d been contemplating over the weekend, and previously. He said that during the run of the Crucible his face changed considerably (Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde came to mind) until at the end he thought that he had aged 10 years. He said that when he met Yael Farber in New York later she didn’t recognise him (presumably his youthful looks had sprung back). Having the opportunity to gaze at his ever handsome but mellow features, I could see few vestiges of Lucas, Guy, Thornton etc, Daniel even – although of course he was still playing a role of sorts at the convention.
So different: John, Lucas, Guy, Daniel and John, with Richard
I know RA had different hair, lighting etc in these roles and he is older now but not to the degree of making it difficult to believe he is the same man inhabiting these roles. It shows what a truly remarkable actor he is. The many faces of Richard Armitage was further brought home later in my hotel room. Not being able to resist watching the Hobbit for the hundredth-millionth time I marvelled at the strangeness of watching the distanced, filmed, performance of a heavily made-up Armitage in New Zealand when he was in reality at the hotel that weekend.
When the Q&A ended and we were filing out, the screen curiously started showing images of Guy of Gisborne, rather than Dolarhyde, so I had stay and watch.
It’s not like working in a coal mine but these conventions must still be hard work. The Saturday involved hundreds of small interactions with fans during the photo shoots; next came the Q&As then, very soon after, Richard and Mad’s autograph session, which took nearly three hours. The guests must have been exhausted. I certainly felt tired and emotional.