‘The Hobbit’s’ Richard Armitage on ‘The Desolation of Smaug’s’ ‘relentless’ barrel scene

It’s fair to say Richard Armitage has had his work cut out for him while filming “The Hobbit.”

“I think I’ve aged about ten years,” says the English actor while sitting down with reporters on the New Zealand set of Peter Jackson’s blockbuster trilogy. “Because having two hundred and fifty of those [dwarf] prosthetics put on your face every day and taken off, I might need a bit of surgery when this is over.”

One of the main challenges of the shoot – other than being forced to sit for endless hours in a makeup chair to complete his transformation into dwarf leader Thorin Oakenshield – was filming the scene in which Bilbo and the dwarves travel downriver in empty wine barrels after escaping from the lair of the wood-elves.

“Being in those bloody barrels, it was like being at the fun fair for three days,” he tells us. “In an unsinkable barrel getting dumped on with tons of water, it was just relentless, and kind of frustrating, but fun at the same time. And I was like, ‘We will never have another day like that on a film set.’ It was like being a child on a constant rollercoaster that you just didn’t get off all day. So that was pretty amazing.”

Indeed, when Armitage says “all day,” he means it.

“Because you are moving around so much, we were absolutely baking hot and really desperate to go to the loo,” he says. “But they wouldn’t let us get out of the barrels to go to the loo, so we were trying to work out who did it in the wetsuit and who didn’t. I resisted for the sake of Wardrobe. I didn’t want them wringing out my wetsuit at the end of the night.”

So will he and the other “dwarf” actors (including Graham McTavish, Ken Stott and Aidan Turner) follow the lead of Elijah Wood and the “LOTR” hobbits by branding themselves with matching tattoos?

“I don’t know yet,” says Armitage. “There’s talk of something, I don’t know. I don’t know what that might be. …I don’t think we’ll get a tattoo. We’re trying to think of something else.”

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” hits theaters on December 13.