Tom Hiddleston has been familiar to British audiences for over a decade. Over the years, he's done his fair share of BBC Radio (Othello, Cyrano de Bergerac, Dracula) and theatre (The Changeling, Cymbeline, Othello, Ivanov). He landed roles in a few TV movies - CONSPIRACY and THE GATHERING STORM - which made their way to the Unites States as part of the BBC's co-production with HBO before moving onto features, namely UNRELATED and ARCHIPELAGO. He held recurring roles on the BBC television series SUBURBAN SHOOTOUT and WALLANDER, but it wasn't until Kenneth Branagh, who had worked with him before on both stage and screen, cast him as Loki, brother of Thor in the Marvel Studios solo film about the superhero from Asgard that his career reached a new level.
Since then, Hiddleston has been a part of two Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, working with Woody Allen on MIDNIGHT IN PARIS and Steven Spielberg for WAR HORSE. Earlier this year, he co-starred with Rachel Weisz in the Terence Davies' film THE DEEP BLUE SEA, and now he's reprising his role once again as Loki in the culmination of all the Marvel Movie Universe films to this point, THE AVENGERS, which, for the first time, brings the likes of Thor, Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Nick Fury together to share the screen.
Last week, Hiddleston came into Miami to do press for THE AVENGERS, and, at the end of a long day, which followed a flight from London, I got the chance to sit down with him to talk about all things Marvel. Having the last interview on the schedule can go either way, but, in this case, it worked out well. Hiddleston was incredibly relaxed, taking a moment to get in some food and drink before we got into things since his schedule has been hectic. However, once we got to talking, his enthusiasm for the material was quite visible. You can tell how much he loves this character and how excited he is to continue seeing him through. We got to talk about his first involvement with THOR, how the process developed with him being involved with THE AVENGERS, the workings of the Marvel Movie Universe, his deep understanding of Loki, and, of course, THOR 2 before we ran out of time... so enjoy.
The Infamous Billy The Kidd The Kidd: Long day?
Tom Hiddleston: It’s been a long day, but it’s been fun. I love this film. I’m so proud to be in it.
[Everyone in the room gets settled.]
Tom Hiddleston: Cool, man. Let’s roll.
The Kidd: All right, so let’s get started with THOR, because obviously that’s where all of this starts as far as your involvement and Loki’s involvement. Loki’s kind of this entirely different breed of villain, at least in the Marvel movie universe. I mean first of all, he doesn’t die at the end. He kind of gets carried over and on top of that, at least in THOR, it’s very much Loki’s story as much as it is Thor, which is kind of strange. Usually the villain is used as a vehicle to propel the story forward, but in THOR you are still very much a part of that story and they are kind of telling that story for you.
Tom Hiddleston: Yeah.
The Kidd: Did you kind of find that interesting when you were reading the script?
Tom Hiddleston: Enormously. That was one of the great draws of being part of it. It was built… The film, from its inception and conception was understood as an origin story for both characters and Thor is defined as much by his relationship with Loki as he is by his relationship with Odin and Jane Foster and the journey and the necessity of Thor becoming this noble courageous spirit, somebody who was born to be king, was told as an antithesis to the Loki story who was someone who makes all the wrong decisions. Thor’s journey was one from arrogance to humility. Loki’s journey was one from innocence to jealousy in a way. People have often said that the beginning of THOR you like Loki a lot more than you like Thor and by the end you love Thor and you hate Loki or you at least understand… You don’t hate Loki, but you understand why he’s doing what he’s doing.
The Kidd: Did your theatre experience help in that? Because it is very Shakespearian in nature and I’m sure that’s a big part of why Kenneth Branagh was brought in to handle the first one. Did you kind of find this connection to the character through your Shakespearian history?
Tom Hiddleston: Well the thing about Shakespeare is that Shakespeare writes big characters who are going through big things and big changes with big hearts and big souls and I supposed that is why there are Shakespearian parallels that can be draw, because these are big characters. I mean Shakespeare was the greatest humanist who’s ever lived. He understood human nature with more wisdom and more depth than any writer that has yet lived on this planet, but he wrote about people… He wrote about the private lives of people in power and the heartbreak of kings and queens and princes and lords and captains and generals. I think humans, in stories that they love to read and watch are fascinated by the private heartbreak of people who run things and THOR is exactly that. It’s about a royal family, a king, a queen, his two sons who are princes, and their familial heartbreak and that’s as riveting as watching anything about power. It’s as riveting as watching THE WEST WING or… It’s one of those… I suppose what I’m saying about Shakespeare is that Shakespeare is fascinated by power and privacy and that’s what THOR is, it’s power and privacy at the same time. Does that make sense?
The Kidd: Yes. It was kind of decided pretty early on when you were cast as Loki that Thor and Loki would both be part of THE AVENGERS… well Thor obviously, but that Loki would also be a part of THE AVENGERS and that he would kind of be a part of this villainous end of it I guess, because it’s not just him. Was that something that was pitched to you in the very beginning during the casting process? That there was going to be a grander scheme to Loki or did that kind of come along while THOR was being filmed?
Tom Hiddleston: When I first got cast I was invited into Kevin Feige’s office and he said… (Laughs) He wanted to say “Congratulations” and then he said “So how about AVENGERS?” I said, “Wait a second…” and it was part of a pipe dream that he was already bringing to fruition. In the very first edition of the very first AVENGERS comic published in 1963, Loki is the reason that they all come together. He mind controls the Hulk to get back at his brother and I think Kevin’s intention was always to include that as part of the story. I didn’t know until the end of THOR that Joss was planning to really put me up front and center in the way that he did. It was something I didn’t even conceive of until really THOR had finished and then I still didn’t know until I saw the script and when I saw the script I thought “Here we go.”
The Kidd: Were you a comic fan going into THOR and then into THE AVENGERS that you could kind of grasp the scope of where they were going? On a fan level, THE AVENGERS is like “That’s it.” Like we’ve been… That’s something that’s never happened before, bringing all of these characters together, so that’s why I’m interested… Were you a fan going in that you knew how big it was going to be or was it kind of something that you learned along the way?
Tom Hiddleston: Well I saw IRON MAN as a punter in 2008. I was doing a British television series shooting in Sweden with Kenneth Branagh incidentally. He wasn’t signed on yet. We both went in as people who just loved the movies and I think that really put Marvel on the map in a different way, that film. I think it was an extraordinary piece of entertainment. It was just so much fun and Robert Downey Jr. was so good in it and it was populated by brilliant actors with Jeff Bridges and Gwyneth Paltrow and Terrence Howard. Then I think… I was a fan of that movie and I had been a fan of superhero films. I loved SUPER MAN as a kid and the BATMAN films of Tim Burton and the X MEN films and particularly the first two and Christopher Nolan’s BATMAN series. I think it’s part of a growing tradition of the seriousness of the superhero genre as having a place in cinema and cinematic history, but I never knew it would be quite this big, you know? It’s a big deal.
The Kidd: It is a big deal. There were rumors of a JUSTICE LEAGUE coming together for a while where you have Batman and Superman all together, but it wasn’t really until the Nick Fury appearance at the end of IRON MAN where you kind of said, “Okay. They are trying to bring this together” and then when it finally happened we were like “Alright!” This is at least your second director… Alan Taylor has signed on for THOR 2 and the character… I mean how difficult is it to maintain a consistency of the character when you are working with different filmmakers who may have a different vision, who may kind of see the world a little bit differently?
Tom Hiddleston: I think that’s what makes it fascinating. Human beings are constantly in constant and that’s what makes us fascinating to each other and I think when Joss Whedon came on board, the first thing he said was how much he loved THOR. He loved what Ken had done with it. He loved… He really felt like they had been too characters who had been really clearly established with very poignant character arcs, which gave him the freedom to say “Well you’ve done the ground work and I can jump off the bridge with it. Now that the ropes are safely tied to the scaffold, I can really play” and I hope that Alan Taylor will take the bat on and run with it, just to mix all of my metaphors together. I know that I haven’t met him yet, but we’ve exchanged emails and Alan has huge respect for what Chris and I had done before and this and he and Joss and Ken are assisted by the most extraordinary real and passionate support by the producers who work at Marvel Studios. Kevin Feige, Jeremy Latcham, Craig Kyle, Louis D’Esposito and Victoria Alonso. Those are five people with such passion of the material. I mean like all of them I think were stuck in their bedrooms at the age of ten reading comic books from wall to wall and so their passion for the material just comes from their hearts and so they are so helpful in assisting the continuity in a way and they trust us. Kevin really trusts me with Loki now. He’s like “You built the character. You did it.” And Chris and I… we are all pretty rigorous about protecting the authenticity of things and saying, “Well, let’s make it all connected.”
The Kidd: In terms of how the Marvel machine works now, everything is very carefully crafted. It’s very meticulous in tying things together, because something that happens in THOR resonates in THE AVENGERS and something that happens in THE AVENGERS resonates in THOR 2. Is that inherent in the script when you first get it or is that something that is brought along the way to kind of make sure that continuity runs through?
Tom Hiddleston: That’s where Marvel comes in. Marvel, like Kevin Feige has a number of staff at Marvel who are paid to keep track of those things, like that’s their job. They are the timeline guys, so Joss was entrusted with the responsibility, but it was sort of like “By the way, THE AVENGERS needs to be stand alone, so that if you haven’t seen the other films it will still work, but also just so you know, Loki did this in THOR and Iron Man did this in IRON MAN 2 and so did Black Widow and the last time you saw Gwenyth Paltrow was at this point.” So Joss had this extraordinary task of having to shoulder all of that history, but also create something new.
[They are told this is the last question.]
The Kidd: Let me ask you a little bit about THOR 2 then, because I know that you’re supposed to be shooting it later this year. Have you gotten to see the script yet?
Tom Hiddleston: I haven’t.
The Kidd: Have they communicated to you kind of what Loki’s role will be in moving forward? I mean without spoiling where THE AVENGERS…
Tom Hiddleston: I don’t want to spoil it, yeah.
The Kidd: Well without spoiling especially THE AVENGERS and kind of where Loki ends up. Have they communicated to you what the future holds for Loki moving forward? At least in the solo THOR series?
Tom Hiddleston: What’s so fascinating about Loki is that he is constantly and has done, for the history of the comic books and the history of the Norse mythology, he is constantly dancing on a tight rope, which swings between darkness and redemption and it’s no secret that in AVENGERS he is indulging and yielding to his darkest instincts. What fascinates me about the future of the character is if he can swing back and when and how. I don’t know that it will ever happen in THOR 2, because I haven’t seen a script, but I think that spiritual flexibility in him is really the most fascinating aspect of his characterization and one has to ask “Can he be forgiven by Thor and Odin for what he does?” “Can he accept forgiveness?” “Has he gone to the dark side forever?” It’s kind of like he’s Anakin Skywalker in that way. I mean I’ve only just thought that, but there’s that sort of like…
The Kidd: Where anything could set him in one direction of the other.
Tom Hiddleston: Yeah, but I honestly don’t know if he’s headed towards Emperor Palpatine or the way that he somehow has a glimmer of redemption in him.
The Kidd That old Anakin Skywalker where after they take the helmet off.
Tom Hiddleston: I mean I would be honored if… Darth Vader is the greatest villain in cinematic history, so I’m not suggesting that I’m even at that level, but just psychologically that’s an interesting place to play.
The Kidd: All right, well thank you very much.
Tom Hiddleston: Thanks man. Great questions.
The Kidd: Absolutely.
Even after we wrapped, Hiddleston was curious to hear my thoughts on the film and was more than happy to geek out with me over a few of THE AVENGERS' high points. He admitted to me that he had at least seen an outline of what is planned for THOR 2 and that Loki won't be the only villain we encounter for the sequel, but, beyond that, his lips were sealed. He may have wanted to spill something, but I got the feeling he'd hate for fans' enjoyment to be spoiled prematurely by getting too much information this early.
MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS opens here in the U.S. this Friday, May 4.
"The Infamous Billy The Kidd"
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