December 21, 2011:
Tom talks about filming and his preparation for War Horse:
(On the play vs the film) It’s a very different beast, to coin a phrase, because the magic of the play is that the story’s heartbreaking. I mean, I defy you not to burst into tears just because of its kind of humanitarian compassion within it. But the magic of the stage show is the theatricality of it. The fact that two minutes in, some puppeteers walk on and you’re absolutely aware that they’re puppeteers and that they’re pretending to be a horse and five minutes later, you simply believe that there is a horse onstage. That’s real, pure theatrical magic.
The film is very different in that it has to be a literal representation of the breadth and shocking waste of the first World War and real horses, real men, real soldiers, real rain. The theater is a suggestive medium and the cinema is a literal medium, so that’s where the two differ.(On learning the script) I never think about that. I just learn the lines as soon as I can and then the challenge really, for filming, is to show up and be there and respond to what’s around you. That’s where the gold dust is. It’s really strange, no amount of preparation will help you with the magic of spontaneity on the day [of filming]. You have to do all the homework to get yourself into the period, the costumes, the style, the voice, the hairdo or whatever it is, but once you’ve done all that work, you have to kind of let it go and just be there. If you’re always thinking about it, it just looks a bit over-thought. I’m sure your favorite moments in movies are things that just happen accidentally and the camera was there.
(Most memorable scene to film) It was probably my first day, which is a cavalry charge. This was the first and only time I’ll ever do it in my entire life. Captain Nichols, my character, leads a charge of 200 horses at 40 miles an hour across 400 meters of no-man’s-land into the German camp. We chase the German soldiers through their own camp and back into the woods behind them and then behind the first line of trees are rows upon rows of machine guns which the British army didn’t know where there, and it becomes a kind of coconut shy.
And you can’t fake this stuff. So Steven’s like, ‘You good to do this, Tom?’ And, no joke, I’m at the front of an army of 200 horses being ridden by 200 stunt men giving orders, and if any of us had fallen off, it would have been incredibly dangerous. And the cameras are both on two – what they call Russian arms. [They're] essentially metallic cranes, pointing back, raised from the roofs of very dynamic 4x4s. Pretty much everything was real except the bullets in the guns. So the German camp had 400 tents and fires and people cooking and extras running around. It just felt like I was there. The adrenaline of going that fast with 200 other horses going that fast behind you and the noise, apart from everything else, I’ll never forget the noise of a thousand horses’ hooves thundering across the earth. I got back to the base camp and Spielberg just literally stuck his head out from behind the tent where the monitors were and stuck his thumb up.
(On his childhood) My father is from Glasgow, so I have a lot of Scot in me, which is quite useful sometimes. My mum is from East Anglia, which is sort of the bump on the far eastern coast of the UK and I have two sisters, who I love very much, one older, one younger. My childhood was pretty good.
You pretended to be whoever you pretended to be together. My sisters and I all watched – depending on who won the competition for the remote control or for the VHS – E.T. together and Indiana Jones and Star Wars and Dirty Dancing and Uncle Buck and basically all those movies of the ’80s that any child of the ’80s grew up on!
John Candy, what a hero. So nowadays, it’s funny, they’re interested in my work, but it depends what the projects are, actually. My mum’s brother’s family are big horse people, so they’re particularly interested in War Horse, which is coming out. Some of my younger cousins love the superhero stuff, they love Thor and Loki and The Avengers and stuff, so it’s nice. When Thor came out, I did a family and friends screening and brought a bunch of toys and threw them out and my youngest cousin got Thor’s hammer and he loved it!
Well, my mum’s sister’s children are very close to us in age so us and my aunt’s children, my cousins, are very close. We all used to play together in the summer, and my sister, Sarah, and the eldest daughter of my aunt, Zoe, used to write these plays, which we would rehearse loosely for a week and then whenever we had to go home – ’cause they lived in the countryside. The day before we went home, we would put on the show for our parents. It always felt like such a huge deal, but it was literally five people and a dog in the audience in the back garden. There was one amazingly innovative one when I look back on it, and it didn’t come from me.
My other cousin Matthew and I used to build the sets and the swords. There was one called TV Travelers, which was about two kids watching TV and they get pulled in and it’s kind of like Dungeons and Dragons or The Purple Rose of Cairo. And suddenly, they were traveling around in the world of the TV, which we thought was hugely creative at the time. And we did a version of Cinderella. It was very innocent and really cool.
That’s just kids playing, I think. Whether it’s cowboys and Indians or Obi-Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader, you just play out whatever’s in your imagination. The weird thing about serious acting is I’ve always done impressions of people, all my life, and I did this thing called a balloon debate. The idea is there’s a hot air balloon traveling across the Atlantic and it’s going down and you have to give a speech as to why you should stay in the balloon. Six people are going to be chucked out and you want to stay. You can choose who you are so people would choose, like, Einstein or the man who invented the wheel, the president of the United States, Shakespeare, Mozart, whoever it happens to be, you could pick these fun people, and I chose to be some kind of TV commercial actor, which basically meant that I could, for half an hour, do impressions of all the popular TV commercials at the time. And the head of drama came up to me after that and said, ‘You know, you have something quite unique, do you fancy being in the school play?’ And that’s how I got into it, just messing around with TV commercials. Never told anybody that.
JJ also asks Tom about his fans. I believe that this is the first interview reference to the word Hiddleboner. Graham Norton famously used the term on his show in 2015.
JJ: Do you know what Tumblr is?
TH: I do know what Tumblr is.
JJ: Have you heard about the massive fan following you have on there?
TH: I have, yeah.
JJ: Do you know what the fans call themselves?
TH: Somebody did tell me this. Um…
JJ: The Hiddlestoners.
TH: The Hiddlestoners. Yeah. It’s pretty cool. It’s quite creative.
JJ: Do you know what happens when they get excited to see you? They get a Hiddleboner.
TH: (laughs) I didn’t know that! They get a Hiddleboner. That doesn’t seem to be related to my name any more! Hiddleston, yeah, but the boner…Hiddlestoner, I can see that, because my name is there. Hiddleboner…I…yeah. Okay. Wow. I should be hugely flattered, shouldn’t I? I am enormously honored and flattered.
Some quick one-liners:
One word to describe filming The Avengers: Epic
Go-to impression: Owen Wilson
Favorite Prop on set of The Avengers: Loki's Spear
Favorite Band or Album: Bon Iver
Favorite TV Show: Fawlty Towers
Last film he saw: 360
Offbeat Hobby: Table tennis