March 28, 2016:
Tom Hiddleston sat down for a candid interview with Joe Neumaier as a part of BAFTA NY's "In Conversation" series. The series allows actors to provide an inside look at what it takes to become and remain a top-notch artist.
They covered a wide range of topics including Tom's approach to acting, the inspiration behind some of his iconic roles, and his personal motivations. You can watch the full hour-long interview below and I've highlighted some of the best moments.
(:50) Does this one go for the jugular or should I let this one wash over me - which approach do you like? I think if I'd let anything wash over me my life would be much easier. I can't explain it. I tend to go for the jugular every time... I don't know how to do it any other way. I'm aware that it can be a strength but it can also be a weakness because the focus is obsessive. And so when I go for something I go for it at the expense of everything else. I love what I do, simply. I feel so lucky that I'm allowed to it and that I get to do it for a living. Cinema and theater have had such a profound effect on me in my life. So every time a new script or a new role comes along I'm motivated by the thought that I won't forgive myself if I don't give it everything.
(6:40) Tom starts telling the story of how everything came together for him during the production of Othello. Kenneth Branagh was a guest at one of the dress rehearsals, then invited him to take part in the radio broadcast of Cyrano de Bergerac. They then went on to work together in Wallander and Ivanov before Kenneth ultimately cast Tom as Loki.
(12:35) What is the key to Loki? Ken and I kind of used Shakespearean villains as a touchstone. It read like quite a Shakespearean script and the journey of Thor actually was very similar to the journey of Prince Hal in the Henry IV and Henry V trilogy - which obviously he knew very well having playing Hal and Henry V many times... Similarly, we tried to think about the immaculate and terrifying talent for improvisation that a character like Iago has. Someone who can think on his feet and manipulate every situation to his advantage. We talked about Cassius in Julius Caesar, who is characterized as having a lean and hungry look. We talked about the brothers in King Lear - Edmund and Edgar, Edgar being the favorite son of Gloucester and Edmund being the bastard son who is driven by some sort of terrible lack of self-esteem to take his father and his brother down. Those seemed to be interesting aspects to steal from Shakespeare really. And then I just had to remind myself I was playing the God of Mischief. Which is a hell of a thing to be God of... so I knew I had to have as much fun as possible. The Devil plays all the best tunes. And weirdly, from those beginning he just emerged. He emerged in costume fittings. He emerged in as I dyed by hair black.
(17:12) What was your approach to Henry V? It was a fascinating time. The hardest thing about that challenge was doing Henry or Hal's journey in reverse. Because of the schedule of Simon Russell Beale, who played Falstaff, we had to shoot Henry V first and then shoot Henry IV... I played the character in reverse order. So by the end - the very last scenes I shot in the fifteen week engagement were when Prince Hal is at his youngest and most immature and playful in the tavern with Falstaff. I'd already done the Crispin's Day Speech. I'd already done the Once More Unto the Breach Dear Friends... with a part as complex as that - not to have experienced the beginning before I got to the middle or the end was fascinating.
(22:00) Would you like to do more comedy? I'd love to do more comedy. I really would, yes! It's something I've been asking to do for awhile. I keep telling everybody. When I'm working I've got a couple of agents who scour through scripts and new materials to send to me. They always will send me the darkest, really dark stuff. I'm like "Guys, c'mon. A romantic comedy, That's what I was up for.". I love doing comedy. There's a little bit of surrealist comedy in High-Rise and there are funny bits in I Saw the Light. But that's where it started for me as a child. If I was ever an exhibitionist, it was in the aim of making people laugh. It was pratfalls and falling off chairs. There's nothing like getting a laugh. So yes, more comedy please!
(23:15) Tom tells the story of seeing Paul Scofield in John Gabriel Borkman. I was aware I was in the presence of greatness. That was one of those life changing moments where I felt the power of dramatic story telling to unite a group of strangers.
(28:25) What appeals to you about Hank Williams? He was a huge star and changed the face of American music. And part of the excitement of it was the foreign territory. As I spoke with director, Marc Abraham, he was most interested in taking the icon off the pedestal - in getting behind the myth to play the man... The thing I found fascinating about Hank is the tension between his external charisma and his internal vulnerability. He was clearly electrifying on stage. He was like Elvis before Elvis. But he was a tortured soul. He was an addict. He was an alcoholic. He was on prescription drugs. He was afflicted with Spina bifida... With all my characters I try to get underneath the skin or behind the carapace because I think as human beings we construct an identity we present to the world. And we all put our best food forward because that's who we are. But so often behind that is a much more turbulent, much more chaotic vulnerability which we hide. We hide it with charm and with status, and with a sense of style and with detachment. But we're all so vulnerable. And I think if acting has any power, it's to show that vulnerability and that's what connects people.
(39:29) Tom talks about his talent for accents and imitations. It's something I've always done. I remember I had a double tape deck recorder when I was about nine and I used to do my own radio show. For an audience of one - The Tom Hiddleston Show. I would do all the voices. I would do the news and the weather. I was so fascinated. I loved doing voices. I've always done impressions. It comes from love. Tom also does a prolonged impersonation of Anthony Hopkins.
(54:32) What role did you have the least amount of prep time for? F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris. I was cast very shortly before I was due to shoot. Woody Allen, in his unique imitable way, didn't want me to read the whole script. He only sent the whole script to Owen Wilson. Every other actor in that film received little piecemeal stuff. I got these pages and the characters' names in the scenes were Scott and Zelda, and Ernest, and Gil. And I thought "Is that a coincidence or is that Fitzgerald?". It wasn't made explicit. I wasn't quite sure if I was being asked the play the F. Scott Fitzgerald and I couldn't get Woody on the phone. So I just sort of winged it...
(56:30) Is listening a key to acting for you? I do think the best acting I've ever done has been in response to another actor. It's been about the rally that we played together across the net. That's when acting is the most exciting. When we all do our very solitary homework and our research, and finally you get on set and you play... The best acting is reacting and listening, and that's the hardest thing to do.
The event was co-hosted by streaming service Tribeca Shortlist. Tom personally curated a list of movies and had several mini interviews. You can watch a full playlist here. His personal film recommendations were: Much Ado About Nothing, The English Patient, Trainspotting, and The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
Fashion:If anyone was thinking that this Dior Homme suit looked familiar, it's because Tom wore it during his Esquire UK photoshoot.
He also had people seeing green with these Simply Sartorial socks from London Sock Company ($18). A pair of Christian Louboutin Greggo Flatts completed the look ($895).