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September 22, 2012:
Tom Hiddleston sat down for a conversation with TimesTalks in Madrid. TimesTalks is a cultural and informative initiative that brings together journalists from the New York Times with international personalities from the world of art and culture.This event was held over three days at the Teatro Fernan Gomez. Tom's Talk was moderated by Matt Wolf, a London theatre critic for the New York Times and International Herald Tribune. Other guests included Jeremy Irons, Tori Amos, J.A. Bayona, Tom returned to TimesTalks in 2015.
Jeremy Irons, who had his own TimesTalks session the previous day, sat in the audience for Tom's talk.You can watch the full hour long conversation with Tom Hiddleston. I pulled out some of the best quotes below.
(4:00) Tom talking about his previous visits to Madrid with Cheek by Jowl: Madrid is one of my favorite cities in the world. Truly. When I started acting, one of my very first jobs was with a theatre company called Cheek by Jowl. They're very well known in England and they have long, for the last 25-30 years, staged huge productions old plays with usually very young companies of actors who are often at the beginning of their acting lives. I joined the company in 2006, and did two productions: The Changeling by Thomas Middleton and Cymbeline by William Shakespeare. We toured all the way around the world. We went to New York and Moscow and Reykavik and Paris and Luxemburg and Almagro. My favorite part was, it was a six month gig. We rehearsed it for six weeks, then off we go. It was just a group of us in our mid-twenties. Both tours... the last date of the gig would be in Madrid, in July at Teatro Espańol.
Here is Tom with co-star Olivia Williams while touring with The Changeling in Spain, July 2006.
(7:15) Tom on whether he considered a film career: I went to drama school really to train to be a theatre actor because I knew that drama school really gave you tools for stagecraft that you needed, I thought. And it gave you a kind of physical rigor, a professionalism, a way of attacking different texts and characters and methodologies. I wanted to immerse myself learning accents and stage fighting, and to do everything from Shakespeare to Miller to Tennessee Williams... When I started in the theatre it seemed very remote, this movie world. It was like being picked to play for Manchester United or Real Madrid - just impossible. I would be in productions, like the ones you saw at the Donmar or whatever. I'd audition for films and people would say "great audition, not this time"and I go "ok". I actually, I started making a list. I wanted to sort of make a list of directors I'd met so I didn't forget them if I met them again. I had to stop making the list because I would never book anything. People would always call my agent and say "you know Tom's terrific, we came to see him in the play". There was always this question of finance and funding.. I was like "well forget it, it's never gonna happen"...
(11:00) Tom on why he never left theatre, even after his film career took off: I feel like any actor's life blood is the theatre. Really, truly. Because it reminds you why you signed up. There's something very raw and very pure about standing in front of any audience live and performing a story from beginning to end every night. You can't retake. An editor can't snip out the best bits or the worst bits. It's very pure. There's an immediacy, an immediacy of connection with the audience that is amazing. We live in a world now where everything electronic and technological is faster and easier. Our media now is insanely quick. I said to my friend the other day "there's basically an app for everything but there's no app for acting". It's still the same art that it was for the last 3,000 years since people started standing up and singing songs, and telling poems. You still have to learn the lines and stand up and open yourself and be as truthful as you possibly can. So I think that's why theatre is so important and a part of any actor's work.
(13:40) Tom talking his decision to film The Deep Blue Sea: It was just a very simple, refined, reduced sort of poem, like a hymn to different kinds of romantic love. Every character in the play is in need of love from another but each of their ideas of love is different. I thought that it was so true and so tragic that Hester needs Freddie and Collier needs Hester and Freddie needs Hester but they need each other in such different ways and they're all coming from such different places because they each carry a particular kind of damage. And it was very beautiful... It was about love, that was the thing. It was a film about love. I'd done a lot of fighting that year. I was just playing a cavalry officer charging into the front line and Loki does a lot of fighting in his own way. It was so nice to try to get inside what happens between a man and a woman in an intimate space... Ultimately, it's just a film about two people who can't love each other in the right way.
(20:00) Tom talking about Kenneth Branagh: I owe Kenneth Branagh an enormous debt of gratitude. I owe him so much. Because... the people with the dollars, they're so scared of investing in something that's not gonna work and Ken was able to say to producers, on a film that cost a lot of money, "Tom - he's got it, don't worry". And it's just an amazing thing to do for a young actor. Everyone needs a break and like I've said there were many, many, many people - there's a long list of people who didn't give it to me. I was starting to think it was never gonna happen. (The moderator says that Kenneth has been a guiding light for Tom's career)... He's been very, very inspiring. The thing is he's never given me advice, he's never taught me how to do anything but he's always - by virtue of how he works - very inspiring. His extraordinary diligence, and care, and industriousness, and professionalism. I've never seen him literally not run at the day. He's got such energy, and he never takes anything for granted. It's never over. He just reads everything and he's a very, very searching, serious intellect.
(31:00) Tom talking about Loki's look: In terms of creating the look, we just talked about it. How do we make something that's both regal and athletic and sort of majestic, and also dark but also practical? Because you have to get through the day and fight in it, so it has to move. It's a very complicated scenario. The Americans have this word, which I think is kind of untranslatable - which is bad ass. He's a bad ass. The Marvel producers are great because they go "Tom, we want you to be able to move. Basically we want you to look awesome and bad ass."... It was fun because he's gothic and pale and damaged. It's almost like a mask. Like any character you need a mask through which to project that particular truth. Loki's truth is one of insanity and deranged evil, and he's hurt and lost and lonely. But dying my hair black and sort of painting my face in a way - it gives me so much. o that after two hours of sitting in makeup and going through costume - you look in the mirror and you're a completely different shape.
(39:00) Tom on performing The Hollow Crown: It's a mixture of intense excitement and fear because it feels like a huge mountain you have to climb. Then once you start working on it and learn it, it becomes the greatest privilege. You get to inhabit these words that have existed for 500 years... the wisdom and compassion and eloquence in the writing is something that is the greatest gift of any actor... You have to absorb the words and the feelings behind the words, and then perform the action in between them.
(55:20) Tom on his advice to aspiring actors: I believe that actors are in the business of truth and holding a mirror up to nature. It's our job to represent humanity in all of its virtue and fallibility and frailty and honesty and complexity and contradiction. Human beings are so strange because they are so contradictory... My simple advice is: Love your life. I only say that because your life is what you have to give.
After the chat. Tom took several minutes to meet with fans and was presented with many gifts.
Tom Hiddleston wore his Armani Tuxedo with satin piping. Tom previously wore this tuxedo in 2012 to the London premiere for Avengers and Wimbledon.
Teatro Fernan Gomez