As the latest adventure from Marvel, Thor brings us a bit of Norse mythology with superheroes kicking arse in between. But behind every superhero lurks the shadowy villain, often morally twisted and tied with the good guy inescapably. Cut Print Review talked with Tom Hiddleston about his role as Thor’s brother Loki, Chris Hemsworth and his yet-to-be-confirmed appearance in The Avengers.
CPR: How was the (world) premiere in Sydney last night?
Tom: Oh it was amazing, absolutely amazing.
CPR: Had you been to something as big as that before red-carpet wise?
Tom: I’ve been to the premieres of friends of mine in London but it’s my first time in Sydney, first time in Australia.
Tom: Yeah! I literally got in about 9:00 on Saturday night and went straight to bed, so to go out for my first night in Sydney and have that size a party, it was a hell of a welcome.
CPR: Fantastic! So you’ve had a good reception for the film then?
Tom: Yeah, people have really seemed to respond to it which is lovely. And not just comic book fans but you know, movie lovers and people who love going to the cinema so it’s been great.
CPR: I have a friend from Melbourne who was at the Sydney premiere for her birthday because her brother won tickets … a pretty awesome coincidence, and from what I know she had a good time!
Tom: Wow, that’s great!
CPR: How much did you know about the comics before going in to audition? Were you a fan?
Tom: I was a fan… as a kid we had these decks of cards we call Top Trumps. They’re basically a kids game, and you can get them for racing cars and fighter planes and motorbikes and stuff but I had the Marvel Superheroes Top Trumps, and so basically I had this deck of cards and each character had a listing of all their statistics, their height, weight and intelligence and superpowers so I had all this information.
CPR: So you knew everything then? You were a Marvel encyclopaedia!
Tom: Don’t test me now though!
CPR: When you auditioned, you went for the role of Thor as opposed to Loki didn’t you?
Tom: Yeah I did… I’ve got dyed black hair in the film but my natural generic inheritance is that I’m blond and like every other blond English-speaking actor in the world I was hopeful as they were casting out to find their Thor. So initially I tested for the part and did some crazy gym time trying to get arms that would convincingly create thunder, but that’s all up to Chris Hemsworth now and I have to say he does a magnificent job.
CPR: Well it’s exciting for us Aussies to see a role like Thor go to someone who was originally in Home & Away. …
Tom: He’s amazing in it. Absolutely magnificent as Thor, and there’s no way I could have delivered what he’s done… breathtaking actually. So Australia should be very proud of him.
CPR: Did you manage to form a bond on set quite quickly? You come from different backgrounds – Chris on H&A and you with a theatrical past.
Tom: Weirdly enough actually, as people we got along like a house on fire from the get-go. I don’t know how Ken Branagh saw that possibility but from the moment I met him I knew we were off to the races. We all met in London with Ken quite early on in the proceedings and we were just excited you know, it’s the biggest thing that’s happened to both of us and ultimately it doesn’t matter that he’s been on H&A and that I’ve been doing Shakespeare in London, we both got into acting because we loed Superman and Indiana Jones and we loved the same films as kids, so it really felt like we were running off this high diving board together you know, so it’s really cool. And we took the Mickey out of each other on set too, he’d constantly be taking the piss out of my theatrical background and I’d be doing mock Australian accents and making surfing jokes so there was some joshing to keep us going.
CPR: Okay, so working with Chris Hemsworth is one thing, working with Kenneth Branagh is another — you’ve worked together a few times before. Was it different this time on a much bigger (Hollywood) set?
Tom: The strange thing is, the fact it was Ken directing it made it feel less like a Hollywood-ish thing. I don’t know, acting is such a partnership; the best acting I’ve ever done is because of the people I’m acting with, and when I was acting with Ken there’s such a mutual trust that is involved and you do become very close very quickly, especially if you’re doing very emotional scenes, you’re kind of revealing yourself to one another. We obviously have a shared sensibility and a real trust there, so having him behind the camera, especially when he’s asking me to go to some really extreme emotional places, was really great. Oddly, it took the pressure off in a way, and the fact that it was him made it feel less like a big deal.
What I felt was that I didn’t have to prove anything; do you know what I mean? He knew who I was and what I could do, and he would just get on with it and have a good time.
CPR: That’s a great segue into my next question; Ken’s been quoted as saying that you possess terrific versatility and an utter lack of fear regarding multiple personalities of characters like Loki… so what -
Tom: Hang on, can you say that again?
CPR: *repeats question*
CPR: Yes, I thought that was a pretty strong statement! So I wanted to ask what influences the way you approach your acting?
Tom: Gosh, that’s an amazing question. …
CPR: Thank you!
Tom: I think acting; I see it as an extension of compassion really, in that it’s our job to inhabit all sorts of different characters and I think within every human being there’s a capacity for every possibility. We’re capable of love, destruction, fear and joy and hatred, pain… all of those things, and the excitement and the challenge of acting is being asked to step into the dark stuff. I’d love to do some comedy stuff now actually (laughs), I’ve always played somebody pretty damaged but the actors I’ve always respected, you know, people like Anthony Hopkins, Daniel Day-Lewis, Sean Penn, they’re not afraid to go to the psychologically complex places, and it’s a thrill to be allowed to do that in a way, to be trusted by Ken and by Marvel to inhabit that damaged soul of Asgard.
CPR: That’s a good way of putting it; I had ‘the most conflicted character’ of the story, but the ‘damaged soul of Asgard’ – that’s a good one. Having played a lot of dark roles throughout your TV/theatre career, do you find it easier playing that kind of character compared to someone generally cruising through life?
Tom: I don’t think anybody cruises through life, even if it looks like they’re cruising. They’re probably like those proverbial swans, look beautiful and elegant on the surface but paddling like hell underneath. It’s my great hope to never be pigeon-holed or boxed in as an actor and that I’ll constantly be able to surprise people and surprise myself actually with what I can play and what I’m capable of. It’s funny, when I first left RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts), which was my acting school in London, I kept being given all these really nice guys in these dramas, you know, someone who’d show up on a horse and be dashing and do the right thing and get the girl. I was constantly saying to my agent ‘I want to play somebody dark and interesting’, and now Loki’s come along and I bet you I’ll have to fight to play the nice guy again.
CPR: Well you haven’t pigeon-holed yourself now, it’s a big blockbuster compared to your past work so you’re broadening your horizons in that respect.
Tom: Yeah totally! The variety is the spice of life, to coin the cliché. It keeps me interested.
CPR: I read that Ken gave the cast reference books before shooting, including novels with self-help theme. How did you react to that?
Tom: I think it was great; it helped to get your arm around the part in a really interesting specific way. It’s kind of new and different; I read this amazing, interesting book called They Fuck You Up which is about the formation of personality and how it leans really heavily on nurture over nature in the debate. I thought with Loki that was really interesting, in terms of who he is as a bad guy isn’t necessarily in his nature but it’s what happened to him in the course of his nurture.
Oh no, I’m getting strange air traffic signals that I’ve got one more question before I have to go. …
CPR: Oh no, really?
Tom: I know, I could talk all night but that’s what they’re telling me. …
CPR: Ok, I have to ask — I don’t know how cryptic you’re going to be in your response — but post Thor, can you tell us anything at all about any possible involvement for Loki, or yourself playing Loki, in The Avengers?
Tom: I don’t know if it’s going to be that one, I know that Loki will probably come back in some form where people least expect him… he’s always lurking in the shadow. So I can’t tell you anything concrete but I’m working on it. Okay?
CPR: Okay, no worries! Thank you so much for talking with us, all the best for the film!
Tom: Thanks, it’s been a great pleasure to talk to you.
Thor opens in Australia on April 21 2011.