How Tom Hiddleston Makes Psycho Sexy
“There needed to be a certain charm in how this guy is played without letting him off the hook.,” says High-Rise‘s director and co-writer Ben Wheatley. “Tom immediately got that. He’s so fucking handsome — and he was willing to watch corpses being cut open to get into character. I wouldn’t do it in a million years. He did it in a second.”
“To be fair, I only watched one autopsy being performed,” the actor sheepishly says when the experience is brought up. “My character is a pathologist, so I needed to make sure I was getting it right. And you can tell a lot about a person by how they remove someone’s brains.”
Even in The Night Manager, which finds him in a more traditional mode, Hiddleston adds darkness to his espionage action hero. After a murder occurs at the swank hotel he manages, his ex-soldier hero is recruited by British intelligence to help bust Hugh Laurie’s aristocratic gunrunner. Watching Hiddleston gracefully play a classic, complex and often shirtless leading-man part like this, you wonder why he doesn’t already have a license to kill. His character must also pretend to be a thug, however – “There’s a psychopath lurking in there,” his handler observes, “I want you to find him and scare the shit out of everyone, and that includes me.” (Spoiler alert: He does) — and by the miniseries’ end, he’s completely cracked his moral compass.
“The question is: Which one is the real him?” Hiddleston asks. “He’s a righteous, angry character, and that’s what I connected with, which may be saying too much. Le Carré describes him as” — he quotes the passage off the top of his head — “‘a collector of other people’s languages, self-exiled creature of the night and sailor without designation.’ I read that to my sisters and they both went, ‘Tom, that’s you!'”
Asked whether he prefers playing sexpot oddballs or multiplex heroes, Hiddleston refuses to settle on one specific kind of role. He’d love to work on some “twisted” art-house movie again; first, however, he’s reprising his supervillain, Loki, in Thor: Ragnarok, and starring in a revisionist update of the classic giant-ape-meets-girl story, Kong: Skull Island. (He claims that he can’t say much about the latter project, except that it’s “a new reimagining of the Kong myth … and I can confirm that [costar] Brie Larson is not playing Kong.”) He’s apt to veer from an in-depth discuss of Othello — he played Cassio in a production at the Donmar Warehouse years ago — to giddily quoting a multiplex blockbuster; his Night Manager costar Laurie remembers that, when they started discussing the relationship between their characters, “Tom kept going back to Crimson Tide. He kept saying he was Denzel Washington and I was Gene Hackman. I actually ordered us both USS Crimson Tide baseball caps when the production wrapped. They should be arriving any day now.”
“In fact, I was just telling someone how much I love Furious 7,” he says, laughing “and they said, ‘Are you kidding me?'” Hiddleston suddenly puffs himself up and adopts a gruff, Rock-like cadence. ”Dwayne Johnson flexes his arm, breaks open his cast and then says, ‘Daddy has to go to work’ – if you don’t love that, I don’t know how I can appreciate you as a human being.” He smiles the snake smile for a split second, and then it’s gone.
Katherine Heigl Reflects on 'Difficult' Label After 'Grey's Anatomy' Exit: 'I Got on My Soapbox'
- Heigl's Highs and Lows