Last week we reviewed the movie, and had a very interesting chat with Kevin Feige on the red carpet at the UK premiere. Yesterday we published our interview with Clark Gregg, better known to fans as franchise-lynchpin, Agent Coulson.
Today it’s the turn of villain of the piece, Loki – otherwise known as the very charming Tom Hiddleston, who spoke about making Loki (sort of) likeable, ridiculous outfits and treating comic book films as more than lightweight entertainment.
JOINING THE CAST OF AVENGERS ASSEMBLE
At what point did you know you were going to be the main villain in this? Was it before you read the script for Thor, was it basically clear that you’d be coming back for The Avengers?
I knew that if I was rubbish in Thor, I wouldn’t be allowed anywhere near The Avengers, but there was always an option, and when I actually, finally got the job in Thor, I first went and sat in Kevin’s office, and it was just to say ‘hi’, and for him to say ‘congratulations’, and shake my hand, and start the process. I was so full of Thor, and the world of Thor and what we were about to do, and then Kevin said, ‘so we need to talk about Avengers’, and I said, ‘what’s that’, and he said, ‘it’s this idea we have. We’re going to make Thor, and we’re going to make Captain America, and then hopefully we’ll get to make The Avengers, which is when all these superheroes come together’, and I thought, ‘that is an extraordinary pipe dream,’ and he said, ‘you know, what happens is in the very first edition of the very first Avengers comic, which was published in 1963, Loki was the villain, and I think it might be interesting to replicate that’. And he was really excited about that, and I think in his mind, he was thinking ahead, because that’s the kind of producer he is.
WORKING ON LOKI WITH BRANAGH AND WHEDON
Loki May be a villain, but he’s a rather likeable one. How on earth did you achieve that?
I started building the character with Kenneth Branagh in Thor. We approach all characterisation in the same way, you have to start from a place of compassion. It doesn’t matter how evil and misguided and deluded the choices of a character are, in their own mind, they’re the hero of their own story, and that is true of everyone in this room. We are the lead protagonists in the movie versions of our lives.
Part of what excites me about the job of acting is that it’s an exploration of human nature. There’s a psychological element to it. The part I love is that you’re extending your understanding of human beings, and examining truths that don’t belong to you, and if you look at the villains of human history, quite often they’re motivated by emotional damage. That was the interesting place to start with Loki, he was somebody who was brought up as a prince in the royal family with the expectation that one day he would be a king. Throughout the course of that film he learns that the entire narrative of his life is a lie, he was actually the illegitimate son of a monster, left out in the cold, adopted and then cheated. So he’s essentially this damaged soul, whose heartbreak hardens into a menace and a megalomania, a vanity, an arrogance and a pride, which I hope is why you can’t entirely hate him, because underneath all that villainy is a damaged soul.
Was there a big difference in the approach you and Kenneth had to the character and you and Joss?
You know, there isn’t, because Joss was such a fan of what I did, and what Kenneth and I had built in Thor, and Marvel run a very collegiate shop, it’s a real team. But Joss also knew that I couldn’t, that the arc of the character in The Avengers couldn’t be as poignant, because the Avengers have to have a reason to assemble, and the whole – what’s beautiful about superhero films is that they’re redemption dramas, and the good guys have to win, that’s what makes us feel good, and in order for them to win in a satisfying way, they have to have a threat, and a challenge for them to overcome, and in The Avengers, Loki is that challenge, so I had to accept all that work I’d done in Thor on his heartbreak, and then give myself up to the destructive aspects of that character.
HUMOUR, OUTFITS AND EGOS
One of the defining elements of the film is the humour. It’s so much fun. Was it fun to play opposite the rest of the Avengers?
It was the time of my life actually. These are actors I’ve respected since before I was an actor. I was just someone who went to the movies a lot. A scene like that with The Hulk, for example, it thrills me to sit in front of an audience and hear people laugh, because it took a lot of preparation. There’s a level of arrogance just before that moment, which is why I think it’s so funny. It would all be broken up physically as well, so as I was saying those lines, there was a wire tied to my ankle, which then three of the strongest men in Albuquerque yanked, and then it cut away to another shot. It’s a hugely elaborate gag, and hearing people laugh about it is thrilling.
On more than one occasion you get to wear very elaborate costumes. How happy were you on set that Mark Ruffalo had to wear a much sillier costume than you.
It was sillier, but lighter. It was fun, we all had moments of wardrobe embarrassment.
Do you think that helped keep egos in check?
There was no room for egos on this set. That really is – it’s so funny that that’s what everybody asks. There’s no place for an ego in a film of this size, because everybody wanted it to be brilliant, and that demanded the commitment and professionalism of every single person. And apart from anything else, it’s a film about a team, and it would be so ironic if we were trying to make this film about how the achievements of a team are greater than the achievements of an individual, and there’s a load of individuals throwing their toys out of the pram and behaving like divas.
MORE THAN JUST LIGHTWEIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
In the piece you wrote for the Guardian, you mentioned an anecdote about Christopher Reeve being mocked for playing Superman. Has anyone made fun of you for being in a comic book movie?
No. No they haven’t actually, because I think there’s a much more refreshing, kind of respect for how much craft it takes to make a film like this. But some people – yes actually. Some people who have never done it, and have never experienced the challenges that come with making a film of this size, and the stamina and commitment required, there have been interesting moments of presumption, that it was easy, or somehow slumming it in superhero films. That it is, somehow, an ignoble thing to do with your training.
How do you react to that?
I try to react with decorum. I have to let it be water off a duck’s back. There was one instance where I was marginally insulted by somebody who dismissed Thor as a piece of ridiculous, paper-thin, lightweight entertainment, that somehow wasn’t deemed proper work for a young actor. But this particular person in question had never attempted anything of that scale, so I just had to say, ‘he just doesn’t know. It’s fine’.
Is there anything inherently wrong with paper-thin, lightweight entertainment?
Absolutely not. People love escapism, and there should be a place for it. I don’t want to get bogged down into a debate about the worthiness of superhero films. Part of the reason children love them, part of the reason I loved them as a child, is it’s fantasy. It just appeals to your imagination, and part of the reason for having an imagination is you can just escape into it, and that’s what cinema still is, so absolutely, entertainment first, and if you’re lucky to make a piece of art at the same time.
LIFE AFTER LOKI
Where do you go from here? You’ve done Thor, War Horse, this. Do you want to go for something more intimate?
That’s actually what I am about to do. I’m just about to start work on a Jim Jarmusch film, and it’s a love story called ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’, and it’s a very small scale intimate piece about the nature of love. It’s about a man and a woman and all of the tenderness and complexity of that engagement. Tilda Swinton and I will be playing lovers in that film, and the only twist is that they happen to be vampires.