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How to put this nicely? Typically the actors who play diabolical villains on the screen share some of their characters' brutish physical qualities or demeanor. You can see what inspired the casting director to call on them to play that pathological killer who wouldn't think twice about detonating a dirty bomb at a nursery school.
Tom Hiddleston is no such actor.
The 31-year-old Brit who played the evil Asgardian Loki in the last year's summer hit "Thor" and reprises the role in the superhero spectacle "The Avengers" couldn't be more charming and benevolent when you meet him in person.
Just read on for a taste of the actor's humility and grace. Loki would be sickened by it.
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Landing the role of Loki in "Thor" had to feel good. But then getting the call for a movie as ambitious and groundbreaking as "Avengers," that's a whole new ballgame. Do you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders?
I suppose I should, but I honestly don't. I really should. Hearing you say that, I think I probably should feel more responsibility. But I did work incredibly hard, so maybe I've just blanked out the responsibility I felt before I started shooting. I think because I knew that it has so much riding on it — by which I mean people have such high expectations — and there are so many people who want it to be so good, so before going into it I had to remind myself: "I am the principle villain in this absolutely unique and unprecedented superhero film. Tom, you have to bring it." And I remember thinking before I started, "There's no room for fatigue. You just have to be on point for every second of every day for five months."
Introducing yourself to the global masses in two projects where you're the super villainous role, do you worry you might have trouble landing a romantic comedy?
I hope not, because in a way I think that the romantic comedy guy is probably closer to who I really am than Loki, which is a good thing for everybody, including myself. But I've also been real lucky and I've done other kinds of movies. They are smaller but still no less prestigious projects — I was in the Woody Allen film, "Midnight in Paris," and I played a very kind and decent and British officer in Steven Spielberg's "War Horse." So I feel like I've got these other characters which I hope [will not pigeonhole] me too much.
Do you consider yourself much of a fanboy?
I actually am a fanboy. I'm not necessarily a comic book fanboy but I'm a film fanboy. I'm a movie nerd.
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Do you think "Avengers" sticks closely to the comic books?
Well, having me as the villain is a close adherence to the very first edition. So if you lift up the very first "Avengers" comic, on the front, the panel is Loki with his horns and a speech bubble saying, "Bah! I will destroy you all!" And Iron Man is there, and Thor and I think Antman is also there, and the Hulk. So it takes its precedent from the comics appropriately, but it also has to acknowledge the existence of all the films that have come up.
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Are there ways in which you relate to Loki?
Gosh. Well, he's kind of imbued with a tragic, spiritual desolation, and so, in a way, of course all of us in our lives have had times where we feel alone, where we feel like abandoned or misunderstood or confused and lonely. We've all been there. It's not possible to get to 30 years old and not have at least at some point felt lonely or betrayed or somehow irrelevant and I think Loki feels irrelevant, or that's who he becomes in "Thor." He's the younger brother of the favorite son and he finds out through the course of the story that he doesn't belong there, and he doesn't belong anywhere, and that's what motivates his menace, so I guess I just have to get inside that feeling and expand it and then relive in it.
But I don't feel like that in my own life. I'm very lucky and I have lots of people around me who make me very loved and valued and appreciated. But it's fun— the bit about acting I love is the excavation of the truth from someone else's perspective, so Loki's truth is a damaged one. He doesn't trust anyone and he's going to make them pay for it.
Well, if you enjoy playing the villain, you have to enjoy a film that has so many superheroes. Do you have a favorite Avenger to torment?
[laughs] They all have different pleasures, shall we say. What's fun is the way that Loki interacts with each of them is completely different, so Loki has a quality of entitlement and condescension with Captain America, you know, "Psshh, super soldier, you're still a man." And with Thor, he does this horrible kind of angst and a physical intensity, and with Iron Man it's all about wit and strategy and arrogance and banter. Does Tom have a favorite or does Loki have a favorite?
Does Tom have a favorite?
Oh man, it's so hard to pick favorites. I had a really great time with Robert.
It sounds like all the Avengers created a very family-like environment on the set. Were you welcomed into that community or did you keep it method and hang in the wings while they all bonded?
Yeah. That would have been a cold, cold move on their behalf. No, I was massively part of the group hug.
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What surprised you about working with Steven Spielberg on "War Horse"?
Many things are surprising. The first thing that is surprising is how accessibly humble he is. He really is. I met him and from the way he is, you'd never know that he is one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, just because he's a father and a friend and a husband and he really treats people with equanimity. I never ever felt like he was bigger than me or looking down his nose at me and that was really amazing to see in a man of such stature — there's this sense of completely, self-deprecating humility and kindness and generosity and an amazing sense of humor — very free with an anecdote — and all the anecdotes you want to know, like what was it like with Sean Connery and Harrison Ford on "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade"?
And I suppose the third most surprising thing is just how incredible he is at his job, just directing films. You want him to be incredible, and then you watch him do it and the speed of his execution, the kind of efficiency of his minute-by-minute decision-making on the set is amazing. Like just his ability to see a moment, capture it, corral the crew and the cast to create it, and then move on, is really amazing. He's able to get these moments of brilliance from his cast and his crew without ever making it feel like it's forced or making them feel like they're wasting time or energy.