Tom Hiddleston: "Becoming an actor was a very unconventional thing in my peer group"
As the one and only Loki returns to the big screen in Thor: The Dark World, actor Tom Hiddleston explains to Donald Clarke that you don’t have to go to Eton to be a good baddie
Tom Hiddleston is following in a great tradition. For decades, Hollywood has enjoyed casting posh Englishmen as master villains. Maybe it has something to do with a post-post-colonial distrust of America’s former overlords. Maybe the patrician demeanour of the crisp-voiced thespian triggers ancient egalitarian knee-jerks. Who knows?
At any rate, Hiddleston sounded like just the right fellow to play Loki – Norse god of mischief – in Marvel’s continuing Thor saga. The tall Londoner has excelled in the plays of Shakespeare. He is well-spoken. He has those clean, sharp features. And, by golly, he’s well schooled. Eton; Pembroke College, Cambridge; Rada: that’s not so much a CV as a survey of the English educational establishment.
Now 32, he finds himself the subject of a million blogs and many more tweets. His cheeky, sly, sarcastic Loki – a perfect foil for Chris Hemsworth’s blokey thunder god – attracted attention in Thor and nearly stole the show in The Avengers. He is back this week for the very enjoyable Thor: The Dark World.
So, how is Tom coping with all the adulation? Fans of the Marvel comic-book adaptations can be a demanding bunch.
“I have been in receipt of mostly nothing but the sweetest, most generous attention and affection,” he says. “It feels like it diminishes them to call them ‘fans’. They are not just one homogenous lump. Anyway, I Iove their enthusiasm. They are more sophisticated than people realise. They love the complexity of it. But they also love that it is tongue-in-cheek.”
What does he make of the abuses wrought on the London Underground map by Thor: The Dark World. At one point, the God of Thunder climbs aboard a train at Charing Cross and is told he is three stops from Greenwich. At the London press screening of the picture, every second audience member turned to his or her companion and whispered: “no it isn’t”.
“I know. I know. Did they?” he laughs. “Oh, I like that. I have pointed that out to Kevin Feige, the producer, and he is crushed. ‘It was shot in London. It was made by Londoners. Why did nobody tell me?’ If I had been on set that day I would have explained. But that screening must have been a very British experience. I love that stuff in the film: Thor hanging up his hammer in a flat in Borough, Thor getting into a Volvo. I love that.”
Now that we’ve become friends, let’s deal with this business of his blue-ribbon education. At the start of this year, in the same Mayfair hotel, I talked to Eddie Redmayne about his years at Eton (the star of Les Misérables was a year behind Tom). As we speak, Benedict Cumberbatch, an old Harrovian, is opening in The Fifth Estate. Damien Lewis and Dominic West also went to Eton. Over the past few years, more than a few pundits have argued that you now need a bit of independent income to survive the early tricky years as an actor. Coming from that sort of background helps. What’s going on?