TOM HIDDLESTON: OSCARS, BOND & HAMPSTEAD HEATH

Can Tom Hiddleston do no wrong? He was a hit with the British public in The Night Manager, and now his blossoming romance with Taylor Swift is all over the tabloids and he’s being touted as the next James Bond. It all seems to be turning out rather well for the North West Londoner, so what’s next? 

Words: Stephen Milton

Success is a double edged sword for Tom Hiddleston. The actor du jour with the pale green eyes and foppish Etonian breeding has watched his star ascend with a clever melange of box office triumphs and critical slow burns. From the colossal villainy of Marvel’s Loki to mind-bending noir of JG Ballard’s High Rise and a recent sojourn as a pitiless secret agent in BBC’s adaptation of John Le Carre’s The Night Manager, the 35-year-old continues to amass an ever-growing army of devoted Hiddlestoners.

With such achievement, however, comes lengthy absence from his North West London home. Towards the peak of his powers, Hiddleston is currently shooting the latest King Kong revamp, Skull Island, in Northern Vietnam with Oscar-winner Brie Larson and will find himself in the deserts of New Mexico for the next Thor installment, Ragnorok.

And then there’s all this Bond talk, which if it ever comes to fruition will include a string of shoots in exotic locales around the world. Seems lazy days round his locale are but a distant dream – though Hiddleston is careful not to complain.

We work and work to get to a point and then you realise, you haven’t been home in nine months! You haven’t enjoyed a quiet coffee on Haverstock Hill or tossed a frisbee on the Heath

‘It’s funny, isn’t it,’ he smiles, creasing crinkled furrows near his temples. ‘We work and work to get to a point and then you realise, you haven’t been home in nine months! You haven’t enjoyed a quiet coffee on Haverstock Hill or tossed a frisbee on the Heath. No pint in the beer garden of The Sir Richard Steele. There’s something sad about the whole summer going by and missing that atmosphere. But such is life. I’m getting to travel and have some completely unimaginable experiences.’

Raised in Wimbledon during his early formative years before later attending Eton alongside fellow conquering thesp, Eddie Redmayne, the Oxbridge-educated son of a pharmaceutical executive has balanced his blockbuster leanings with adulated filmmakers like Steven Spielberg [War Horse], Terence Davies [The Deep Blue Sea] and Woody Allen [Midnight in Paris].

Now, for the first time, Oscar rumours are already swirling for his latest stellar turn as tragic country music sensation Hank Williams in I Saw The Light. In a stuffy Central London hotel suite, Hiddleston sighs and rolls his eyes, shirking his toned, muscular shoulders.

‘That kind of stuff is lovely to mention and I’m certainly not complaining about the association, but it all feels rather fantastical right now. If the film gets recognised in that way, then fantastic for everyone involved.’

Hank Williams was one of the pre-eminent songwriters to ever come out of America, inspiring people like Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. But he was also deeply flawed and deeply human

The Marc Abraham directed biopic focuses on Williams years before his untimely death at just 29. The actor was mesmerised by his story. ‘He was one of the pre-eminent songwriters to ever come out of America, inspiring people like Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. But he was also deeply flawed, deeply human, plagued by human demons, and yet incredibly charismatic and incredibly authentic. He was such a huge star largely because people knew he was for real. And that’s rare in this day and age.’

Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams in I Saw The Light (2015)

Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams in I Saw The Light (2015)

Much of the awards-rumouring comes from Hiddleston’s commitment to the role, largely a result of his dedication to perform Williams back catalogue unaided by pre-recordings after preparing for months with country singer, Rodney Crowell.

However, the star found himself plunged into the deep end at a music festival in Michigan, coerced into performing in front of 20,000 people. ‘That was… confronting to say the least,’ he says. ‘I was staying with Rodney in Nashville, preparing for the role and he says to me [in flawless Southern drawl], “Tommy boy, I gotta head on up to Michigan to play this gig at a festival, so I figure you come on the road with us, get an idea of what it’s like to be on the road as part of a band.”

So I think, “perfect, couldn’t be better preparation”. But I remember playing Move It On Over on the road, and Rodney says to me, “you know I think we should just get you on up there. Yea, to sing on stage.” And that’s how I found myself playing Moving It On Over in front of 20,000 people. And Rodney called it a baptism by fire!’

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Classically handsome in a fitted white shirt and faded jeans, brandishing a blindingly white grin, it’s easy to understand why Hiddleston has accumulated a loyal following. And as with War Horse co-star and good friend, Benedict Cumberbatch and his ‘Cumberbitches’, Hiddleston has his own devoted ‘Hiddlestoners’ – though he claims no responsibility for the nickname. ‘I certainly didn’t come up with it,’ he laughs. ‘I think I would have come up with something a little more flattering for them.’

Unlike the Cumberbitches, however, the Hiddlestoners are campaigning hard for his installation as the next Bond, following a rather 007-alike performance in The Night Manager. Does he share their same drive for the dream? He shifts uncomfortably in his chair. ‘Whenever it gets put to me, it’s probably cursing any possibility of it happening. All we can do is see what transpires. As of now, it’s not happening.’

He unleashes that arresting grin and there’s an unmistakeable glint in his eye. Surely it’s the stuff of dreams, I ask? ‘Look, that’s a given. I would love to be James Bond, it would be huge fun, not to mention a huge compliment but it feels so… hypothetical.’ For now…

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