By Marc Strom
Every family has their issues. But in “Thor,” hitting theaters on May 6, Tom Hiddleston will bring new definition to the term “family squabble” as he plays our hero’s mischievous brother, the malicious Loki.
|Tom Hiddleston as Loki with Chris Hemsworth and Anthony Hopkins in Thor|
While Loki’s tricks throughout his long history in the Marvel comics have always had a villainous bent to them, his character hasn’t always perfectly conformed to the definition of villain. Looking back at the original comics, both Hiddleston and the film’s director, Kenneth Branagh, wanted to respect as many aspects of Loki’s character as possible.
“Ken and I discussed it a lot very early on, because we both read a lot of the comics and there were so many facets of him in [there],” recalls Hiddleston. “There was kind of an agent of chaos who would go down to earth and turn whales into sea serpents and flowers into dragons and whole streets of cars in New York into ice cream.
“But then there was also this damaged younger brother who didn’t receive as much love as his older brother, and who was passed over, rejected, betrayed. I think that became really interesting for both of us, actually. Ken and I suddenly decided we wanted to root all of his mischief in a truthful, psychological damage. He essentially was the younger brother who was never going to be king and he wished that he could. So all of his [actions] come from wanting to please his father. I found the duality of that [interesting]—he’s a villain, he has a lot of fun, he’s a mischievous prankster, but at the same time, he’s in deep, deep pain.”
|Loki from the comics|
Known for supplying his actors with a wealth of research material, Branagh also guided Hiddleston in his preparation for the role of Loki.
“Interestingly enough, he said to look at Peter O’Toole in two specific films, ‘The Lion in Winter’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’” explains the actor. “What’s interesting about ‘The Lion in Winter’ is, [O’Toole] plays Prince Henry, and what’s beautiful about his performance is you see how damaged he is. There’s a rawness [to his performance], it’s almost as if he’s living with a layer of skin peeled away. He’s grandiose and teary and, in a moment, by turns hilarious and then terrifying. What we wanted was that emotional volatility. It’s a different acting style, it’s not quite the same thing, but it’s fascinating to go back and watch an actor as great as O’Toole head for those great high hills.”
When it came time to actually film the movie, Hiddleston used his study of O’Toole throughout the shoot.
“On set, we used to do different takes of different scenes, and we’d have [four] different versions,” Hiddleston remembers.
“The first one, he always said you can have one for free. The second take would be the Peter O’Toole take. The third one would be the Clint Eastwood take. And the fourth take would be the Jack Nicholson. So I had these three great actors I was trying to pull stuff from.
“[Branagh] used to love the Clint, actually. It was between the Clint and the Jack, because the Clint would be like, whatever you’re feeling, put it away in a drawer somewhere at the bottom of you and throw away the key. And Jack would be, have a really good time! A relish, a deep sense of enjoyment, he was really enjoying himself.”