I take pride in the fact that I knew Tom Hiddleston before he rose to international fame as „Loki“ in Thor. I remember thinking something along the lines of, „Ah, that’s nice of Kenneth Branagh to give his co-star from the BBC-series Wallander a role in this movie!“ Admittedly, I wasn’t as infatuated with him as I was after having been introduced to Loki but I did know that he had done some good work on Wallander – and I knew that, in fact, he had curly red hair and, therefore, rolled my eyes when reading some fans‘ complaints („Why did he change his hair color???“) when dark-haired, mysterious Loki suddenly appeared as red-haired, funny Tom on red carpets and in interviews. I do understand, though, why millions of girls and women around the globe have fallen for Tom because of Loki, the God of Mischief. In the first Thor instalment, we got to know him as Thor’s jealous little brother, who would go to any lengths to prevent his brother from succeeding his father Odin on Asgard’s throne. Even though, at that point, I still was only „mildly“ interested in Tom, I still thought he was a big part of why I had enjoyed the movie more than I had expected. And then, of course, came The Avengers! For the first time in years I was so utterly „in love“ with an actor that I could hardly think about anything – or anyone – else. I started to search for interviews on YouTube, I ordered some of his previous work, everything seemed to revolve around him. As it is with real-life relationships, after a while the first phase of being madly in love slowly turned into the second phase of deep appreciation of his impact on „my life“, (that sounds a bit exaggerated) or at least on my media consumption, without having to catch every single public appearance of his – on red carpets or talk shows. I do want to catch most of his work done on the big screen – or on stage. I must admit, though, that I still haven’t seen all of his performances on film, but let me try and make a list of those I have. I’ll try to stick to the order in which I have seen his performances:
- Wallander (Series 1 + 2)
- Midnight in Paris
- The Avengers
- The Deep Blue Sea
- War Horse
- The Hollow Crown (BBC production of Shakespeare history plays): Henry IV, Part 1 + 2, Henry V
- Thor: The Dark World
- Friend Request Pending (short film)
- Only Lovers Left Alive
- Miss Austen Regrets
- Coriolanus (Shakespeare, National Theatre Live)
Which of his performances have enthralled me the most? Surely, for once, his electriyfying portrayal of Loki, without whom the two Thor instalments and The Avengers would have been only half as good: his deep voice infused with either a pinch of disappointment or mischief, his malicious look and grin, the way he just nails the sarcastic lines that have been written for him – all of this makes him just the perfect villain, one of those that you love to hate and would hate to lose. What really blew my mind, however, were his Shakespeare performances. He played Prince Hal in Henry IV (Part 1+2) and King Henry in Henry V in the BBC series „The Hollow Crown“, which was aired in 2012 to coincide with the Olympic Games in London. Tom is so incredibly credible in this role, so flawless in getting across these difficult lines in Shakespearean English – I couldn’t avert my eyes from his beautiful face, tried to soak up every single one of the beautiful words he was saying. And then there was the day when I was at my local movie theater, which takes part in the National Theatre Live program, and saw a flyer about the coming-up live broadcasts – with Tom Hiddleston’s face on it. He was going to take up the title role in Coriolanus, another Shakespeare play. I was giddy with excitement: seeing him perform live on stage – what a treat! I did toy with the idea of actually flying to London but gave that up because I would have had to go all alone. (I did regret this decision later and I won’t make the same mistake again!) So I „only“ saw him via satellite on the huge screen in the movie theatre – larger than life! It was a mesmerizing performance – he brought an amazing physicality to the role and showed a wide range of emotions and an admirable ability, once again, to get across Shakespeare’s lines as if it was his natural way of speaking. Having said that, he was also a great „team player“, working together brilliantly with Mark Gatiss (Mycroft Holmes in BBCs „Sherlock“), for instance.
The thing that I really appreciate about the way Tom makes his career moves is that he doesn’t forget his roots, now that he’s become part of a huge franchise and gained millions of fans all across the world. What did he do after The Avengers and Thor 2? He went back to performing on stage. And he took part in a comparatively low-budget film by Jim Jarmusch (Only Lovers Left Alive), playing a vampire alongside Tilda Swinton. Moreover, he hasn’t forgotten the writer-director who gave him his first role in a movie (Joanna Hogg, e.g. Archipelago, his movie debut was in Unrelated, which I haven’t seen yet); so he appears in her next movie (Exhibition). So, instead of merely focusing on a high-flying career in Hollywood, he stays „down to earth“ and keeps to his British roots and classical education. That makes me love him even more!