NEW YORK – When shooting began on Joss Whedon’s upcoming Marvel blockbuster “The Avengers,” the director gave Tom Hiddelston, who played the evil Loki in last year’s “Thor,” two bits of advice.
“More feral and enjoy yourself,” Hiddelston told HitFix at a recent roundtable discussion at New York”s Comic-Con.
With upcoming roles in Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse,” Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea” and “The Avengers,” the most anticipated Marvel film in years, enjoying himself doesn’t seem to be a problem for the 30-year-old actor these days.
But don’t expect Hiddelston’s portrayal of Loki to be a carbon copy of the first film. “Loki’s definitively more menacing [in ‘The Avengers’]. In ‘Thor,’ he was a lost prince and there was a degree of vulnerability and confusion about his identity. In ‘The Avengers,’ he knows exactly who he is and is fully self-possessed.”
For Hiddleston, Loki’s Norse history proved more inspirational than its Marvel counterpart. “[‘Thor’ director] Ken [Branagh] and Marvel already had a clear take on the world they wanted to make, but I borrowed from both [Marvel and Norse]. In the Marvel mythology, initial incarnations of Loki just have him cackling on the rooftops. He’s very much a two-dimensional villain. It was only in the Norse myth that you see how psychologically complex Loki seemed to be.”
Whedon’s sci-fi/fantasy mind may seem worlds away from the Shakespeare-loving Branagh, but the actor says the two share more similarities than you’d think. “Joss is a huge Shakespeare buff and Ken’s actually a closet comic book fanboy,” Hiddelston says. “They both have a pan-literacy about storytelling, mythology and literature and comics and they understand the classic tropes and narrative arcs of storytelling. But Ken has a classical warmth about him and Thor is both warm and classical in turn. Joss is more interested in comedy in a sci-fi context.”
“The Avengers” reunites Hiddelston with on-screen brother and rival Chris Hemsworth, who played the titular character in ‘Thor.’ We asked if the two shared any character ideas during shooting, though it seems all that time together during “Thor” made that a moot point. “During our first scene together in “The Avengers,” Joss was like, ‘You really make each other better. That’s a really amazing thing to watch,’ Hiddleston says. “It’s not an intellectual thing. It’s like when you play tennis. You’re just so evenly matched. I think Joss has a soft spot for Loki. He likes him as a character and felt he could take both Thor and Loki further down that path and make the sibling rivalry a really interesting element of the clash of egos in ‘The Avengers’.”
Playing the role of a Marvel character, Hiddelston admitted to difficulties hiding his inner child. As a child, the actor was fascinated with the Marvel Superheroes edition of the popular UK children’s card game Top Trumps and couldn’t help but revert back on set. “There was one day where I managed to slightly mischievously steal Captain America’s shield and Thor’s hammer and I was parading around the subterranean tunnel,” Hiddelston said. “One of the producers saw me and said, ‘What are you doing with those?’ But I’ve got quite a good weapon in this one.”
The London-born actor was tight-lipped about revealing too much about the upcoming film – “I can sense the red dot forming on my forehead by a Marvel sniper,” he replied to one specific plot question – but shared that, despite the action taking place around the world, Manhattan will become the film’s focus point “partly because that’s where Tony Stark lives.” “It’s not an easily functioning team,” Hiddelston said of the superhero group. “A lot of the strength and uniqueness of the film comes in the fact that there’s a lot of square peg/round hole fitting going on.” Other questions received more measured responses, with the understanding that every word about the film will be parsed and scrutinized by the franchise’s fans.
Filmed in Albuquerque, Cleveland and New York, Hiddelston reveled in the cast camaraderie, which includes Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey, Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo and Samuel L. Jackson. “All the Marvel films have code names to keep things secret and ‘The Avengers’ was called ‘Group Hug,’ the actor said. “No one was from where we were shooting, so no one had anywhere else to go. Hemsworth had a good table tennis table, but we went out to bars too. One night, Hemsworth sent a round robin text message that said ‘Avengers Assemble’ and we ended up in some bar.” Sadly, no footage exists of Samuel L. Jackson yelling in a New Mexico bar wearing Nick Fury’s eye patch.
Asked the one line that fired him up to play Loki, Hiddelston couldn’t help but offer a tease to fans. “There’s a scene where I say, ‘You were made to be ruled’ that smacks of an entitlement, arrogance and menace that sums Loki up pretty well. There’s more where that came from.”
“The Avengers” opens nationwide in 3-D on May 4.