Tom Hiddleston is having an “It” moment right now, which is probably why everyone keeps asking the 35-year-old English actor if he’ll take over as James Bond after Daniel Craig steps down.
Most famous for playing the villainous Loki in The Avengers franchise, Hiddleston is making a splash stateside with the back-to-back releases of the Hank Williams biopic, I Saw the Light; the science fiction thriller, High-Rise; and the AMC espionage drama, The Night Manager. On the latter, he plays a sexy, confident M16 intelligence officer, leading many to draw parallels between the two spy roles.
“The comparison between Pine and Bond is flattering,” Hiddleston tells me as we sit in a conference room at the Crosby Street Hotel in New York City.
Of course, it doesn’t help that Craig has expressed his indifference about continuing with the franchise after four films as 007. But Hiddleston is quick to say any conversation -- and it has come up often over the past six months -- is “hypothetical.”
“I think any British actor that gets a phone call that says, 'Would you like to play James Bond?' There's no more enticing question than that,” he told ET in October of last year. Setting the record straight during our conversation, Hiddleston stresses to me: “I haven’t been approached, I haven’t asked, I haven’t been invited.”
While Hiddleston wouldn’t indulge in what it would be like to play the iconic character, he did address talk about a black Bond or a gay Bond, saying, “They will make a decision that is best for them.”
It’s the only time while we’re seated across from each other that the actor loses any bit of his happy demeanor. The sheer mention of Bond wipes away his smile as he goes into his thoughtfully trained response.
“I understand that people have made the link. Beyond that, I have nothing to add,” Hiddleston says with a short chuckle. And just like that, the conversation switches back to his latest three projects, which have compressed 18 months of work into one month for audiences.
“Talking about them is very peculiar,” Hiddleston says with his usual charm, which despite the slight bump over Bond has remained surprisingly intact given his hectic schedule. The actor has been in town, busily promoting his projects after wrapping production on Kong: Skull Island.
A few days prior, he was on hand for the premiere of The Night Manager at the Tribeca Film Festival, where he simultaneously thanked and apologized to the audience for his presence. The actor, who High-Rise director Ben Wheatley says recalls film idols of the ‘40s and ‘50s, is far more dashing in person than he is on screen or in Tumblr fantasies.
“I'm so proud of them all. They're very different -- each of them -- and all of them are very different from everything I've done before,” Hiddleston says with genuine intent.
To say the roles are different is an understatement.
In High-Rise, an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel about a luxury apartment building’s descent into tribal warfare available on demand April 28 and in theaters on May 13, Hiddleston plays Dr. Robert Laing. His character is first seen on screen eating the leg of a white Alsatian on the balcony of his apartment, and later, sunbathes naked on a lawn chair. “It's always odd when you take your clothes off in front of a crew, but I never had a problem with it,” Hiddleston adds.
For I Saw the Light, which is in theaters now, Hiddleston ran 10 miles and sang six hours each morning to embody the rail-thin Hank Williams, whose rise to fame in country music was eclipsed by his sudden death at age 29. On The Night Manager, the actor plays Jonathan Pine, the aforementioned spy tasked with infiltrating the inner circle of an arms dealer played by Hugh Laurie.
“He’s always very enigmatic,” director Susanne Bier said of the actor during a discussion following the premiere of the AMC series, which airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET. “There’s always an element I don’t know.” It was a sincere compliment, a testament to his chameleon-like ability to move from one role to the next.
“The best thing about it is that I feel like I’m not one type of actor,” Hiddleston tells me about having all three roles come out at once. “I suppose I’m able to show people that I can do different things, that I’m interested in different things, and I hope people recognize that.”
Audiences certainly will take notice -- or at least, they should.
While he’s enjoyed commercial success and worldwide fandom for playing Loki, a casual fan probably would not recognize him from behind his slithery scowl and long black hair. “I constructed him so carefully,” Hiddleston says of the comic book villain, which he first played in Thor (2011). The origin story about the hammer-swinging Norse god played by Chris Hemsworth was his first major film role, elevating him to the next level of his career beyond small British dramas and various TV movies. “The character's like a costume, in a way. I pick the fabric, I pick the colors and I cut it, and I tailored it to myself. I put it on, and wore it, and expressed something different about me, I suppose.”
After three films -- Thor, The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World -- as Loki, Hiddleston has been absent from the subsequent Avengers films. Though, he’s been steadily making a name for himself with films like Crimson Peak and Only Lovers Left Alive. Now, he is set to reprise his role in Thor: Ragnarok, which will start production over the summer.
“I haven’t played in the sandbox with Marvel for four years now and I’m about to do it again,” Hiddleston says. “I’m interested to see what the experience will be like because four years is a long time. I’ve lived a lot of life in those four years. Inevitably, what I bring to the table will be different.”
That difference largely being he’s no longer an ensemble player, hidden behind the Chrises -- Hemsworth (Thor) and Evans (Captain America) -- of the franchise. Planned for a November 2017 release, the third Thor film will come out eight months after Kong: Skull Island, in which Hiddleston takes the lead as Captain James Conrad. While he won’t say much about the latest King Kong film, which also serves as the second installment in the new Godzilla-Kong cinematic universe, he jokingly told Rolling Stone that his co-star, Oscar winner Brie Larson, will not be playing the famed ape.
The upcoming part will be his most high-profile role to date, positioning the character actor as Hollywood’s new leading man, possibly joining Matt Damon, who can still blend into the background, yet -- and probably most importantly -- open a film. In fact, it’s Damon whom Hiddleston points to as example of the kind of career he hopes to obtain for himself. Though, he’s careful to even say the Oscar winner’s name for fear that people think he’s trying to emulate any one person. (But then again, Damon has his own Bond-like franchise, The Bourne Identity.)
“The actors I’ve enjoyed watching are the ones who keep going into new territory, and investigating, and surprising everybody, including me,” Hiddleston says, also mentioning Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Day-Lewis and Joaquin Phoenix as other examples “that everyone thinks are great.”
And for now, Hiddleston seems to be focused on giving the audiences characters they want to see on screen. “I hope they see Loki, I hope they see Jonathan Pine, I hope they see Doctor Laing, I hope they see Hank Williams,” he says. As long as they are fully realized, Hiddleston will be satisfied with whatever happens.