There’s an astronomical term known as the standard candle. This is an astronomical object that has a known absolute magnitude. By knowing this you can use it to compare with other objects and, therefore, work out how big and bright they are. For me, Tom Hiddleston is something of a standard candle in that we’re both about 1.88m tall. Therefore, I can use him to estimate how tall everyone else is!
I’d like to say that I can also use him to assess my relative talent, looks, and intelligence but he leaves me way behind in most of those categories; modesty forbids me from saying which. Oh…we’re both born in the middle of February. Admittedly there was nearly a quarter of a century between those Februarys. In fact, while he was being born in Westminster I was teaching a couple of miles away near Paddington…the district in London, not the bear.
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Tom’s Early Days
So, while I was dinging Design Technology into the recalcitrant heads of 5th formers from the Maida Vale area Thomas William Hiddleston was making his way into the world. From that point on he moved away from where I was based; his early years were spent in Wimbledon and he later moved out by Oxford. His early years were spent in the way that the literature of my youth suggested that all English children did…at boarding school.
From age seven Tom was sent away to school in the loving way that middle and upper class parents seem so keen to do. First was to Windlesham House School then, a year later, off to the Dragon Prep School which led to toddling off to Eton College. Yes, that Eton College. Old school of James Bond, Captain Hook, Bertie Wooster, Eddie Redmayne, Charles Hawtrey, Hugh Laurie, and various reprobates who went on to become Prime Ministers or members of various royal families.
First Steps Onto The Stage
From there he went to Pembroke College, Cambridge where he got a double first in Classics; that’s Latin and Ancient Greek by the way. While at Cambridge he took part in some student plays and was spotted by a talent scout while in A Streetcar Named Desire. Unsurprisingly, he went on to study at RADA (the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts) from where he graduated in 2005.
But some talents just can’t be taught and it was while he was still a student that he started getting TV parts. They may have been small parts but he was getting his face seen on a variety of channels. His debut was in an ITV production of Nicholas Nickleby in 2001 which he followed up with a part in a BBC/HBO co-production called Conspiracy. The following year he played an Eton alumnus and the father of Winston Churchill, Randolph Churchill in The Gathering Storm.
Tom Hiddleston – Screen Debut
He did the decent thing and didn’t get a film role until after he graduated. This was in a film called Unrelated in which he appeared with his sister, Emma. It wasn’t nepotism that got him the part though. The casting director said that there was a “fantastic confidence about him”; that is one of the first things that they teach you at public school.
Usually, this is the point when we say that there were years of tireless slog around the provincial theatres and bit parts on film and TV before THE big part landed. Well, there was a certain amount of theatre work, and a few films. The main way that Mr Hiddleston kept the wolf from the door was with TV work. As well as an appearance on Casualty (along with 98% of British acting talent), Tom got regular cast slots in series like Return To Cranford, Suburban Shootout, and the English remake of the Swedish crime drama, Wallander.
During that last series he was working with the legend that is Kenneth Branagh. Sir Ken was the eponymous DI Wallander and Tom was part of his team, Magnus Martinsson. Whether that working partnership had something to do with a later casting decision I don’t know. But Messrs Branagh and Hiddleston also worked together in the West End during a revival of Chekov’s Ivanov.
So, from RADA graduation in 2005 it took a whole six years to get to his big break. In this case, big means global. Of course, I’m talking about his casting as Loki in the Kenneth Branagh directed entry of the MCU – Thor. Originally, Tom was going for the titular role of Thor for himself and started on the now familiar super hero regime; high protein diet, a lot of gym time, and some martial arts training.
As we now know that role went to a Hemsworth; Chris and Liam were both going for it. But Tom got one of the more interesting parts in that particular film. I mean, let’s face it, the role of Thor is mainly standing around flexing muscles and Chris Hemsworth does that very well. I don’t wish to disparage Mr Hemsworth’s thespian skills: he was excellent in Bad Times At The El Royale, Ghostbusters, and Men In Black: International. It’s just that the part isn’t really up there with Hamlet and Macbeth.
Now you could be forgiven for thinking “what do you expect, it’s the MCU not the RST”. But there are some very meaty roles in the Marvel franchise. One was that of Odin which Anthony Hopkins worked wonders with. Another was the woefully underused Idris Elba’s Heimdall. However, in my humble opinion, the one that has by far the most going on is, no surprise, Loki.
Tom Hiddleson Enters The MCU – Loki
Loki starts off as a seemingly solid and reliable member of the crew. He is, after all, the son of Odin and Frigga, brother to Thor, and a prince of Asgard. He follows Thor, Sif, and the Warriors Three to do battle with the Frost Giants. While there, Loki discovers that he is not actually the son of Odin after all. The dark hair didn’t set off any warnings when you looked at your blonde family?
But then it starts going all Shakespearean; it goes all “double, double toil and trouble”. Tom Hiddleston based his Loki on three different actors: Peter O’Toole – enigmatic and reckless, Jack Nicholson – edgy and nearly insane, and Clint Eastwood – simmering anger. Seems a bit more complex than flexing a muscle and swinging a hammer! No…I know there’s more to it than that! And that’s just the opening film. As he progresses through the series there is an range of emotion on display.
That range just shows what an awesome, natural actor Tom Hiddleston is. And he has, rightfully, become known around the world as Loki. Not surprising really, seeing as how he appears in six episodes of the Marvel saga, three episodes of What If…?, and his own TV series. I’ve heard rumours that there may be a second series of Loki and I am certainly looking forward to that.
Other Parts – Tom Hiddleston
But there is much more to Tom Hiddleston than just the god of mischief. As part of my preparation for this article, I have been watching some of his works. Obviously, there was a couple of MCU films in there but there were some others too. It seems that 2011 was quite the year for our Tom. As well as the aforementioned Thor there was a part in War Horse and the short was called Friend Request Pending which also featured Judi Dench.
I suppose if there wasn’t all the MCU backed hullaballoo surrounding Thor then the highest-profile film that Tom Hiddleston was in during May of 2011 would have been Midnight In Paris. This is a delightful little film but what do you expect when the director is non other than Woody Allen! If you haven’t seen it, it’s a fantasy comedy. A writer, Gil Pender (Owen Wilson), gets a lift in a vintage car after a drunken evening. It transpires that, somehow, Gil has been taken back to the Paris of the 1920s. While there he bumps into Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker, Dali, Picasso, Gauguin, Man Ray, Buñuel, and many more. Tom Hiddleston plays F Scott Fitzgerald.
Indie And/Or Mainstream
The next film I watched was Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive. This came out in 2013 mid way between the first two Thor films. This is another fantasy comedy but is nowhere near the same sort of film as Midnight In Paris. In fact it is unlike any other film I can think of. It is a film about a group of vampires but the word “vampire” is never mentioned. It is also a very moody, peaceful film.
Apparently there was an action scene shot and the studio wanted more. Jarmusch being the contrary, indie director that he is promptly cut out the action film already shot! It all sounds a bit odd but it is well worth seeing if you get the chance. As well as Mr H, there is the ever wonderful Tilda Swinton and the much missed John Hurt. If you had to think of an ethereal, other worldly group of people to play a family of vampires you’d be hard pressed to outdo Hiddleston, Hurt, and Swinton. OK…Mads Mikkelsen would fit right in as well.
The next thing I saw Mr Hiddleston in was his entry into another franchise…Kong: Skull Island. This time our Thomas is in full on action mode as former SAS Captain James Conrad. Obviously all the fitness and fight training that he’d had to do whilst with Marvel has been a great benefit to him for this role. Basically, they just needed to chuck in some weapons training and he was good to go! There are many more examples of Tom Hiddleston’s work that I could have spent time looking at and enjoying but I’ll limit myself to just two more. And, to try and close the circle, I’m going back to a couple of TV series that I’ve recently watched. The first one is his latest outing; The Essex Serpent. This is a six part mini series based on a novel by Sarah Perry. welcome
The Monsterverse Welcomes Tom Hiddleston
Cora Seaborne (Claire Danes) leaves London following the death of her abusive husband. She moves out to the Essex countryside. There she meets Stella Ransome (Clémence Poésy) and her husband, the vicar, Will (Tom Hiddleston). While there she gets to know of a local tale of a mythical creature that stalks the local marshes. Friendships, romances, and theories flourish in a nicely atmospheric series from Apple TV+. The other series I watched is one from a few years ago, 2016 to be precise, called The Night Manager. I bought this a few years ago, probably when it was on offer, but never got around to watching it. So, having a look at all things Hiddlestonian, I decided to have a look and, guess what…it is awesome! I binge watched it twice!
So, what’s it about? Jonathan Pine (Tom Hiddleston) is a former soldier and the night manager of a luxury hotel in Cairo. While there, he comes into possession of some incriminating documents. He passes them on to a friend of his in the embassy, a much underused Russell Tovey. He passes them up the line to a branch of MI6. Long story short, the documentation is to do with illegal weapons sales. Pine is recruited by MI6 to get inside and break the ring.
The story is based on a John le Carré story so you know it is going to be full of twists, turns, and suspense. What it is also full of is talent. The big baddie is Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie) and he is excellent as the ruthless, mega rich, arms dealer. Pine is recruited by Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) who is the manager of an FCO task force. Angela is heavily pregnant and fed up in the same mould that Gary Oldman was in the magnificent Slow Horses. It will be a tragedy if there isn’t a crossover for Angela Burr and Jackson Lamb!
Roper’s security detail is made up of former army mates with names like Frisky (Michael Nardone), Corky (Tom Hollander), and Tabby (Hovik Keuchkerian). They are quiet, simmering threats whose main job is to suspect anyone from outside their circle and generally ramp up the tension. Obviously there has to be a woman in Roper’s life and that responsibility falls to Elizabeth Debicki as Jed Marshall.
Still To Come for Hiddleston
Throughout this, Tom Hiddleston glides through events with the confidence and self belief that comes from a public school education. Fortunately this is indistinguishable from the confidence and self belief that you get from being a former trained, professional soldier. This confidence is ideal for this role. Perhaps, a wee bit too much for the backwater, country vicar he plays in The Essex Serpent.
Still, Tom Hiddleston is one of the most accomplished and capable of our current crop of acting talent. I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t appear in a Bond film before too much longer. Which side would he be on? Who cares! He’d be equally fantastic as a new Bond or a new baddie!
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Former teacher, lecturer, homelessness administrator, pharmacy dispenser now happily retired, happily married, and a very happy granddad. I live next to the Mersey but on the side Daniel Craig and Taron Egerton come from rather than the side the Beatles came from!
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Nice read and very informative. Didn’t know that Hiddleston was versed and so well educated.
Rob Williams Administrator
I must admit that one of the things I most enjoy about writing these articles is finding out about the people behind all the characters.