Thanks to appearances in both Kenneth Branagh’s Thor and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, Tom Hiddleston’otional s version of the comic book supervillain Loki has become easily the most popular villain in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the role the actor creates a perfect mix of emotional damage and smug arrogance that lets the audience sympathize with him while also openly waiting for the moment that he finally gets his ass handed to him. When we last saw the character he had just suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Earth’s mightiest superhero team and was shown in chains being taken back to his home realm of Asgard, but what happens next for Loki? Visiting the set of Thor: The Dark World and getting the chance to talk with the star late last year I had the opportunity to find out just that.
While in the midst of shooting an action sequence and wearing his full Loki costume, Hiddleston was kind enough to take a moment out of his on-set schedule to sit with myself and a small group of other film journalists to talk about exactly what has been going on with the God of Mischief since The Avengers. What’s his relationship like with his brother Thor (Chris Hemsworth), father Odin (Sir Anthony Hopkins) and mother Frigga (Rene Russo)? What kind of relationship does Loki have with new villain on the block, Malekith the Accursed (Chirstopher Eccleston)? How is he paying for his crimes against Earth? Read on to find out!
So do we see the consequence of your actions in The Avengers after you come back to Asgard?
Well inevitably Loki’s back in Asgard. That’s where everybody saw him go with Thor at the end of Avengers in Central Park. And what’s exciting about this film is it depicts the… [laughs] aftermath of those events. And you get to see the opinion of certain principle characters in Asgard. You get to see every character’s perspective on what Loki did, and they tend to be different and desperate and varying in tone and, empathy certainly. And but it’s exciting. I mean it’s a springboard. It’s a springboard. It’s a springboard into a new chapter. It means that as an actor I'm not repeating myself in any way, because the last time Loki was in Asgard was at the end of Thor when he let go of the spear and he disappeared into a wormhole in space and time. And then he spent a degree of time on Earth trying to destroy New York. And now he’s back in Asgard a different being with a different mindset. And therefore the kind chemistry that he created just by being back there is unpredictable and fantastic.
Is there a darker tone in this movie in general does is seem to be darker all the way through?
I think so. I think that’s our privilege with being allowed to make it, is that we’ve established certainly with Thor and Loki -- we’ve established the characters across two films. So it means you can color in more shades with each character. It means that Thor can get darker as a character. And more complicated. It means that Loki can get an even more kind of complexity and dimension.
What’s really is the most interesting thing about being alive is that there is no black and white. There are many shades of gray, and different people’s perspectives on events. It’s something fascinating that Thor The Dark World came as a title because the story revolves around well, you know, Malekith is in the film and he’s a Dark Elf. So it’s not just about the mythological and physical battle between dark and light. But there’s something about growing up and accepting responsibility no matter who you are: whether you are a crowned king, a king in waiting or a shamed prisoner. Accepting responsibility and growing up is dark. It’s a dark experience. It’s not easy. And I think that that’s what’s exciting about the material is that it -- it’s sort of emotionally and psychologically and spiritually I hope - we sit in the middle of it – but you hope it embraces a more complex and dark experience. Alongside loads of action.
What kind of character development went into Loki?
Um, [laughs] I’m sorta caught with that. He has an interesting relationship going back within the environs of his family. Those relationships are really interesting. So you’ve got Odin, Frigga, Thor, and, also the Warriors Three and Sif. And he’s a psychopath [laughs]. The fascinating thing about playing a psychopath - like when it’s a real Category A inmate in the darkest prison that we have on Earth or someone who is a mythological creature who’s been around in human imagination for 2,000/3,000 years - is that what quality of compassion or goodness is still there? That’s the question.
The exciting question is why? Why does any psychopath perform those acts? Why does he wish everyone such ill? And what does he want? And does he even care what he wants? As an actor that’s a really exciting thing to delve into, when you’re that dark and you’re so full of destruction and hate and sabotage. And part of that is self-hate and self-sabotage like motivation. It’s an interesting question to ask why.
Do you like him?
I do, yeah. And the thing about playing him is that you have to. You can’t sit in judgment. In my own mind, I’ve unpacked his suitcase of pain. I would stand up - I can easily stand up and defend him even though many of his actions are indefensible. I know why, I think. But what’s interesting is those answers are locked in some kind cabinet right at the bottom of him. And he’s in there and nobody has the key. Do you know what I'm saying? I do like him. I also was also enormously charming [laughs]. He’s sort of someone who’s really nasty, but really elegant with it. He’s someone who looks good doing really bad things.
It sounds cool or something, do you know what I mean? What I love about playing him is that there’s a delight, and now because of the way the character was developed by Joss Whedon in Avengers who kept encouraging me to enjoy myself - enjoy myself as an actor and enjoy like Loki’s having a good time destroying Manhattan. He’s having a good time teasing everybody and playing everyone else off each other like a chess master. And now I really feel like I'm the God of Mischief [laughs]. And playing that mischievous element in all its unpredictability is really, really fun.
In the comics Thor and Loki have a changing back and forth dynamic. Sometimes they’re best friends. Sometimes they hate each other. In this film are they closer to being friends at some point or is there like a unifying thing that brings them together? Do you know what I mean?
Yeah, absolutely. I’m just wondering it’s whether I can answer that question [laughs]. It’s consistently ambivalent in a way that’s true to the comics, and really fun for myself and Chris Hemsworth to play. What’s really exciting is that in Avengers Thor still really cared about Loki, and part of the reason he was there was almost to protect him. He was just like to try and find the good in him and take him home.
And we’ve been very careful not to repeat that moment. Thor’s attitude has to change. Therefore Loki’s attitude has to change and their relationship to each other – their need for each other, their antipathy, opposition to and from – is constantly changing. That’s what makes it fun to play, you know? These archetypal forces of dark and light. And, like I said, the lightness and the darkness is flickering between the two.
Is the Tesseract still a factor?
[Long pause] Can’t say.
Does Loki have any regret for any of his actions in the first two films?
Ummm… there is a whole scene dedicated to whether or not that happens. [laughs]
What was your relationship with Malekith? In the comics they have an interesting relationship, because they’re both bad but they don’t get along because they have different reasons for what they do. What’s the relationship with Loki being the bad guy and now Malekith comes along?
Well without saying too much there’s a degree of mutual recognition, shall we say.
For the two of them?
Yeah. Yeah. It takes one to know one.
You’re on your third director playing this character. How much more ownership are you taking in Loki in this film versus the last two now that it is your third time playing him? And do you find that people are going to you more to for your opinion about how to do a scene?
Yeah, that’s what’s been really exciting is Marvel, everyone at Marvel - Kevin Feige, Craig Kyle and Alan Taylor as a director and, uh, Chris Yost, the writer… I remember talking about the story for this film with the producers while we were running around doing press for Avengers and sort of saying, “Where do we go next?” People were responding positively to that film.
And that’s something which I feel very fortunate to have been given, which is confidence by them because I’ve lived through [Loki]. Other people can have their opinion objectively about where Loki should go, but I’ve lived through every moment. And sometimes I’m the only person who knows how it feels. And I always have ideas. Some of them I’m sure are terrible, but some of them are good and they’re in the film. And that’s really exciting, when you feel like I know every inch of Loki. And I’m the only person who’s played him. So other people have written him, other people have shot him, other people have framed him, but I know his inside. And it’s really exciting that I have had a bit of an input into it. It’s really great.
Has playing Loki in these movies and the popularity of the character changed you?
Has it? It hasn’t, and, I mean, it was strange for a second when the film came out because it was so much bigger than I’d anticipated. But no. The bit I love… I really love acting. The circus of being, for want of a better word, “a celebrity” is something I'm sort of not interested in. I find it kind of strange.
We’ve heard that Thor gets a blue cape in this one and a lot of the characters have changed their costumes over time. But you have stayed rather consistent with your Loki wardrobe. Are we gonna be able to see you kind of in a different costume or a different light?
Yeah, yeah. There absolutely is. There’s a moment there where I'm definitely in a different costume.
Your hair is different.
Yeah. It’s certainly it’s longer. Some time has passed and I don’t think he’s been sent to the finest barbers in Asgard. But yeah, there’s a little bit of difference, you know. It’s interesting when you get to a place of like you want to evolve with the look of something, but you also don’t wanna stray too far because then it’s almost like you’re inventing another character.
So does this costume kind of help you kind of key right into the character?
Absolutely. Because the strange thing by the time we started shooting it was actually exactly a year since I’d been inside sort of the skin of Loki. And naturally when you finish something every actor’s suit is like you just sort of put it away. And you put it away forever because normally you never have to come back. And so I’ve lived a whole 12 months of life, I’ve done a whole lot of other things. And I'm a different human being. So in a way coming back to the same costume and the same hair and the same look is like, “A ha! I recognize this guy!” It’s like me re-greeting an old friend. And you pick up where you left off.