Loki(ng) for success

It takes a certain level of confidence to play a villain who decides to take on The Avengers,arguably the world’s greatest superheroes. British actor Tom Hiddleston gets to do just that in Marvel’s The Avengers that releases in India on April 27.

Published: April 20, 2012 12:13 pm

Helmed by writer/director Joss Whedon,Marvel’s The Avengers promises to be the superhero team up of a lifetime when an unexpected enemy Loki (played by Tom Hiddleston) threatens global safety and security. This forces Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson),director of the international peacekeeping agency known as S.H.I.E.L.D.,to initiate a daring recruitment effort and gathers Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.),Captain America (Chris Evans),Thor (Chris Hemsworth),The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo),Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) to fight Loki together.

Loki is the elder brother of Thor. Loki has been kicked off of his home planet Asgard and is determined to get revenge for his humiliation and reclaim his power. “Ironically,when I left drama school,I was constantly playing very nice boys in sports coats tripping over themselves to get the girl,and I was usually on a horse. I kept calling my agent and saying,‘Is there a role out there for me with a bit more edge and darkness?’” Thor director Kenneth Branagh handpicked Hiddleston to play Loki after they co-starred in the BBC crime drama Wallander.

Says Hiddleston,“Loki is the first character I’ve ever played who has this level of darkness and complexity. Don’t they say that the devil has all the best tunes? In Thor,I tried not to play Loki as an out-and-out bad guy,but to play him as a misunderstood anti-hero. Joss [Whedon has been very kind and respectful about bringing my approach to Loki over to this film too. He wanted to hold on to what made him engaging,which was his complexity. Loki’s villainy is motivated by the fact that he’s damaged and searching for his place in the universe,but in this film he’s a lot more menacing and a lot more powerful.”

Loki’s physical and psychic powers have not only remained intact,but seem to have gathered strength. “The thing about Loki is that internally and externally,he’s no longer a damaged prince. He’s much more self-possessed. Even his costume is much heavier,more rugged and savage. There’s also leather on it now,and it’s been a bit distressed and thrashed. Everybody on set keeps saying that it looks more bad. He’s also a god,so he’s more powerful than any human.”

Commenting on Loki’s character Hiddleston said,“In the comics,Loki is capable of thought policing,mind control and self-duplication,so he really can bend aspects of the Marvel universe to his will. I think of Loki as a shape-shifting force of intelligence and mystery. In Thor,I have a scene with Heimdall,where I say,‘There are secret paths between the worlds to which even you,with all of your gifts,are blind.’ Loki holds the keys to the universe. He’s been down a lot of dark alleyways in space and has met all of the monsters and made friends with them. Between the end of Thor and the beginning of The Avengers,he’s been to a version of the seventh circle of hell and brought back his secrets.”

Hiddleston also feels very lucky to be working with Whedon,who also wrote the screenplay for the film. “His writing is really magnificent,” Hiddleston says. “In my eyes,that means the biggest challenge of the project has already been met,which is the quality of the script. When I found out I was doing this film,I didn’t see how Joss could possibly bring all of these superheroes and strong human characters and tones together in one film,” he continues. “For instance,Iron Man has a particular tone because of what Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau did with it. They made something tongue in cheek and twinkly. Thor is very classic,epic and romantic,which absolutely reflects how Kenneth Branagh directed it. Captain America seems to have this very wholesome,all-American adventure tone to it,like Indiana Jones.

“The challenge for Joss was to bring all of these flavours together and add The Hulk,Black Widow,Hawkeye and Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury. It’s truly amazing what he’s been able to do. The screenplay is so tight and it doesn’t feel like any character prevails upon the tone of the whole piece.”

Hiddleston hastens to add that there’s also room for comedy in the film. “I think that’s one of the things that Marvel is so good at,” he says. “There’s comedy in every one of their films. Whedon has got a great ear for one-liners. He builds tension and then pulls the rug out from underneath the tension with a classic one-liner. It reminds you that you’re watching a comic book movie and not to take it too seriously. It should be entertaining and fun.”

Judging by fans’ reactions to Hiddleston’s portrayal of Loki in Thor,he’s off to a good start when it comes to bringing such a mythic character to life. “Mercifully,the little that I read seemed to be positive. The fans really seemed to like what we did. We found things to do in the movie that they weren’t expecting to see. The thing I really wanted to explore most of all was the fact that in the comic books,Thor is the God of Thunder and Loki is the God of Mischief,” he explains. “I wasn’t particularly mischievous in Thor because we did a lot of back story,but in The Avengers I’m allowed to explore those aspects of him a lot more.”

Hiddleston also finds that much of the character work he did with Branagh on Thor is informing the evolution of Loki in The Avengers. He is grateful for this. “You don’t want to burn down the house you’ve already built,” he says and adds,“It’s easier to slip back into character because a lot of the work of building the character has been done. There is also a level of comic book villainy that I’m being allowed to explore it this time around and it’s truly psychopathic behaviour. He’s definitely gone a little bit off the rails.”

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