If you've been to the movies recently, chances are you'll know Tom Hiddleston's face, even if you don't know his name. With starring roles in War Horse, Thor, The Deep Blue Sea and Midnight in Paris, Tom has shot to fame working with directors like Steven Spielberg, Kenneth Branagh and Woody Allen. He talked to Run-Riot about his career so far and revealed a bit about his romantic nature.
KA: You started acting at The Dragon school in Oxford where many British actors and actresses started out. Did you always know you wanted to act professionally?
TH: I had a fantastic time at The Dragon. All I remember about my time there was that it was an absolute riot: I don't remember 'learning' anything, and yet I learned everything. It's an amazing place. It sounds cliché but I started acting by doing impersonations, and trying to make people laugh. I can remember a turning point. I was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 1999 with a school production of R. C Sheriff's JOURNEY'S END, I was eighteen years' old, and I felt a confidence I hadn't felt before: a will to do it, a need to do it; a hope that maybe I had something to contribute, something to offer, and a curiosity to explore.
KA:You went on to study Classics at Cambridge- what's your favourite ancient myth?
TH:The Odyssey. It gets me every time. Odysseus spends ten years in Troy, like everyone else. But unlike everyone else, it takes him a further ten years to get home. His resolve and determination is tested beyond the limits of imagination by the gods' bitter twists of fate: he is tempted by the Sirens, held captive by Calypso, he is dared to sails past the six-headed monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis, his men are drugged and turned into pigs by a witch called Circe, and he has get past the Cyclops. And after all that he returns to his homeland of Ithaca and his wife Penelope, who after twenty years, is still waiting for him, still faithful, refusing the courtly attention of every suitor in the land, and his son Telemachus waits too, champing at the bit to restore order. And finally father and son join forces and quell the rebellion. It's the most romantic, epic, heroic myth of all time.
KA:You recently played Loki in the movie Thor, based on the comic book inspired by characters from Norse mythology- do you think superheroes have replaced gods in our cultural iconography?
TH: Probably something like that. It's in our nature to want to watch our human frailties played out on a huge, epic canvas. Ancient societies had anthropomorphic gods: a huge pantheon expanding into centuries of dynastic drama: fathers and sons, star-crossed lovers, warring brothers, martyred heroes. Tales that taught us the danger of hubris and the primacy of humility. It's the everyday stuff of everyman's life, but it's writ large, and we love it.
KA: Kenneth Branagh, Woody Allen, Steven Spielberg; you've been working with some real living legends-what have you learned from them?
TH: Everything. Humility, diligence, preparation, kindness, generosity, and punctuality. All the good stuff.
KA: You're currently filming Henry IV, and I know you've performed in other Shakespeare productions from Othello to Twelfth Night-what do you think is the secret of the enduring appeal of Shakespeare?
TH: What distinguishes Shakespeare above any writer in history is his humanity: his sympathy with our fallibility. We are all flawed heroes, or heroic villains. His poetry is heartbreakingly beautiful, simple, and contains an ancient wisdom. He understood every extremity of human nature - our complexities and contradictions - with such extraordinarily attentive levels of comprehension and compassion. Reading his plays is like staring at the ocean - it makes you feel wiser, calmer, at peace.
KA: You'll be reading Tennessee William's erotic short story The Kingdom of Earth at Stories Before Bedtime- what made you choose this story? Do you think more teenagers would develop an interest in literature and theatre if more 'adventurous' texts were encouraged at schools?
TH: The Kingdom of Earth is interesting because it is the work by a writer who seems entirely at ease with sexuality as a subject for art. Tennessee Williams's dramatic works are among the most scrupulously studied in the form. Everybody knows A Streetcar Named Desire. His short story The Kingdom of Earth is about that very thing: desire - its naturalness, its automatic urgency, its power. Being a teenager is all about self-discovery and exploration in every respect, and sexuality shouldn't be excluded from that. Literature shouldn't be a dusty thing - it should reflect life in every quarter.
KA: If you were taking a date out in London on Valentine's Day, where would you go?
TH: Well now that would be telling, wouldn't it? I think if you're going to be conventionally romantic you've got to go all the way: a beautiful dinner somewhere lovely, with boat-loads of flowers, chocolates and champagne. But it might also be nice to wrap up warm and sit on a roof somewhere, with a cup of hot soup and your girl, watch the planes come in over London and listen to the night.