Hollywood has always enjoyed the suave English gentleman actor, ever since the days of Cary Grant and David Niven, and award-winning films and blockbuster movies alike continue to be staffed by the likes of Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne and Henry Cavill. Not one of them, however, has quite managed to pull off the air of impeccable courtesy, affability and slightly dorky enthusiasm like Tom Hiddleston. Best-known for his deliciously playful portrayal of Marvel villain Loki, Hiddleston has plenty to offer cinemagoers in 2016, as well as a backlog of quality television and theatre (if you were lucky enough to catch it!) Seemingly incapable of putting a foot wrong, according to fans and critics alike, Hiddleston stands today as one of our finest young British acting exports.
Born in Westminster, London, to a Scottish physical chemist father and former stage manager mother, Hiddleston is one of three siblings (he has two sisters, one a journalist and the other an actor). Much has been made of his privileged educational background; he attended the Dragon School in Oxford before Eton College (the first in his family to do so) and then Cambridge University to read classics, where he graduated with a double first. It was at Cambridge that Hiddleston first made a theatrical impression, in a production of A Streetcar Named Desire, and to such a degree that he went on to secure both an agent and a part in an ITV production of Nicholas Nickleby – all before graduating. He was subsequently cast as Randolph Churchill in Winston Churchill biopic The Gathering Storm, starring Albert Finney and Vanessa Redgrave, and picked up a small role in Nazi drama Conspiracy, whose star, Kenneth Branagh, would go on to prove a hugely supportive and influential friend to Hiddleston’s fledgling career.
Making the decision to attend drama school so as to avoid “just be[ing] the Brideshead guy… spend[ing] the rest of my life wearing waistcoats”, as well as to allay fears of “theatre people” dismissing him without the chance to audition, Hiddleston earned a place at RADA. After three years of training, he continued to work steadily, landing the usual roles in documentaries and an episode of Casualty, but also his first film, Joanna Hogg’s Unrelated (marking the beginning of another fruitful professional relationship), and several notable theatrical projects.
In 2008, Hiddleston earned two nominations for the Best Newcomer Olivier Award – for his work as Cassio in the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Othello (alongside Ewan McGregor and Chiwetel Ejiofor) and for his dual role as Posthumus and Cloten in Cymbeline with the internationally-renowned Cheek By Jowl (for which he won). Further work with the Donmar followed, in an original adaptation of Chekov’s Ivanov by Tom Stoppard, which also provided a reunion with Kenneth Branagh.
Television roles became meatier, as Hiddleston was cast in the series Suburban Shootout, as well as the period drama double-whammy of Miss Austen Regrets and Cranford (second series, William Buxton! Bet you’d forgotten that one, eh?) Hiddleston also undertook further work with Branagh (in what Ken began to refer to as his “Hiddleston year”), filming in Sweden on two series of Branagh’s personal passion project, the English adaptation of Nordic Noir Wallander. This would prove to be one of the final things Hiddleston did as a semi-unknown because Branagh was about to allow him a career-making audition for his new directorial project – Marvel’s Thor. As a natural blonde – and a natural at delivering classical text – Hiddleston originally auditioned for the heroic lead. That, fatefully, proved unsuccessful, but the producers were happy to trust Branagh and instead allow for the casting of Hiddleston in his (so far) career-defining role – that of the film’s antagonist, Loki.
It’s safe to say that Hiddleston walked away with the film. It’s one of the strongest entries in Marvel’s canon and Branagh’s touch was evident as fine performances were elicited from all of his actors, but no other could quite match the scenery-chewing, arch mischief of Hiddleston’s Loki. Around this time, Hiddleston’s rabid fan army – the Hiddlestoners – began to form, ensuring that the pages of Tumblr would never want for content on their new favourite British actor. Such was his popularity with the audience that Hiddleston returned for both The Avengers and Thor: The Dark World (where he totally stole the show – again – and showed-up Christopher Eccleston’s primary ‘baddie’ Malekith as rather bland and forgettable).
Owing to his pretty meteoric rise to international fame, Hiddleston suddenly had the prospects to work with directors from Hollywood’s highest echelons in rapid succession, such as Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris) and Steven Spielberg (War Horse), as well as leading indie director Jim Jarmusch for vampire drama Only Lovers Left Alive. He also stayed in touch with his British roots, starring opposite Rachel Weisz as her RAF pilot lover in a film adaptation of Terence Rattigan’s 1952 play The Deep Blue Sea, and as Prince Hal/Henry V in the BBC’s starry Shakespeare history plays adaptation The Hollow Crown. As a fan of Jim Henson’s creations, Hiddleston also made time for a cameo in 2014’s Muppets Most Wanted (here he is flirting with Miss Piggy at the BAFTAs). A return to theatre and the Donmar Warehouse for Hiddleston made Coriolanus the hottest ticket of the season in London over the end of 2013 and into 2104, as well as warranting a live streaming of the production and netting Hiddleston an Evening Standard Award for Best Actor.
Hiddleston has continued to make room in his somewhat-busy career to work on shorts (Out of Darkness, Friend Request Pending, and upcoming WillShake) and again with Joanna Hogg in Archipelago and Exhibition. Last year also saw Hiddleston star as Thomas Sharpe in Guillermo de Toro’s lavish and gothic, albeit somewhat creaky, gore-fest Crimson Peak.
2016 promises more Hiddleston for his fans with both the release of country singer Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light in February and Ben Wheatley’s quite frankly bizarre High-Rise soon after. He will also be on the BBC again in an adaptation of John le Carré’s novel The Night Manager, alongside Hugh Laurie and Olivia Colman.
Looking further into the future Hiddleston continues to be both busy and enjoyably varied in his selected projects – according to IMDb, he’ll star in King Kong blockbuster prequel Kong: Skull Island in 2017 and, fear not, Marvel fans and Hiddlestoners alike, he’s due to grace our screens as Loki at least once again in Thor: Ragnarok. Phew.