This weekend at D23, Tom Hiddleston was revealed to be the latest in a long line of greats to portray the famous villain Captain James Hook, in The Pirate Fairy. The next day, he took the stage again, promoting the Thor sequel, in which he will play trickster and hellion Loki for the third time.
Hiddleston is, as a man, easygoing and thoughtful. He is quick to smile and kind to strangers – so why is he so drawn to playing bad guys?
“I think villains, really great villains, are always the most complex,” Hiddleston told EW. “Because in their heart, there is always some kind of deeply complicated psychology that you need to unpack and un-knit and understand.”
His character James, for example, starts off the new Tinker Bell movie as a young boy. “James is the cabin boy. And he’s kind and attentive and sweet and polite and educated and charming and they are best friends – until he reveals his true nature, which is that he becomes the captain of this rogue band: Captain James Hook.”
The motivation for James’ transformation is yet to be revealed, but Hiddleston said that James is a young man who knows what he wants, and once he gets it, he doesn’t feel the need to be friendly with anybody anymore. The power, it seems, goes to his head.
“I’ve always thought of acting as kind of a three-dimensional anthropology. It is the study of human nature in some regard. Like psychologists will give lectures and people will write books, but actors do the same sort of digging around when they’re allowed to and they present their findings in their characters, and each character is different, but it seems to me that villains – and I put that word in inverted commas – they are just the most complex. They have the most complicated motivations. They have, quite often, quite broken personalities. The fun is digging around in why.”
Hiddleston sure had a lot of fun in his role as Hook, exploring his own voice talents and paying homage to the original Disney animated Hook: Hans Conried.
“There’s a real sort of theatricality and there’s an age in his voice – he’s like: ‘Where’s Peter Pan?’” he boomed, imitating the iconic voice. “So it’s almost these old English vowel sounds, and there’s a real gravel and a crack in his voice, which I tried to get once I was Hook.”
He was quick to mention, however, that despite being universally known as Loki, he’s not all bad. “I’ve played a few heroes as well – well, not heroes, but like … good guys. I don’t think F. Scott Fitzgerald had any world-destroying ambitions,” he joked of his Midnight in Paris role.