Tom Hiddleston is a busy, busy man—so busy, in fact, that he’s barely able to squeeze in a proper meal. You see, the talented British actor is promoting a trio of projects: the upcoming John le Carré-adapted miniseries The Night Manager, Ben Wheatley’s gleefully anarchic head trip High-Rise, and the Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light. We’ve convened at The Smith, a cozy restaurant in Lower Manhattan, primarily to discuss the latter film (our full interview will run later this week).
Interestingly enough, the eatery is around the corner from Webster Hall, a concert venue set to play host to a hotly anticipated reunion show by LCD Soundsystem. And at said LCD show later that evening, Hiddleston’s best mate, Benedict Cumberbatch, could be seen dancing his heart out like no one was watching. When I mention the night’s festivities, Hiddleston’s face lights up.
“Oh, I love them!” he says of LCD Soundsystem. The actor reveals there was, at one point, a trailer for High-Rise set to the band’s tune “Great Release” that they were fiddling around with, and that Hiddleston marveled over.
While New Yorkers are going batty over the LCD shows, those across the pond were glued to their couches taking in the season finale of The Night Manager, which aired on the BBC in the U.K. and debuts April 19 on AMC stateside. And the Internet took a fascination with one scene in particular during the finale, wherein Hiddleston, dressed to the nines in a bespoke suit, gestures to the bartender and utters, “Excuse me, sir. Could I have a vodka martini, please?”The reason it caught fans’ attention is that Hiddleston’s emerged as a top contender for the role of James Bond/Agent 007, and fed the flames by recently voicing his interest to The Sunday Times: “I simply love the theme tune, the tropes, and the mythology,” he said. “I love the whole thing. If it ever came knocking, it would be an extraordinary opportunity.”
When I mention the Bond-inspired Night Manager sequence to Hiddleston, he chuckles. “Oh, right! Yeah! Honestly, I didn’t think about it as I said it,” he says. “I can’t remember if it was in the script or I improvised it. I’m pretty sure I improvised it though because, actually, [co-star] Hugh Laurie really loves a vodka martini. So I was just in that mode.”
Meanwhile, Hiddleston’s Thor co-star, Idris Elba, is the prohibitive frontrunner to succeed Daniel Craig as Bond. In late 2014, The Daily Beast unearthed an email from the Sony hack via then-studio head Amy Pascal that read, “Idris should be the next bond.”So, do Tom and Idris joke about the Bond rumor-mill insanity?“I know, right? We should,” jokes Hiddleston, mimicking the would-be call. “What the hell is going on?” He laughs. “Honestly, I have no control over it.”
In The Night Manager, a globe-trotting espionage-thriller, Hiddleston plays Jonathan Pine, an ex-British soldier who’s recruited by an intelligence operative to investigate a potential conspiracy involving U.S. and U.K. government involvement in the global arms trade. Pine must cozy up to international arms dealer Richard Onslow Roper (Hugh Laurie) and his fetching girlfriend, Jed (Elizabeth Debicki).
“Hugh Laurie used to say that John le Carré’s writing is like Harris Tweed, which is to say it’s so finely stitched that it doesn’t look like anything else, and it holds together. It’s not cheap,” says Hiddleston, beaming with pride over the show. “It’s pretty great that in the age of box sets and Netflix, to still have it be [a TV event]. I’m so happy to hear that people have set their watches and rushed back early to tune in.”
While Hiddleston grew up consuming miniseries like Prime Suspect, Poirot, and Inspector Morse, one of his early career breaks came when he starred opposite Kenneth Branagh in the show Wallander. Eventually, Branagh would cast Hiddleston as the villain Loki in the Marvel superhero epic Thor, changing his life forever. The third (and final?) film in the franchise, Thor: Ragnarok, is due in theaters on Nov. 3, 2017, and will begin filming in June.
“Thor 3 will be cool because I’ve not done it for four years,” says Hiddleston. “I love working with Chris [Hemsworth]. This will be my last time out of the gate.” Wait… So you’re not going to pop up in Avengers: Infinity War?“I don’t know! Honestly, I don’t know,” he says with a shrug. “They haven’t got their ducks in a row yet. They make it up as they go along.”
One mega-movie that’s definitely in the cards is Kong: Skull Island. Directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts, it’s the second film in the Godzilla-King Kong shared universe (after Godzilla), and will be followed by the crossover Godzilla vs. Kong in 2020. Hiddleston just wrapped filming on Kong: Skull Island, which hits theaters March 10, 2017. In it, he plays a swashbuckling hero opposite Oscar-winner Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman, and Toby Kebbell as mo-cap Kong. The film is reportedly set in 1970s Detroit.
“It’s cool, it’s gonna be new this time,” says Hiddleston. “Kong was a change, to play a heroic protagonist—having never really played that role before—in a massive movie. And Jordan’s vision for it is really unique: completely different time period, different story, and Kong like you’ve never seen him before. There is no young movie actress, there is no film director. It’s a reimagining of it.” “There’s a little extra social commentary, but it feels fresh,” he adds. “The myth behind it is more about the necessity of man’s humility in the face of nature. We keep thinking we can build a better world than nature. I’m not sure that we can.”