British actor Tom Hiddleston had been working for more than a decade before the world got to know him as the mischievous Loki in the 2011 film “Thor.”
Despite reprising the comic book character in two more films, the lanky actor has not found himself trapped in the action film genre.
Hiddleston used his degree from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts to prove he could play a wide range of roles that have included characters as diverse as F. Scott Fitzgerald in “Midnight in Paris” and Hank Williams in the biopic “I Saw the Light.”
Next, Hiddleston expands his portfolio in the six-part miniseries “The Night Manager,” a contemporary version of John le Carré’s espionage drama. Hiddleston plays a former British soldier who is recruited by intelligence operative Angela Burr (Olivia Colman) to infiltrate the inner circle of international businessman Richard Onslow Roper (Hugh Laurie) to stop an arms deal. Le Carré is one of the producers of the production.
Hiddleston, 35, was attracted to the project because of the journey his character takes.
“What I found fascinating about Jonathan Pine in John le Carré’s novel and in the adaptation is there is a tension between a very calm exterior and a turbulent and chaotic interior, that he’s someone who actually has a great amount of vulnerability and a huge amount of doubt,” Hiddleston says. “Le Carré describes him as a self-exiled creature of the night and a sailor without a destination.”
Hiddleston’s character remains basically the same as when the book was written in 1993 but there are some tweaks to the plot. Le Carré penned the story just as the Cold War was ending, so a new approach was needed to give it a contemporary feel.
“If there are thematic differences, I think it’s simply because the world has changed,” Hiddleston says. “I wasn’t around then, but I have taken on good authority that there were complexities bound up with being a spy then. But it’s a very different world now, and our need for spies and the manner of their engagement, I think, is probably very different.”
One of the big differences Hiddleston noticed is that since 1993 the world has become far more transparent. The explosion of social media has turned the planet into a place where everyone knows everything about each other.
Fellow Brit Hugh Laurie, 56, was attracted to the project because he gets to play Roper, the key instigator of the story.
Laurie has been a fan of the book since it was first published. He was only three chapters into reading the spy story when he tried to buy the rights to make it into a film project. It’s the first and only time Laurie has ever tried to option a book.
One of the things that caught his attention was how Le Carré describes Roper as being the worst man in the world. Laurie believes a better description is psychotic.
“If you’re on the wrong end of his misdeeds, the difference is just an academic one, because the violence that he does, the violence that he brings to the world and profits from, may as well as psychotic,” Laurie says. “This is a man who has created a world for himself where he can operate unopposed, unchallenged. And yes, he has given way to the dark side in a very, very big way. A very big way.”
The Night Manager
- 10 p.m. Tuesday, April 19, AMC Network