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British actor Tom Hiddleston gave a once-in-a-lifetime performance when he hopped on stage in Nashville, Tennessee, on Saturday to sing after a premiere of the Hank Williams biopic, I Saw the Light.
Hiddleston spent months learning how to talk and sing like the iconic country singer for the role in the Sony Pictures Classics film, set for release in March 2016. He surprised guests at an afterparty following the premiere with a short set of Williams’ classics including, “Hey Good Lookin,'” “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used To Do,” and “Move It On Over.”
The crowd, which included his co-stars and musicians, clapped and danced along to Hiddleston’s performance at a bar in downtown Nashville, just blocks from the famous Ryman Auditorium. While on stage, Hiddleston cracked jokes in a mix of British and Southern accents and even gave a quick encore.
Actor Bradley Whitford, who plays renowned songwriter and music executive Fred Rose in the film, joked that a Nashville audience might be a tough crowd to please. “In front of dark, cynical, inside musicians, will be quick to jump to judgment? No tension. No anxiety,” Whitford said.
Writer/director/producer Marc Abraham said he was nervous about the premiere because of the city’s musical history. “Without Nashville, there is no story,” Abraham said. “And without the people in Nashville that helped me, there is no story. So big deal for me to come down here and present the film to people who know a lot about this subject.”
The movie focuses on Williams’ meteoric rise and fall in the 1940s and ‘50s through the stories of his personal relationships with women, including his mother, his wife Audrey Williams and his second marriage to Billie Jean. He died at the age of 29 in 1953. At the time of his death, his body was wracked by alcohol and drug abuse.
“Hank Williams is someone I think who loved women, but he was also unintentionally cruel to them,” Hiddleston said. “He was a hard man to live with and he was afflicted by so many addictions, so many demons.”
Elizabeth Olsen, who plays Audrey Williams, said the film portrays so many strong women who had a lasting impact on Williams’ songwriting. “He was always surrounded by really formidable women,” Olsen said. “It’s lucky that all of us got to play a different variation of a woman who stands on her own two feet and can stand up to a man who is such an icon like Hank.”
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