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[This interview contains spoilers for Loki episode five.]
If you thought Richard E. Grant and Tom Hiddleston had a passing resemblance during Loki‘s fifth episode, “Journey Into Mystery,” then you weren’t alone. In fact, the two actors have talked about their shared “physiognomy” for years, so much so that a running joke was created about them playing father and son, someday. And then, at the beginning of 2020, the gag was up as Grant received the official offer to play Classic Loki on the Hiddleston-led Loki. Since Grant missed Hiddleston’s renowned “Loki lecture” prior to production, he received his own private crash course later on in production.
“[Tom Hiddleston] was very articulate and passionate about all of that, as he’s a walking Lokipedia,” Grant tells The Hollywood Reporter. “So that was very, very useful, but to be honest, I was so anxious and nervous about my first day of work that I probably only took in about 5 percent of what he was saying to me. But by the same token, I was entering his universe, and I was hoping that I wasn’t going to let him, or the fans of this character, down.”
When Grant was first offered the job, he immediately began to envision his Classic Loki costume since he assumed it would include a muscle suit a la Jack Kirby’s rendition of the character. But once he arrived to the Loki set in Atlanta, he discovered that his own physicality would be utilized instead, much to his chagrin.
“What I was so looking forward to with Loki was finally having a muscle suit, having been born without any,” Grant says with a laugh. “I thought, ‘Oh great! I’m going to look like the Jack Kirby drawings and costume design, which was so faithful to that.’ But when I got to Atlanta, they said, ‘No, you don’t have a muscle suit. You’re just as yourself, a stick insect.’ So I was very disappointed. I thought I was letting the character and the viewers down by not having muscles underneath it. I wish that I had gone into a year’s worth of training and weight-gain powder to look like that, but I don’t think I could’ve possibly achieved that. So I was hoping I’d have the rubberized version of it, but I was denied that pleasure.”
In a recent conversation with THR, Grant also discusses Classic Loki’s ultimate sacrifice and what the character was thinking as he laughed en route to his death.
You’ve said that you and Tom Hiddleston have wanted to work together for years. When did this desire first come about?
More than anything, it came about because we recognized that we have a similar physiognomy, and somebody joked to us, “You could play father and son!” So I suppose it has always been in the back of mind. And then I saw Tom at the Toronto [International] Film Festival a couple years ago, and he said, “We really have to do something together! Father and son — or something!” But I thought it was highly unlikely because his career had gone so far up into the stratosphere. And then, at the beginning of last year, I got an offer to play Classic/Old Loki, and I thought, “Oh right, this is what we talked about and now it’s come to pass.” So that’s how it happened.
And in terms of the script, what was your first impression of Classic Loki’s full-fledged arc?
The backstory — where he describes himself as the God of Outcasts rather than the God of Mischief — was very compelling. So you understand where and why he’s been out of the loop for so long. He was so desperate to have some kind of contact that he was willing to reveal himself to the TVA, and later, by offering himself up to Asgard and Alioth, he’s willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for the possibility of somebody else finding love. Because the ending was so catastrophic and mayhem-filled, as he laughs in the face of his own immolation, I thought that was a great beginning, middle and end in just one episode. It’s as much as you could ever hope for from a guest role. So it was really exciting to do and very satisfying.
As he was laughing in the face of the beast, what was on his mind?
Even as you’re going down, you still have the power, grace and sheer chutzpah to go, “I will laugh in your face even though I know that you’re about to eat me alive.” That’s a great adage to life. (Laughs.) I love that.
Since Tom has played Loki for many years, he’s become the world’s foremost authority on the character, so much so that he delivers actual lectures on him.
He is! He’s Lokipedia.
Was there enough time for him to give you a crash course on the character?
He did one of those prior to the first episode; they’d already shot four episodes by the time I got there. So he came and saw me after I had just gotten my costume and makeup done. He said, “I’m going to give you a brief outline and some background information on what you’re dealing with.” So he was very articulate and passionate about all of that, as he’s a walking Lokipedia. So that was very, very useful, but to be honest, I was so anxious and nervous about my first day of work that I probably only took in about 5 percent of what he was saying to me. But by the same token, I was entering his universe, and I was hoping that I wasn’t going to let him, or the fans of this character, down.
Classic Loki was very frustrated by the fact that betrayal is synonymous with the Loki archetype. So he did something about it and sacrificed his life to help Loki and Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino). While you touched on the ultimate sacrifice already, what did you make of his decision to go against type?
It was very smart of [Tom Kauffman], the writer, to have hit on that. I was the oldest person on the unit, as well as the oldest person on the crew and the cast. When you’re in the twilight zone as I am now at 64, there is a sense that you’re handing over the baton in the relay race of life. So it seemed like the most human, vulnerable and honorable thing to do, and I got that completely. It was fitting — even for an old Classic Loki. But unlike in my life, you can always come back in Loki-land. (Laughs.)
Between Allegiant General Pryde in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Classic Loki, were these two of your favorite costume fittings to date?
Yes, and it was pretty amazing to have that great, explosive ending to that Star Wars character. But what I was so looking forward to with Loki was finally having a muscle suit, having been born without any. (Laughs.) I thought, “Oh great! I’m going to look like the Jack Kirby drawings and costume design, which was so faithful to that.” But when I got to Atlanta, they said, “No, you don’t have a muscle suit. You’re just as yourself, a stick insect.” So I was very disappointed. I thought I was letting the character and the viewers down by not having muscles underneath it. I wish that I had gone into a year’s worth of training and weight-gain powder to look like that, but I don’t think I could’ve possibly achieved that. So I was hoping I’d have the rubberized version of it, but I was denied that pleasure. (Laughs.)
On big-budget projects in particular, actors don’t always get the chance to work opposite another actor/character in any given scene. So now that you can talk about The Rise of Skywalker, did you and Ian McDiarmid actually get to be in the same room during Pryde’s hologram scene with Emperor Palpatine?
No, I never met Ian on it at all.
Between Jack Hock (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) and Withnail (Withnail and I), who would enjoy Loki’s company the most? Who’d make for a more ideal companion?
Wow. I think Jack Hock because he was so gregarious and wanted to be friends with everybody. Whereas Withnail was so staggeringly selfish that I think even he would have outdone Loki in the ego department.
Loki is now streaming every Wednesday on Disney+.
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