“You can never quite explain why people are attracted, can you?”
Tom Hiddleston is discussing the magnetic appeal of his character Jonathan Pine in AMC’s miniseries The Night Manager with The Hollywood Reporter, but he may as well be referring to himself. The British actor has been the focus of a lot of renewed media attention and fan adoration recently thanks to playing the brooding but dashing spy.
Hiddleston, 35, has been acting professionally since he was 20, but it was working with Kenneth Branagh on Wallander that gave him his big break. Branagh was directing 2011’s Thor and had the insight to cast Hiddleston in the role of bad boy Norse god Loki. And thus a star and a loyal following of “Hiddlestoners” were born.
Naturally part of his appeal are his good looks, but fans are also drawn to how he comes off in his interviews: warm, authentic and interested. Case in point is how he starts his interview with THR by indicating that he also once had to do the job of a reporter, complete with audio recorder.
He explains, “A couple of years ago, I interviewed Natalie Portman when she was on the cover of Elle Magazine in the U.K. It was part of our promotional duty for Thor: The Dark World. So I took my responsibility very seriously, and I wrote up all my notes and I transcribed the whole thing. And then the editors took out all the bits that were the most interesting. (Laughs.) So I learned the hard way.”
That relatability extends to his public bromance with fellow Brit and War Horse co-star Benedict Cumberbatch, who is no stranger to fandom. Hiddleston, however, isn’t quite so comfortable about achieving heartthrob status or even thinking of himself as a sex symbol.
“God, I can’t!” he says with a laugh. “Because I know myself. All of that stuff I can’t really attach anything to it because it’s intangible, it’s ephemeral. Honestly, I’m just happy that people have enjoyed The Night Manager.”
In a way, The Night Manager is a game-changer for Hiddleston because it places him in people’s homes for six hourlong episodes in which he carries most of the action. It’s also one of his few recent roles that doesn’t require a wig, period clothes or speaking in iambic pentameter. What it does require is a nude sex scene that launched the hashtag #Hiddlesbum and almost caused a Twitter meltdown when the series aired last month in the U.K.
For Hiddleston, nudity is appropriate on screen when it services the story, and in the case of The Night Manager, his character Pine makes a fateful decision when he gives into attraction while he’s undercover. “Yeah, that’s so true of life,” Hiddleston says. “We’re all governed by instincts that are greater than our capacity to control them, especially where matters of the heart are concerned. It’s a very powerful force.”
Nudity, if anything, is something he thinks about even less than his sex symbol status. Hiddleston has exposed bits of himself in the last three films he’s done: Guillermo del Toro’s gothic horror Crimson Peak, the Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light and the upcoming dystopian film High-Rise based on the J.G. Ballard novel.
“I’ve come from the tradition of European film, where nudity isn’t really something,” he says I’ve seen many other more esteemed actors be infinitely more naked than me. I just don’t think twice about it. It was important for the scene and no more or less significant than any of the other scenes in the story.”
Other than his bum, the other subject Hiddleston can’t seem to escape is James Bond. Playing Jonathan Pine in The Night Manager has started tongues wagging that this is his 007 audition. Besides being a dapper spy who goes on international adventures, Pine also appears in a scene in which he dons a tux and orders a vodka martini while in a casino. Sound familiar? Hiddleston doesn’t think the two characters are similar.
“I actually think that there’s a lot that divides them,” Hiddleston says. “Bond is a trained killer with a 00 license to kill, and Pine is at the beginning of his relationship with the Secret Service. I think in Daniel Craig’s incarnation, Bond has become much darker, more haunted by his responsibilities in a way. I think Pine has always had that.
“It is a national obsession to talk about who should be the next James Bond,” he acknowledges. “Everyone has an opinion about it basically. My belief is that Daniel Craig will do many, many more. As far as I’m concerned, he is James Bond.”
After a pause, Hiddleston adds, “But I should just take the compliment and smile and shrug.”
The Night Manager airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on AMC.