Wednesday I attended a screening of The Night Manager following by a Q & A with Tom Hiddleston through the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). They screened the entire first episode and the first ten minutes of the second, leaving us on a cliffhanger.
During the Q & A, Tom talked about portraying his character, and described him as passive. He discussed some details that are spoilers that I won’t mention, and used the metaphor of having two covered pots, one that is empty and one that contains boiling water. Looking at them, they would appear the same visually. The boiling water wouldn’t be visible. Tom said he used that metaphor with the director to think about Jonathan Pine. After describing it, he said, “That’s as pretentious as I’m going to get.”
He recited the beginning of chapter three of the novel, which he had apparently done for the moderator at a previous event, and the moderator was trying to feel out whether to ask Tom to do it, but he said he kind of wanted to, and recited it. It was great writing and made me interested in reading the novel as well.
The moderator asked him about performances that had inspired him, and discussed a few that he had seen as a kid, including an Ibsen play, the name of which and the actor who starred in I can’t recall, and Jack Nicholson in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. He talked about restrained performances, and admired a scene with Sylvester Stallone in Creed as an example, and cited J.K. Simmons as an example of playing anger in Whiplash. He also mentioned loving the Tim Burton Batman film and Michael Keaton in in, and did a couple Jack Nicholson impressions, which were hilarious.
He talked about some of his favorite films, including Batman, Back to the Future, Indiana Jones, etc., but also spoke about a particular foreign film, The Son’s Room, that I’ve heard him mention in other interviews. When he was 19 he went through a phase where he only wanted to see films at the art-house cinema near his university, “The Mummy Returns be damned! But, of course, I saw that, too.”
When the Q & A was finished, Tom seemed surprised it was already done, and ready to stay, which I guess he technically did, just not in the theater.
After the Q & A, Tom was in the lobby just chatting with people, which was where I met him. He was very nice and extremely generous with his time. Some of the things he said were that Thor 3 starts filming in July, “But it won’t be out for 18 months, so you better find something to do until then.” He was joking, of course.
He said the Shakespeare roles he would love to do are Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing because, “Benedick is such a fun character and people leave the theater all euphoric.” He also wants to play King Lear, “But you have to earn that one.”
Then a young woman told him that Shakespeare films generally don’t work and asked him what he thought the disconnect was between Shakespeare as a film versus a play. He then told her he had actually done Shakespeare on film, The Hollow Crown (awkward!) but then he spoke about when seeing it as a play, you’re in the tavern with the actors, which creates an additional intimacy.
He also talked about American actors that have done good British accents, and cited Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary and Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady. He was trying to think of American icons and came up with John Wayne, but said the reason many British actors play Americans is that they want the roles, and there are a lot more roles for American characters.
At the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, Tom Hiddleston and Susanne Bier, the director, introduced the film. Tom said jokingly, “Thank you coming and I’m English, so I should probably be apologizing for something. So I’m sorry. I don’t what I’m apologizing for.”
After the film, they both spoke about the process of making it. They would call each other on Sundays, which was their only day off so it was the only day they had time to talk about the characters. Bier talked about their rehearsals, which she said lasted for about an hour and a half before the crew got there every morning.
They both talked about never having considered the project with multiple directors, as is typical with television shows.
John Le Carre, the novelist, has a cameo scene in one of the episodes, and they laughed as they talked about working with him. Apparently, he was difficult, but in a good way. Bier said that when Le Carre was filming his scene with Tom, he was very particular and Tom came over to her and said, “Isn’t this taking a bit long?”
She said it was but, “It’s John Le Carre…” What can you do? However, Le Carre apparently has said very good things about the adaptation, and he is credited as an executive producer.
At the end of this Q & A, much like the SAG Q & A, both Hiddleston and Bier seemed surprised it was over. Bier even said, “There are so many more people with questions!”
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