Kong: Skull Island is about man versus nature, says its star Tom Hiddleston

Tom Hiddleston says his Kong co-star 'doesn't need' his advice to the upcoming Captain Marvel film.
Kong: Skull Island's Tom Hiddleston (left, with co-stars Brie Larson, centre, and Samuel L. Jackson) at the film's London premiere last month.
Kong: Skull Island's Tom Hiddleston (left, with co-stars Brie Larson, centre, and Samuel L. Jackson) at the film's London premiere last month.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Tom Hiddleston had a big year last year: He headlined the spy thriller The Night Manager, which won him Best Actor at the Golden Globes two months ago, and inadvertently starred in an even bigger drama - a whirlwind three-month romance with singer Taylor Swift, which earned the couple the nickname "Hiddleswift".

But the English actor's heady Hollywood experiences have made him realise how vital it is to retreat from the limelight and maintain a semblance of normal life.

"It's so necessary to just go back to your normal routine. I can't tell you how necessary it is. Because it's very grounding," he tells The Straits Times at a recent press event for the new movie Kong: Skull Island, which opens in Singapore tomorrow.

"Being well-known in the entertainment industry is to live in a hall of mirrors and one has to be very careful and vigilant about not allowing those distorted reflections to affect your sense of reality," adds the 36-year-old.

Those distortions include, presumably, some of the less-than- flattering media attention he has received, including the tabloid speculation that his dalliance with 27-year-old Swift, which ended in September, was staged for the cameras to boost one or both of their careers - a charge he has vehemently denied.

 
 

Asked if it is hard for him not to be bothered by what others think, he says: "Of course. But people have opinions and you have to hold on to what you know is true, and sometimes you're being held to account for things that aren't true, so you have to let that go."

Hence the need for everyday routines such as being able to cook his own dinner - something the actor, whose breakout role was as the Norse god Loki in the Thor films (2011 and 2013), laments he rarely has time to do while on a movie set.

"It's really important to go do your own laundry, pay your electricity bill and remind your nieces and nephews who you are. I find that very reassuring.

"The younger members of my family have no idea what I do for a living - they just know that I've been away," says the actor, who still lives in the city of his birth, London.

"So it's good to go back and pick up the babies, let them vomit on your shoulder and be reminded about real life.

"It's really nice to go home and be really boring and normal."

Kong: Skull Island, a reboot of the franchise that began with the 1933 classic King Kong, casts Hiddleston as Conrad, a former soldier sent to a remote island to track down the titular giant ape.

The movie is being marketed as a monster movie and big action blockbuster, but Hiddleston, who has a classical-studies degree from Cambridge University, argues that it also explores timeless ideas from classic literature.

He uses this to pre-empt a question about whether audiences need yet another King Kong film.

"Having studied classical mythology has given me an appreciation of the power of those stories and that, actually, there's something valuable about retelling the same story in a different way."

In addition, the movie - which co-stars Samuel L. Jackson, John Goodman and Brie Larson as Conrad's expedition teammates - introduces a host of other deadly giant creatures in addition to Kong and uses this as a metaphor for the conflict between man and nature.

"We as human beings exist in concert with the natural world and I think it's important for us to be humbled by the sheer scale and breadth of nature," Hiddleston says.

"The human race has monopolised the planet and the idea that human beings would be entered back into the food chain, and not near the top, is interesting.

"Let's not pretend - this is a big action-adventure film, but we had to think about that theme."

At the same time, he seems just as proud of the fact that he went into full action-man mode to play his character, a British soldier-turned- mercenary.

"I trained with a former US Navy Seal and two former British Royal Marines. We got up at four in the morning and they kicked my a***.

"I knew there was a part of this character that had that soldier's discipline and having a soldier's regimen helped me access that.

"And it was a really nice way of beginning the day. It was a very physical role, a very physical film, and I needed to be fit and have stamina. I enjoyed it."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2017, with the headline 'Hiddleston grounded in reality'. Print Edition | Subscribe