The most popular role of an actor can simultaneously be a blessing and a burden. It may be the role that brings them wider public attention, but it could easily lead them to being typecast. Given the enormous and unexpected popularity of Loki in the MCU, it is fair to question whether Tom Hiddleston has fallen prey to what can be an actor’s greatest struggle.
“Loki Mania” exploded after 2012’s Avengers: Assemble, as Thor: The Dark World director Alan Taylor hurried to ensure that extra photography gave Marvel’s new fan favourite more screen time to satisfy his fans. The ecstatic reception to his surprise appearance at ACE Comic Con in 2013 in full costume to introduce the trailer for the Thor sequel is a testament to Hiddleston’s charm, and his ability to create a character that people could really root for. But considering the work that Hiddleston put into crafting the character, is it really any surprise that it remains his most iconic role to date?
Hiddleston is undeniably a talented, versatile actor: he injects layers into the presentation of his characters, so that in Loki we see somebody with the traits of a villain, but who is simultaneously charismatic and likeable. The chemistry that he enjoys onscreen with Chris Hemsworth also adds significantly to Loki’s character and makes their relationship one of the best developed rapports in the MCU. It is the complexity that Hiddleston added to the character that ensures Loki remains my favourite Marvel character, and Hiddleston one of my favourite actors.
However, looking at Hiddleston’s filmography, it is clear that he has worked hard to take on a diverse range of roles. Other than playing a mischievous God, Hiddleston has appeared as an undercover agent, a king, a vampire, a soldier, and legendary country singer Hank Williams. From Shakespeare to the gothic genre, Hiddleston’s diverse portfolio of work demonstrates a versatility unparalleled by most of his Marvel stablemates.
Perhaps no project reveals Hiddleston’s dedication to his craft more than the five weeks that he spent in the US preparing for his role of Hank Williams in the biopic I Saw the Light – preparation that clearly paid off given his impressive vocals in the movie, as he performs all of Hanks’ songs himself despite a previous lack of musical experience. He convincingly portrays both elements of the film – Hanks’ achievements as an artist and his personal struggles.
Hiddleston’s role as Jonathan Pine in the critically acclaimed mini-series The Night Manager brought him a well-deserved Golden Globe award, showing that the critics at least, if not some fans, can see beyond the Norse god. His role in this series lead many to speculate that he would be the next James Bond – credentials Hiddleston certainly boosted in a convincing attempt at an action-hero role in Kong: Skull Island last year.
His performances in Only Lovers Left Alive and Crimson Peak show a different side to Hiddleston, as a full-blooded gothic leading man. In the former, Hiddleston gives a strong performance as depressed musician vampire Adam who reconnects with his wife Eve (played by Tilda Swinton) after they have spent time living apart and explores their life in Detroit until their existence there is shattered. Set against a brilliant soundtrack, the wry and often gloomy sense of humour as the protagonists reflect on their existence gives the film a unique take on the vampire genre.
Although Hiddleston has proved himself capable of successfully taking on a range of roles, Loki remains the role that he is most often identified with due to the strength of the Marvel fandom. Loki may always be Tom Hiddleston’s best known role, but by no means is that a bad thing when we consider the depth that he brought to the character and that the role provided him with his “big break” after years of experience in the acting industry. Not to mention the sheer enjoyment that he has in playing the character which clearly translates onto the screen.
Hiddleston’s next movie is Avengers 4, scheduled for a May 2019 release where after the swarm of fan theories across the Internet, we will find out whether the God of Mischief managed to pull another trick, or has indeed bowed out of the MCU for good. But in the meantime, he can be seen in the comedy short Leading Lady Parts in support of the Time’s Up movement.