Saturday, April 16, 2016

Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie Talk Their Deadly But Charming Face-Off

Benji Wilson
April 15, 2016

Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Laurie in ‘The Night Manager’

“I don’t know that I’d make a very good spy,” says Tom Hiddleston. This, from a man widely spoken of as the next James Bond. We’re discussing his latest role in the AMC miniseries The Night Manager, based on John le Carré’s 1993 novel, premiering April 19. Hiddleston plays Jonathan Pine, an unassuming hotel supervisor who turns out to be a very, very good spy. So much so that he’s recruited by British Intelligence to bring down international arms dealer and billionaire Richard Roper (Hugh Laurie).

Hiddleston gives the spy question a little more thought — he gives everything a lot of thought — and then he laughs. “Let’s be honest, I’d make a hopeless spy because people know who I am. It would be very obvious.”

That much is indisputable: these days Tom Hiddleston couldn’t exactly sidle in to a room and order a smoothie. Thanks to roles as Hank Williams in I Saw the Light, the lead in the excellent High-Rise, and most of all as Loki in the ongoing, seemingly neverending Avengers franchise, Hiddleston is already that guy on the poster. But it’s Jonathan Pine in The Night Manager — well-turned-out, well-spoken, intelligent but reserved — whom he feels is closest to himself. Even if he could never be a spy.

“Pine felt strangely new for me as an actor because it felt quite close to home — I haven’t played close to home. I’ve played at the extremes of my range — Loki and Hank Williams are quite far away from me,” he says. “With Pine, there was a lot in him that I could relate to. It was something about his moral conviction. His private soul. He’s very hard — he keeps his cards close to his chest, and I think that’s very true of me.”

Ying to Pine’s yang is Richard Roper, and in an inspired piece of casting, The Night Manager pairs off Hiddleston with fellow debonair Brit Hugh Laurie. If Dr. Gregory House behaved badly but was essentially good, “Dickie Roper” is the other way ‘round. He starts out a wellspring of urbane charm, but a few episodes in, as we start to see what those weapons he’s selling to the highest bidder can do, we understand why le Carré in the original novel labeled Roper “The Worst Man in the World.”

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