“ Good (and difficult) question, so let’s start with this one!I learned a ton from my time at GB—I cannot begin to overstate the wisdom that was imparted on by everyone there. Really, really hard to push So here’s a lesson I from everyone:
-Vinny taught me the value of of a backup plan—and how to face the fact that sometimes, even your backup’s backup fails. I remember when Vinny told me that our quick look system had three redundancies. I laughed at how surreal that was. Less than a week later, the initial recording and two of those three backups totally failed. I was very grateful for that third one.
-Alex taught me how to push forward on a shitty day. Alex and I both have a great deal in common in terms of our, uh, cloudy demeanors, let’s say. But Alex was an incredible professional, and even on the days where things were rough as hell, he managed to put his nose to the stone
-Jeff taught me that it’s less about perfection, and it’s more about cadence. Every swing you take will not be a home run—both as a creator and journalist and also as a person—but if you can consistently, reliably do solid work, people will follow you.
-Rorie taught me the value of prioritization. Matt is just… super busy over there, and he constantly has to decide what challenges are things he needs to address immediately and which things need to be saved for tomorrow.
-Drew showed me the courage (and the deftness) it takes to bring really, really esoteric interests to a wide audience. Things like the Crusader Kings 2 stream or the Twilight Struggle Quick Look (which I did with Drew) never would’ve happened if he didn’t prove that if you bring a fun personality and a lot of patience, you can share your weirdest interests with people.
-Jason is a living example of grit. Long nights of setup were worth it, because tomorrow it meant that things would be that much easier. And longer nights of breakdown were worth it because hey, you were done. If I’m every a tenth of the professional Jason is, I’ll be able to get a ton done even on the hardest nights
-Dan and I bonded over our social anxiety. His ability to step out into a crowd—but also to know that it’s okay to step away when you need to was a very important lesson for me.
-Brad taught me how to deal with criticism. That’s not a joke, either. There were weeks where I saw fans of ours pile onto him unfairly—unaware of whatever really difficult task he was hard at work at accomplishing—and he was just fucking head down on what had to get done. But he also listened when people had real, important, constructive critique. Super important lesson
-While I was there, I also worked with a dude named Stan who you probably don’t know, but Stan absolutely taught me the value of working with people who understand the big picture. I’m a humanities dude, you know? I resist stats and charts and all that. Stan showed me how those things could inform my work without forcing it to change in a way I wasn’t happy with.
-Patrick was obviously gone by the time I arrived, but watching his whole career (and now being lucky enough to work with him on a daily basis), he’s taught me a ton about the value of being curious. Dig deeper. The story isn’t the obvious thing, it’s the next level down. Always take that next step.
-And while I was never lucky enough to know Ryan, as a fan, I was keenly aware of his amazing way of bringing a room of people together. In prepping for our huge 72 hour livestream, I thought a lot about how well Ryan was able to find common ground between people who had very little to do with each other. He was a master MC, and I aspire to bring even a fraction of the joy he brought others.”
“This is my fifth nomination. I took all the pictures, went to the luncheon. But it's right on time...It's not everyday that Hollywood thinks of translating a play to screen. It doesn't scream moneymaker. But it does scream art. It does scream heart... Denzel, you know I'm a friend and a fan...thank you for saying, ‘trust me and remember the love.’ And to the original Troy, my father, Dan Davis...[he] had a fifth grade education, didn't know how to read until he was 15, but you know he had a story, and it deserved to be told, and August Wilson told it.
–Viola Davis accepting her award for Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes
thought a man with a double first from Cambridge and an astonishing
start to his acting career would have something interesting and
articulate to say about himself. We were right.
You know how tennis players raise each other’s game, how Nadal plays his best tennis when he’s up against Federer?
acting with Robert Downey Jr is like playing Agassi. You never know
what he’s going to do next. Unless, of course, you happen to be throwing
him out of a window and he’s shouting, “Throw me harder, baby. Let’s
make it real.”’
Hiddleston shakes his head and laughs. It’s been some journey from the
darkness of a cinema in Malmo, Sweden, where four years ago, during a
break from filming the first season of Wallander, he spent an evening
watching Downey Jr signal his spectacular return to form in the first
instalment of Iron Man.
in The Avengers, the superhero film to end them all, this charming Old
Etonian and Cambridge graduate reprises his role as Loki, the baddie
from Thor, and gets to do battle with a line-up of Marvel Comics’ most
iconic characters: Iron Man (Downey Jr), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo),
Captain America (Chris Evans) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson).
first, back to that evening in 2008. Hiddleston was in Sweden having
landed a small part as the sidekick to Kenneth Branagh’s brow-beaten
Up to that
point, he’d made a few blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearances in TV
dramas, starred in a small British film and won rave reviews for his
stage work, collecting an Olivier Award in the process.
‘I’d been acting for about four years
and I’d already seen some of my contemporaries rocketing to immediate
and extraordinary levels of success,’ he says, as we sit in the spring
sunshine beside a canal in east London.
Arterton, who was two years below me at Rada, was suddenly the great
hope of British acting while I was still grinding away in the theatre.
Redmayne, who I was at school with, was off making movies with Angelina
Jolie and Matt Damon. I thought that if it hasn’t happened for me,
maybe it never will.
all impose a glass ceiling on our expectations. I’m an eternal realist
and the success rate for being an actor is pretty low.
father and I used to tussle about me becoming an actor. He’s from
strong, Presbyterian Scottish working-class stock, and he used to sit me
down and say, “You know, 99 per cent of actors are out of work. You’ve
been educated, so why do you want to spend your life pretending to be
someone else when you could be your own man?”’
Thankfully, Hiddleston stuck to his guns because the last two years have seen an extraordinary turnaround in his fortunes.
Branagh, who has become something of a mentor, invited him to audition
for the title role in Thor, the £95m blockbuster he’d been hired to
Then, in one
week, he received a personal letter from Woody Allen asking him to
appear in what turned out to be his best film in years, Midnight In
Paris, and a phone call from Steven Spielberg, his childhood hero,
requesting a meeting about War Horse, the World War I epic that went on
to be nominated for six Oscars.
From idling in the slipstream of his
peers, Hiddleston suddenly emerged as Britain’s hottest young actor, or
as Spielberg described him, ‘the new Errol Flynn’.
He says he still has to pinch himself, even now.
never get used to it,’ he says. ‘It’s really been amazing and only
recently have I been able to have a bit of headspace to sort through the
boxes of everything, to process it. It’s been more than I’d ever
One of three
children, Hiddleston spent the first years of his life in south-west
London before the family moved to Oxford when his father was offered a
job managing Isis, a company that helped university researchers
commercialise their intellectual property.
His mother, who works as an arts administrator, took him to the RSC at Stratford and to see arthouse films at the local cinema.
At the age of 13, Hiddleston began as a boarder at Eton. His parents were splitting up at the time.
think I started acting because I found being away at school while my
parents were divorcing really distressing,’ says the 31-year-old.
‘It’s only now I’ve got a retrospective angle on it.
'When you are a teenager, suddenly you start harbouring secrets in a different way.
'If you are at a boys’ school, especially, there is a level of bravado that you have to keep up otherwise you’ll get picked on.
was really quite upset, and probably very sad and vulnerable and angry.
Acting presented a way of expelling those feelings in a safe place.’
heads a golden generation of Old Etonian actors that numbers Eddie
Redmayne (My Week With Marilyn, Birdsong), Harry Lloyd (A Game Of
Thrones, The Iron Lady) and Harry Hadden-Paton (who recently starred in
She Stoops To Conquer at the National Theatre).
‘But I’m wary of labels,’ he says. ‘As an actor, the labels that are so
easily attachable to me – like Old Etonian or Cambridge graduate or
Rada alumnus – are, in a way, the least interesting things about me.
I’ve had to do a lot of work taking off those jackets. The last thing I
ever want is to be pigeon-holed.
was meeting lots of casting directors and you’d feel the atmosphere
change in the room when I said where I went to school. It’s true of
everyone in this country; we’re all so much more than we’re allowed to
be by this predisposition to keep people in their lane.’
is reluctant to dwell on the current vogue for actors educated at posh
public schools, and says there are widespread misconceptions about Eton.
People think it’s just full of
braying toffs, who are arrogant and chauvinistic, senseless and
ambitious, who are destined to run the country and steal all our money.
It isn’t true. 'There
are a few people like that but that’s one or two in a school of 1,200.
It’s actually one of the most broadminded places I’ve ever been. 'The
reason it’s a good school is that it encourages people to find the
thing they love and to go for it. They champion the talent of the
individual and that’s what’s special about it.’Prince William was one of his contemporaries, and Hiddleston says the fact he was treated like any other boy speaks volumes. ‘There
was a general and very quietly stated ethos when he arrived that there
was to be no special treatment and no special favours.'It
would have made everyone’s life hell if they had to treat him as
someone special. I think it was very healthy for him to be just another
boy.’It was during his time at Eton that Hiddleston realised that acting was the path he wanted to follow. ‘I
did a production of Journey’s End, an RC Sherriff play about World War
I, at the Edinburgh Festival. I was 18 and it was the first time that
people I knew and loved and respected came up to me after the show and
said, “You know, you could really do this if you wanted to.” 'Acting
takes such a level of confidence and self-belief and as a teenager I
didn’t have that much self-esteem. What teenager does? It was when they
started saying I could do it that I really committed to it as a
went on to win a place at Cambridge, where he studied Classics at
Pembroke College and quickly established himself as the student actor
most likely to succeed, even among contemporaries that included Sir
Peter Hall’s daughter Rebecca and his old schoolmate Redmayne. He
was signed by an agent in his first year and managed to combine acting
jobs with his studies to the extent that he graduated with a double
As well as being personable, Hiddleston is extremely bright and speaks in grammatically perfect paragraphs. However, he denies his education has equipped him with an extra layer of confidence.‘I’m always distrustful of inherited confidence and inherited esteem,’ he says.
‘I’ve never wanted to have to transfer the credit for my actions on to
anybody else – my parents, my school, my university. I’ve always
understood an inherited confidence to be false.’Later
in the conversation, he talks about Britain’s class neurosis and cites
his recent nomination for a Rising Star Bafta, for which he lost out to
Hackney-born Adam Deacon. ‘It was couched as Eton versus Hackney, and Hackney won. But why can’t Adam just be the more popular actor? 'The
one thing I despise is how everything artistic, political or
intellectual has to be refracted through this prism of class
consciousness. It probably is more sensitive to me but everything
becomes really narrow-minded and pedantic and bigoted.’The
big change in Hiddleston’s life took place over a lunch with Branagh in
Los Angeles in 2009. As well as Wallander, they had appeared together
on stage in a West End production of Checkov’s Ivanov.
‘We really clicked. The two characters we played were locked in an
ideological battle of wits. It was like old bull, young bull, and we
just went at it every night for 95 shows.’ Branagh was starting work on Thor and surprised Hiddleston by asking him to audition for the title role. ‘Studio executives get nervous about casting new people because the budgets are so big,’ says Hiddleston. ‘No amount of throwing the kitchen sink at them in every audition will ever convince them. You need advocates.’Hiddleston
lost out on Thor to Aussie beefcake Chris Hemsworth but consolation
came in his casting as Loki, the scheming brother. He’s in no doubt who
he has to thank. ‘Ken
has had a life-changing effect. He was able to say to the executives,
“Trust me on this, you can cast Tom and he will deliver.” It was massive
and it’s completely changed the course of what is available to me to
do. Ken gave me my break.’
The film would gross over £280 million
but before production had even finished, Hiddleston found himself on
the way to another potentially life-changing meeting with Steven
Spielberg, for his next film, War Horse.
was telling myself, “You’re about to meet one of your all-time heroes.
His films are the reason you’re an actor – ET, Jaws, Indiana Jones,
Schindler’s List, Saving Private Ryan… It will be criminal if you
pretend to be someone else. To thine own self be true. If it’s supposed
to work out, it’ll work out and if it’s not, at least you’ll know you
talk worked and Hiddleston was offered the part of Captain Nicholls, who
rides the horse Joey in a cavalry charge at the beginning of the
‘It was a
massive pinch-me moment,’ he says of his first day of filming, in which
he led 120 galloping horses across no-man’s land.
a child, I used to watch Indiana Jones on a loop. For me it was all
about Spielberg and Harrison Ford. Then, suddenly, I’m on a horse that
I’ve been taught to ride by Vic Armstrong, who was Ford’s stunt double
in those films, and Spielberg’s calling “Action!”
was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done, not just on film
but in my life. Balls out, full throttle, there was no acting required.
If any of us had fallen off in that charge we would have been trampled
underfoot. It’s a hard one to beat as an experience and I got to do it
ten or 11 times.’
recently put the finishing touches on screen adaptations of Henry IV,
Parts 1 and 2, and Henry V, which will be screened as part of the
Cultural Olympiad, Hiddleston is currently enjoying a rare period of
downtime before heading off around the world to promote The Avengers.
after his relationship with the actress Susannah Fielding ended in
November, he says he’s had to make painful compromises to get where he
has, including missing his best friend’s wedding.
was one of those crazy things where I’d said I’d be there – even if
Spielberg called. And Spielberg did call and I wasn’t there. We fell out
really badly. It’s OK now. He read me the riot act and then we went out
and got slammed.
'Acting just demands everything and if you don’t give it everything, there will be someone behind you who will.’
And the chances are that someone will be a product of Eton’s drama department.