What do you like about your character in Marvel’s The Avengers ?
“Loki is such a great, larger-than-life character. He has so many dimensions. He is motivated by jealousy, ambition, pride, vanity, arrogance and greed – and yet he gets to have a lot of fun because of his predisposition towards mischief. On one level, he is this grandiose agent of chaos. He’s a cackling villain standing on rooftops, laughing at the sky. But on another level, he’s a lost child and a brother who was always the second string because he grew up in the shadow of Thor. He’s a rejected, abandoned son who has no place in the universe, so all his destructive anger is motivated by a lack of self-esteem. I don’t think he even knows it, but he’s desperately trying to give himself a purpose.”
At what stage did you discover that Loki would be part of Marvel’s The Avengers ?
“[ Marvel’s The Avengers producer] Kevin Feige suggested Loki would be part of the Avengers storyline when I got cast in Thor , but I was so busy trying to build the character that I couldn’t think about it. I knew perfectly well that if I was rubbish in Thor , I wouldn’t get anywhere near The Avengers . That’s when I thought I’d just take everything one step at a time.”
When did the reality of Loki’s role in Marvel’s The Avengers hit you?
“Towards the end of the Thor shoot, Joss Whedon came into Marvel for a script meeting and he asked [ Thor director] Kenneth Branagh to see a rough cut of Thor . Joss wanted to see what he could do with Chris Hemsworth and where to take the character of Thor, as well as Loki. Joss loved it so much that we went for a cup of tea and we had a long, fantastic conversation where we swapped loads of ideas. Joss said to me, ‘There’s been some talk of multiple villains in this movie, but I think you can do it on your own,’ which was the most incredible compliment. I had a mountain to climb after that.”
What’s it like to work with Joss Whedon?
“What impressed me the most about Joss initially was the incredible screenplay we had to work with on Marvel’s The Avengers . Directing this film was a feat in itself, but his screenplay was phenomenal. I’m sure none of us really knew what to expect, but I take my hat off to Joss for that. He was incredibly open and that’s what you want as an actor: you want to collaborate. Everyone has a certain level of ownership of their character and Joss was very respectful of that possession. He would constantly ask us, ‘Does this feel right for your character? Does this feel true to you? Is this in your voice?’”
How did it feel to work on a set that featured so many A-list actors?
“If I’m completely honest, I felt very much like the junior boy on The Avengers . I was in the company of a group of actors that I grew up watching and respecting. Samuel L Jackson and Robert Downey Jr are cinematic legends. I remember watching Robert in Chaplin while I was training at RADA thinking it was one of the most extraordinary pieces of acting I’d ever seen. In addition to that, Scarlett Johansson had already done Lost In Translation when I was at university, so I just felt incredibly lucky and privileged to be working with these actors and to be in these scenes with them. It was amazing.”
How did it feel to play the villain of the movie?
“It was a huge undertaking because it was an amazing challenge and an amazing privilege to play the bad guy. It was a challenge to dial up the menace and I was exhausted when I finished filming. It’s funny how negative energy is so exhausting, and it was certainly a challenge to cultivate Loki’s hatefulness every day. I had to get inside his reservoirs of pain and make that feel real. Hating is exhausting; it’s much more exhausting than loving, and that’s what took it out of me – as well as some of the physical challenges that we all undertook.”
Was the stunt work challenging as well?
“I love doing the stunts and flying around on wires. At the very beginning, the first thing I had to do was jump off a platform, do a 30-foot leap and spear somebody in the chest. Joss wanted me to fly beyond the horizontal, so they attached a harness to me under my costume, which enabled me to dive headfirst towards the camera. I felt like I was part of a circus trapeze act! It was fantastic.”
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How much training did you undertake for the role?
“I started training about two months ahead of the film shoot, but that continued while we were filming, too. I couldn’t bulk up, but it was important to me that Loki had a lean flexibility, so I ran and I ran. I’m a runner anyway and I’m used to getting up in the morning. I would be called for hair and makeup at 5am, so I’d get up at 3.30am, run for 45 minutes, do circuit training and then do a whole day shooting before going to bed, getting up, and doing it all again.”
What time did you have to go to bed?
“Hopefully by 8pm, but sometimes it was later than that. It was fine. To be honest, it was great to be part of the project.”
Did you find yourself taking Loki home with you at night?
“Thankfully, I wasn’t taking him home at the end of the day. I could leave Loki behind, which was great because I could relax and unwind away from the set. We had a really amazing atmosphere during the film shoot.”
What was the makeup process like for Loki?
“I had to go through two hours of hair and make-up every morning, which was a little testing at times. I had dyed my hair black and it was a certain length, but it wasn’t as long as it needed to be. It took an hour to put on the wig and add in the extensions, and then the costume itself took about 45 minutes to get on. I needed assistance with it because there were so many belts, buckles and bootstraps.”
How did you feel when the process was completed each day?
“I thought it looked amazing. It’s one of those things where the external silhouette of the character does so much of the job for me. The costume that Loki wears, the way he looks, the fact that he’s pale and has these sunken eyes and long black hair… He looks menacing. My eyes are naturally green and blue because I’m fair skinned and blond – but when I’ve got black hair and pale skin, suddenly my eyes look really creepy. When you’re breathing life into a very different kind of character it’s helpful to know that you look very different. But the costume was also great, especially when you’re fighting in it. It was so heavy and hot that it felt like I was fighting in a diving bell! It was intense, but great and it looked amazing, so it was all worth it.”
Do you think you came off worst when it comes to your costume?
“Everyone in the cast had their own challenges with the costumes, but if you sign up to play a superhero, you know you’re going to have a specific outfit and you know it’s going to be a challenge at some point. Alex Byrne is a brilliant costume designer. Everyone looks iconic in the movie, and Alex was so open to making the costumes work for the actors. She wanted to ensure that you could fight in it, breathe in it and also take it off at lunchtime. There’s a high risk that superheroes can look ridiculous, but Alex made us all look amazing.”
Were you into superheroes when you were growing up?
“As a kid, I loved Superman. For me, Christopher Reeve as Superman was the first superhero. I sat smack-bang in the middle of the audience for that movie. I was the right age at the right time, and I spent a lot of my childhood playing Superman games in the playground.”
So what superhero power would you most like to have in real life?
“I would love to have invisibility. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to be able to walk around and not be seen? You could listen into everything and look around. It would be a huge freedom to not be seen.”
Where would you go with your invisibility?
“I would go and find out the truth about things I don’t know about. I would want to go and sit in 10 Downing Street and the White House to listen to what they really say and what they really know. And then I would want to go around and play jokes on people that I know. That would be fantastic!”
MARVEL AVENGERS ASSEMBLE IS RELEASED TO OWN ON 17 SEPTEMBER 2012