Tom Hiddleston, star of 'Kong: Skull Island.'(Photo: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY)
LOS ANGELES — Talk about immediate liftoff.
Tom Hiddleston strapped himself into a Huey helicopter that took off with its side doors wide open to shoot one of his first scenes for Kong: Skull Island (in theaters Friday). Hiddleston reveled in the view as his copter flew straight out from the Hawaiian island of Oahu into the sunset-filled sky over the Pacific Ocean for cameras.
“Before you do it, there’s a part of you that takes a deep breath,” says Hiddleston, 36, recalling the moment. “But I wanted to stay up there forever, it was so beautiful and like, ‘I’m flying.’ "
The big ride continues for the gentlemanly British actor, who steps into the action lead for Kong alongside the famed movie monster who has been reborn for a new generation. Hiddleston is still soaring after making his mark as the villain extraordinaire Loki in the Thor and Avengers franchises and receiving an Emmy nomination for playing a graveyard-shift luxury hotel manager/spy in AMC’s The Night Manager.
Tom Hiddleston leads an ensemble cast into the jungle for 'Kong: Skull Island.' (Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment)
Loki has battled superheroes onscreen, but the Kong role is full-on action for Hiddleston. His mercenary James Conrad wields a lethal pool cue against foes in his opening bar scene before moving on to more traditional arms in the search for Kong.
“This is the guy you want on the ground in a jungle,” says Hiddleston. “It’s lovely to be a hero.”
Hiddleston’s leading man ascension has come with increased media attention, which went into overdrive during his three-month romance with pop superstar Taylor Swift, an affair that ended last September. The private Hiddleston endured rabid media speculation about the relationship, including vocal doubters who called the pairing a publicity stunt.
He chooses his words deliberately when discussing the now-subsided media storm.
“One has to be careful and vigilant about the distorted reflections that come from living in a hall of mirrors, which is what it means to be in the entertainment industry,” Hiddleston says. “I know what's real and true. And it’s getting easier to practice letting all of that stuff that is invented and imaginary slide off my back. Because if you let it attach to you, it can be corrosive.
Tom Hiddleston in a helicopter scene from 'Kong: Skull Island,' as shot by co-star Brie Larson. (Photo: Brie Larson)
“The important thing is to cleave to what you know is real,” Hiddleston adds. “Lots of people have had invented and imagined opinions about that (relationship). I’m in a place now where I can allow those projections to dissipate.”
The relationship vexed some of his hardcore "Hiddlestoners" and brought a new level of scrutiny. But Hiddleston has vowed to maintain a low-key public demeanor.
"Everyone is entitled to a private life. And there are places which I will always keep to myself," says Hiddleston. "That’s a necessary part of being a human being."
He does reveal some personal tidbits, such as celebrating his 36th birthday last month with his immediate family. Hiddleston had cake before a "joyful" run in the rain. Odd, perhaps. But he says unabashedly, "I love running in the rain. It makes me feel alive."
It's also good practice for future action roles. Because that life isn't all sunset helicopter rides.
"On the flip side of that breathtaking experience, I had to run through a swamp for 10 days," Hiddleston says. "That's the job."
Tom Hiddleston gets into action mode with 'Kong: Skull Island.' (Photo: Robert Hanashiro, USA TODAY)
photo of Tom Hiddleston steps into the media jungle with 'Kong: Skull Island'
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