Tom Hiddleston declared himself ‘battle-ready’ and eager to take up his sword as a mighty Roman general, for his first stage appearance in five years.
Hiddleston plays the title role in Josie Rourke’s production of Shakespeare’s tragedy Coriolanus, which begins performances at the Donmar Warehouse on December 6.
‘There’s going to be real blood and sweat,’ the actor said, only half joking. For several weeks, fight director Richard Ryan, has been putting Tom and Hadley Fraser, who plays Coriolanus’s Volscian enemy, Tullus Aufidius, through combat training.
‘He’s a war machine,’ Tom says of Coriolanus. ‘So I have to look as if I could lead an army. He’s at his most alive in battle, but he doesn’t know how to be in peacetime.
He returns from the battlefield a hero, and the people want to make him their political leader — but he’s a master of war, not politics.
‘The soldier side of him requires cut-and-dried discipline and the clarity of mind you need to win a battle.
He’s battle ready — but you don’t draw your sword in the Senate!’ Tom told me that he and director Rourke have been exploring Coriolanus’s relationship with his mother.
‘He has no father, so he was raised by his patriotic mother. It’s odd that he’s so obsessively masculine — and this is 200 years before Freud,’ the actor noted.
The play also features Deborah Findlay, Mark Gatiss and Borgen’s Birgitte Hjort Sorensen (left).
Film had for a while tempted Hiddleston away from the theatre. Since he last appeared on the boards, in Michael Grandage’s production of Ivanov, he has played bad guy Loki in three Marvel comics movies including Thor: The Dark World, which has taken more than £18 million at the UK cinema box office.
Soon after Coriolanus completes its run at the Donmar, he will head right back to the big screen, teaming up with Jessica Chastain and Mia Wasikowska on Guillermo De Toro’s haunted house film Crimson Peak.