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The Deep Blue Sea - Tom Hiddleston interview

The Deep Blue Sea

Interview by Rob Carnevale

TOM Hiddleston talks about the making of The Deep Blue Sea with Terence Davies and how he went about researching and understanding his character.

He also talks about his career to date and what he has learned from the people he’s worked with during his meteoric rise to fame.

Q. Given your age, this production brings out this idea of the overhang from the Second World War. How difficult is that to get into from a 2011 perspective?
Tom Hiddleston: It’s really interesting actually because when I first read the script what struck me was, firstly, how universal but also contemporary the feelings are. I think it’s a film about love, it’s a film about the complexity of being in love, the darker side of passion, and Hester’s act of leaving William Collyer, of leaving a man who is intensely kind and compassionate and gentle, for a man who has more passion but also a greater capacity for cruelty is something that happens every single day, whether it’s 1951 or 2011.

What I loved about Terence’s screenplay is that it seemed very muscular in its emotional language. The Rattigan is a little harder to access because, for instance, characters like Freddie Page and Jackie Jackson are forever… their turn of phrase is a little remote. It’s that thing that Terence [Davies] has so beautifully referenced in that scene in the pub where Jackie Jackson and Freddie Page are almost doing a pastiche of what it’s like to be in the RAF for the audience of Hester and Liz. I remember watching in my research an old movie called Angels 15 with Jack Hawkins and it’s full of people saying: “[In mock classic British accent] He can be terribly touchy about reinforcement aircraft but he’s absolute pure gold when you scrape down!” It was one of those things where I thought ‘well, we don’t want to do that’! Because I think there’s something very entertaining about watching those films as museum pieces but I honestly think they’re difficult to access emotionally.

Q. There’s also the idea behind this screenplay that love is never as spread out as evenly as we would like…
Tom Hiddleston: For me, it’s the subjectivity of each of their perspectives, which is that I do think Freddie loves Hester and I think he means it when he says: “I just don’t love you in the way that you love me.” But it’s also because of each of their experiences of life up until that point that informs their openness and their capacity to yield, I think, to feeling. When I approached it, I think the reason that the relationship between Hester and Freddie can’t work is because Hester is on the run from something incredibly repressed. She’s inherited the moral code of her father, who is a priest, she has married a judge who seems is without passion… with tenderness but without passion, and she’s running towards passion imbued with all of its risk and danger.

Freddie has spent five years fighting dogfights in the skies of London and he has seen death every day… the pot luck of all of his friends being shot out of the sky and who knows who’s coming home tonight. So, in a year like 1950 all those guys wanted to do after they got back home was to live… to sing in the pub, to play golf and to drive fast down The Great West Road, simply because they felt so lucky to be alive. And so Hester’s obsession with him, to the extent that she goes to, which is to threaten to take her own life because of this love, is something that I think he can’t access in a way because of his war damage. How can you value your life so little? We spent five years trying to save it…

Q. The pacing in the film is beautiful. So, how did you approach that in terms of performance and shot composition?
Tom Hiddleston: I think the cinema differs from the theatre in its capacity to hold silence. I think on stage in the theatre you can’t be silent for too long because in that silence the play will die. Theatre is an art form that thrives on words and language and argument and dialectic. Cinema is about behaviour and feeling and thought, and so expression of thought and feeling without words is, as in life, incredibly moving. And so our process of reduction, in a way, of reducing the scene to a look or a glance or a touch or the lack of a touch is in a way the most exciting area of performance in film. They weren’t pre-decided. The beauty of it is that they all just happened in the moment. One of the great things that Terence said to me before we started was: “The camera captures truth but it also captures falsety. So, if you don’t feel it, don’t do it.”

The Deep Blue Sea

Q. Terence has talked about the importance of having humour on set. Is that something you noticed was true, even though you’re dealing with very serious subject matter?
Tom Hiddleston: Well, the stand-up you see at this press conference is the man on-set every single day, even though it’s a very serious film. It was strange the first time I saw it, my memory of the shoot was so fun I thought: “Well, where are all the jokes?” So yeah, we had a really good time.

Q. We’re all enjoyed watching your well-deserved meteoric rise. What do you feel you’ve learned from this performance, working with Terence and whether there’s any particular piece of advice you’ve received that really stuck with you and stood out?
Tom Hiddleston: Well, that’s a great question and thank you very much for everything you’ve just said. It’s strange because if I’m being totally honest before the beginning of 2010 I had only made one feature film in my entire life. And then I made five in the space of 12 months and I was very lucky to be able to make five very different feature films very, very close together. Terence was the last in that line but by no means the least at all. I think this was the most… certainly the most poetic material that I had engaged in and unquestionably the most serious and mature. The process of shooting the film is something that I adored. I loved working with Rachel [Weisz] [because] she is completely fearless and without vanity in the way that she approaches her work. She’s capable of playing in every extremity of her range, whether that’s anger or sadness or vulnerability or joy. As a woman, she’s incredibly game and warm and fun and that was amazing.

Really, I liken Terence behind his back to a poet because sometimes between takes he’ll quote TS Eliot as a note and that’ll be the exact, correct thing that you need to know. And just various things about approaching work and preparation and the execution of that preparation… it’s a very delicate thing because I do think film acting isn’t about preparation really; it’s about freedom. Once you’ve done your homework, once you’ve done your training, whatever metaphor you choose to use, when you start shooting it’s almost like free-falling and allowing accidents to happen. I suppose what I’ve already quoted is something that Terence said to me, which is: “The camera captures the truth but it also captures falsety, so if you don’t feel it, don’t do it.” And I think as a kind of mantra going forward… I’ve seen actors over-think things, I’ve seen them get very intensively into something physical and be almost aiming for a target, or having a big idea, and I think that’s dangerous in a way. Allow life to happen and trust your director and his crew to capture that with their motion picture cameras. There you go…

Read our review of The Deep Blue Sea

Read our interview with Terence Davies