November 6, 2015:
Josie Rourke, Artistic Director of the Donmar Warehouse, hosted an edition of BBC Two's Artsnight themed on the modern day fascination with biographies and biopics. For her episode Josie talked to actors, writers, and directors about the real lives they're choosing to show and (asked) them if they feel any responsibility to the people they've chosen to represent. Tom Hiddleston's response was that "people enjoying relating to these people as human beings as opposed to two-dimensional figures who are far away". Along with Tom, Aaron Sorkin (Jobs), James Marsh (The Theory of Everything), Erin Brockovich (Erin Brockovich), and Abi Morgan (Suffragette) are also featured.
The section with Tom Hiddleston begins at 12:45 where they discuss his role as Hank Williams in I Saw the Light.
Josie: You've taken on this icon, this hero, this massive figure in American cultural history. How deep was the breath you drew before doing that.
Tom: Giant. It was terrifying. It was daunting. It was challenging, but exciting because Hank Williams changed the landscape of American music. He inspired so many: Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Johnny Cash, Bruce Springsteen - all tip their hat to Hank.
Basically he was born with Spina Bifida, which wasn't diagnosed until he was about 27. He was apparently quite a weak child and he wasn't strong, which is why he missed the draft so he wasn't a soldier himself. He also didn't work, he didn't work on the railroad, he didn't work in the field, he didn't work on the farm. Which is, I think, part of the reason why he latched onto music and why he latched onto the guitar because that's what he could do.
Josie: How did you begin to get into this music, which is not your music?
Tom: No, that was the hardest thing I think. Was trying to change my instinctive rhythm. Our British rhythm is actually very on the beat. It's very neat, it's very tidy, it's very British.
Josie: So how do you unstitch that?
Tom: You unstitch it by going to Nashville for six weeks before you start shooting.
I went to train with a man. He's actually Nashville royalty and he's called Rodney Crowell. He himself saw Hank Williams play (while) on his father's shoulders at the age of two, and it's one of his earliest memories. And Hank is the biggest inspiration in his life. The thing he instructed me to do from the get-go was to interpret the material. Which is really just like playing a Shakespearean role. He said "there's no way you can imitate Hank. Hank was the only Hank. But the way that you'll carry it across (and he used these words he said) if you can sing with the same level of authenticity, sincerity, and feeling and show us what the means to you we'll hear it. We'll hear what Hank was trying to say because that's the power he had. It came from his heart".
What I loved, I guess, is that Hank has a rebelliousness I don't have. I'm too English and too well brought up probably.
Josie: Do you think will acquire that with age?
Tom: I don't know I don't know that I'll ever walk out of an interview. But I love his honesty about it.
Josie posted pictures of her with Tom and Erin on her social media in the run up to the air date.
Tom Hiddleston was wearing the Reiss Noir Melange weave shirt.