Classically schooled actor, Tom Hiddleston, certainly is doing his part to reintroduce legendary country composer and singer, Hank Williams, to the current generation, and getting deserved recognition for stretching far out of his comfort zone of the villain in comic action movies, and beautifully told, but exceptionally British, roles as a destitute aristocrat in Crimson Peak, or the more universally appealing compassionate officer of Steven Spielberg’s The War Horse. In speaking of I Saw the Light, the lean and lanky, almost self-effacing star seems surprised himself by his embodiment of Hank Williams on-screen, but no one knows better the depths of study and sacrifice that the part required as well as himself. His visit with Stephen Colbert on March 28 turned to lighter topics, like his the hashtag #Hiddlesbum that is trending now. Being a music lover himself, the host couldn’t help but nudge the scholarly student turned superhero nemesis into a duet done as only this particular late-night show offers. Even off the cuff, the chemistry and harmony were magical.
Shyly accepting Colbert’s compliments on the performance, which are coming in waves of respect for Hiddleston’s part, however mixed for the overall body of the film, the actor recalled being taken by the phrase “honky-tonk” from the Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman,” and conjuring exotic adventure from the title, referring to the kind of gritty American fabric, “because we don’t have that.” Teasing with a chuckle, Colbert quipped, “Yeah, you’ve just got the Shakespeare stuff!” Guitar wasn’t so new for Tom Hiddleston, who was “noodling around” the instrument in college, “like everyone,” but getting into the robust but mournful twang of the man from Mount Olive, Alabama required the Londoner to leap into a new sensation of pain, stemming from “having no one to anchor him” through the meteoric blaze of Williams’ rise. It took some prompting, but it turns out that spoons have been the instrument of choice for Tom Hiddleston for years, after gaining expertise during a “lock-in” at a pub. He played them so vigorously for his sister’s engagement party, scars were nicked into his mother’s newly remodeled counters and furniture, but “left a memory.” Hiddleston provided by a right merry of a jig sandwiched between commercial breaks.
Stephen Colbert wanted to create his own memory, but Hiddleston backed away from the thought of singing all on his own, deflecting, “If you want to hear me sing, see the movie,” but once the host got the proper key from Jon Batiste and the band, the versatile host with his own passion for music found the perfect range, with that slight yodel, and he was off to the first verse of the title song. Tom Hiddleston found his way in seamlessly, and the finish was fine country. After the spirited vocals, Hiddleston divulged how he had probed into the character writings of Williams as “Luke the drifter” exposing a desperate attempt and desire to bridge himself and his world between his demons and the self-realization for which he longed. In an almost Monty Python sort of offering as “something completely different,” electronically-vibed Frightened Rabbit closed the night, for quite the contrast.