How can one individual take on the greatest team of superheroes ever assembled? According to Tom Hiddleston, it's "all in a day's work." And as the man who plays Loki, the Norse god of mischief and the lead villain in upcoming Marvel ensemble epic "The Avengers," Hiddleston should know.
The lanky British star sat down with a group of reporters on Friday to discuss his role in next summer's supercharged superhero film, revealing new details about how his character, who was first seen in last June's "Thor," serves as the evil force that brings together some of the most storied characters in comic book history.
"Essentially, he's come down to Earth to subjugate it, to rule the human race as their king," Hiddleston said. "And his primary argument is this planet is rife and populated by people who are constantly fighting each other. If they're all united together in their reverence of one king, there will be no war."
That Loki even wants to rule Earth might seem a bit counterintuitive, given the action he took in "Thor." In that movie, he attempted to usurp the throne of the mythological kingdom of Asgard, hatching a scheme that drove his title-character brother to be banished through a dark tunnel to the decidedly less magical human world. Eventually, of course, Loki's plan faltered, and he lost his grip on the Asgardian seat of power, leaving him a bit jealous of Thor -- and seeking a kingdom of his own.
And this time, he's much better equipped, both physically and mentally, to make his bid for power. At the same time, he's facing exponentially more powerful opposition.
"He changes in that he is definitively more menacing," Hiddleston said. "A lot more. Loki in 'Thor' is a lost prince, and there is a degree of vulnerability and confusion in his identity. In 'The Avengers,' he knows exactly who he is, he's fully self-possessed, and he's here with a particular mission."
Loki is also helped by the clash of egos that comes naturally when such a large group of heroes -- Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Nick Fury, Black Widow and Hawkeye -- are forced to give up their solo acts and function as a team.
"It's not an easily functioning team," Hiddleston said of the members of SHIELD. "A lot of the strength and uniqueness of the film comes in the fact that there's a lot of square-peg/round-hole fitting going on."
Hiddleston referenced a moment in the film's first trailer -- downloaded from iTunes a record-setting 10 million times in just 24 hours following its Tuesday release -- in which Steve Rogers, Captain America's alter ego, challenges Tony Stark. Without that advanced suit, Rogers asks, what is Stark reduced to?
The answer is playboy billionaire philanthropist genius, hinting at some of the humor that director Joss Whedon was able to inject into the film, but the point was also made: There's major discord within the reluctant team. On camera, anyway.
While much of the action is set in Manhattan, where Tony Stark's Stark Industries is located, the cast found themselves without much to do off set while shooting in locations such as Cleveland and Albuquerque. That meant lots of table tennis at Chris Hemsworth's rented house -- "I hate to brag, but Loki beats the crap out of both Thor and Captain America in table tennis," Hiddleston said -- and nights at local watering holes.
"There was one night when Chris Evans sent a round-robin text message that said, 'Avengers assemble,'" Hiddleston laughed, referencing the comic book team's famed call to action. "We ended up in a bar in Albuquerque. It was just this place where everyone goes out to hang out on a Saturday night. And what was quite interesting was that your regular Albuquerque bar-goer is looking and saying, 'Is that Jeremy Renner doing a lunge on the dance floor? I think it is!' or like, 'Why are Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson dancing together?' It was really fun."