If The Night Manager marked the consolidation of Tom Hiddleston’s status as a bonfide Hollywood A-lister then he only has one man to thank.
The BBC mini-series was a success on both sides of the Atlantic and helped further cement the English actor’s standing as one of the most eye-catching and in-demand actors in the world.
Such a status will be put to the test later this year, when he appears in the hotly anticipated Kong: Skull Island alongside Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson and one giant looking ape.
Yet none of this would have been possible were it not for the support of one key player a few years ago: Kenneth Branagh.
After all, it was Branagh who not only helped Hiddleston land his first major role on TV but also in the world of film.
It all started when Branagh went to watch an RSC production of Othello which saw a then-relatively-unknown Hiddleston appearing alongside Ewan McGregor and Chiwetel Ejiofor.
Recalling the moment he first saw Hiddleston take to the stage, Branagh told Digital Spy last year how he was immediately transfixed.
“I’d not seen him before, but it was quite clear that he was an utterly naturalistic speaker of Shakespeare. It’s not necessarily a part in which you can score, Cassio – he is in many ways the relatively straightforward young man,” he said.
“But Tom made him so effortlessly charming and was so adept, adroit and invisibly easy with the language, that it did feel like it was the start of something.
“Even against those two [Ejiofor and McGregor], that boy really stood out.”
A couple of years later, when Branagh had been recruited to headline an English-language remake of the Scandinavian detective series Wallander and it was hardly a surprise to see Hiddleston recruited for his first major TV role as fellow inspector Magnus Martinsson.
But even bigger was to come in 2011 when Branagh, who by then had moved on to another project as director of the first Thor movie, invited Hiddleston in for an audition.
Unbelievably, Hiddleston had actually come in for the role of Thor – something which seems so strange when you compare him to Chris Hemsworth – but Branagh still saw potential for him to play another character Loki.
Speaking to Den Of Geek a few years later, Hiddleston seemed happy to admit that Branagh had much to do with him landing the part.
“I’m not obvious casting for Loki. I don’t have long, greasy black hair. It was funny – I think it took a while for Marvel to come around to the idea, too, because I initially auditioned to play Thor,” he said.
“I knew I had an advocate in Kenneth Branagh, because we had worked on television together – and that is really where we got to know each other. You see who somebody is, you see what makes them tick. You see their process, their professionalism… Ken and I just really connected.
“So when push came to shove, and Marvel were thinking, I hope, that I was an interesting prospect, then Ken was probably able to say ‘you can trust him on this’.”
Branagh, for his part though, insists his success was simply down to the fact he wowed in the audition.
“He auditioned with a clarity of purpose and a drive… not arrogance, and not over-ambition, but he was just very clear – I felt like I was watching that process happen before my very eyes,” he told Digital Spy.
Hiddleston owes Branagh a hell of a lot.
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Loaded staff writer Jack Beresford has produced content for Lad Bible, Axonn Media and a variety of online sports and news media outlets.