The culture is facing hard times. Money is tight in a stagnant economy, unemployment is high — so is frustration. When people feel like the world is against them do we root more for those characters who want to destroy it?
It’s attached to this idea living on the edge, not playing by the rules. I think there’s always been something that’s sort of attractive about that. We all want our lives to be happy, I know I do. Life is good when it’s full of laughter and friendship and companionship and love and family all of those things. But there is something that happens when we go to a cinema on a Friday night and the lights go down, there is an absolute collective fascination with darkness, and that’s something that’s very cinematic. Some cathartic exploration of the darker aspects of our nature. We want to watch it on screen and we don’t want it in our lives.
Loki is a sexy villain, but that’s not part of his ambition, is it? He doesn’t seem to be interested in love or sex but he has this sexuality about him, maybe it’s his lust for power. What do you think of Loki as a sexy beast?
[Laughs] That’s the first time anyone has ever used that phrase about Loki. It’s fascinating isn’t it? I don’t know because it’s not a part of the conscious construction. I take relish in playing him. I think there’s a physical self-possession about him, a self-acceptance. Of course I’ve been very exacting about his physicality. You know, I was born with very blonde, curly hair, and a mixture of Scottish and English genes, and my complexion is very ruddy and healthy. In making him with this raven black hair and blanching my face of all color, it changes my features. Suddenly my blue eyes look a lot bluer, which lends a severity to my face. And even my own smile has a distorted menace to it. Whatever comes through me naturally is distorted. It’s almost like a filter on a light.
So you are not an agent of chaos like your alter ego?
Alter ego is the right way of putting it! In so many ways, he is the photo negative of who I am. It’s very strange and unexpected to make such a connection with an audience as a character who is a reverse of myself.
What about as a boy – were you a good kid or a troublemaker?
I’ve got a sprinkling of mischief in my childhood, but I was at school with some people who were really, really like — they got into some misdemeanors. There were tricks and pranks and capery. And sure enough, all the prettiest girls in my class were drawn to those guys who seemed to lean into danger.
What would you say separates a villain like Loki from a villain like Malekith, the other antagonist of Thor: The Dark World?
Vulnerability, I think. [Loki] is insecure and in all three films he’s played a brilliant game and has ultimately been undone by his insecurities. I love that line that Clark Gregg as Agent Coulson has in The Avengers: “You’re gonna lose” and Loki says “Why? Your floating fortress falls from the sky. You’re heroes are scattered. Where is my disadvantage?” and Coulson’s response is, “You lack conviction.” [Laughs] Which I love.
Loki is kind of a bottomless pit of need. He doesn’t seem like the kind of individual who could ever be happy.
There’s another line in The Dark World, Thor and Loki are in an isolated space with all the time in the world and they get to the bottom of it. They talk about power and have this big argument and Thor says to Loki “Even if you win, would that satisfy you?” and Loki’s response is, “Satisfaction is not in my nature.” [Laughs] There’s an amazing comic [Loki, first published in 2004] that explores what happens when Loki ends up as king of Asgard, achieved all he’s ever wanted, and his life is empty and devoid of color and all life because there is nothing to fight for anymore.
I loved your Comic-Con presentation [see video above], where you came out in costume and in character, hurling insults and commands at the crowd. They loved it, too. I know you’ve gotten a lot of praise for that, but how did it feel playing him live?
In the words of Tony Stark in The Avengers, “Loki is a full-tilt diva.” So that aspect of him was just a fun, fun thing to do. That was one of those moments that I thought it might be enjoyable and entertaining. I didn’t know it was going to be that. I didn’t know that was going to happen. It was amazing.
It must feel good to call on that when you need it.
Yeah, [laughs] just wheel him out whenever.