With “Only Lovers Left Alive,” British actor Tom Hiddleston teams up with Tilda Swinton and director Jim Jarmusch to wrestle the vampire genre back from the “Twilight” crowd, with Hiddleston and Swinton starring as two moody, music-obsessed bloodsuckers who can’t live without each other.
Was there any hesitation about stepping into the vampire world?
Absolutely none. It was amazing. I met Jim Jarmusch in November 2011, and I’d just finished shooting “Avengers,” and I was in New York for “War Horse,” which was just opening, and I was about to shoot the Shakespeare plays for PBS. So there was superheroes and soldiers and Shakespeare, and met Jim and he said, “I’m going to make a film about love, and it’s about two very delicate, sophisticated creatures who love music and poetry and nature. He’s a kind of rock star musician who’s also a kind of scientist and physicist, and she’s a poet. Oh and by the way, they’re vampires.” [Laughs] The vampire theme was really a framing for Jim to attempt a narrative about this theme of love, acceptance, time, creativity and mortality.
When you first watched the film with an audience, were you surprised people found it so funny?
It was really pleasing, actually, because we wanted there to be levity and lightness in it, and humor, but not in a way that seemed to be overreaching. We didn’t want to seem like we were pandering to the audience in bad taste, which would dilute the integrity of the attempt. And the attempt was really to make something very delicate and sophisticated and refined about love and acceptance and time and art and music and poetry. These are big themes, and we didn’t want to seem heavy handed. Jim wanted to be very light on his feet. So hearing the laughter is thrilling, truly, because when you’re delivering deadpan stuff about the literature of the world, you want people to get it.
I loved that John Hurt plays Christopher Marlowe.
Yeah, it’s a lovely joke that Christopher Marlowe is still alive and well, living in Tangier with a portrait of Shakespeare on his wall with a knife through its head. [laughs]
You’ve been moving seamlessly between this, giant Marvel movies and a ton of Shakespeare. How do you manage that balance?
I’ve never wanted to impose limits on my work. I just have a genuine love for it all. I suppose I’ve always wanted to be able to jump between things. I never wanted to be just the Shakespeare guy and I certainly never wanted to be just the superhero guy or even the indie kid. I should be so lucky, frankly, that I get to do any of these things. I think the variety really keeps me sharp. I had one day between getting back from Tangier [for “Only Lovers Left Alive”] and starting on “Thor 2.” The head shift was very quick. I finished with Tilda, I flew back from Morocco, I put my clothes in the washing machine and the next morning I got up and I was in Asgard with Chris Hemsworth. And I love that. I love that that’s what my life is.
If you had to choose between looking at Tilda Swinton or Chris Hemsworth all day, which do you go with?
[Laughs] The dance is different, but I love dancing with both of them.