Tom Hiddleston went to some “pretty dark places” to play Hank Williams. The British actor portrays the legendary musician in movie I Saw the Light, which documents his rise to fame and troubles in the 1940s. Hank passed away suddenly aged 29 from heart failure, after having suffered from alcoholism and an addiction to prescription drugs for severe back pain. In order to capture his demons, Hiddleston needed to get into the right mindset.
“I had to go to some pretty dark places, but that’s because that’s where he is,” the star told harpersbazaar.com when asked if the job was mentally exhausting. “He was just incredibly sad and lonely and the more successful he became the more lonely he became. He used to say the sunset was the lonesomest time of the day, and that’s the mark of a man who’s not happy.”
Hiddleston describes taking on the role as a “gut feeling” and he welcomed the challenge of embodying such a damaged individual. The handsome actor was immediately fascinated by Hank, even losing weight to make his performance genuine.
“I tried to do it in a healthy way,” Hiddleston said of shedding the pounds. “I understood it was part of the obligation. He was very thin, and then towards the end he was very frail. He was only eating eggs and ketchup once every three days because he was on prescription drugs and he was drinking. That’s one of those things that you can’t really fake, but I was very careful because I didn’t want the representation of Hank’s ill health to actually be dangerous for me.”
Elizabeth Olsen stars as Hank’s first wife, and manager, Audrey Williams. The pair collaborated closely with director, producer and writer Marc Abraham to make sure their onscreen marriage came across as believable, taking inspiration from Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s tumultuous union in 1966 movie Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.
“It seems like a strange reference, but how to express the passion and volatility of their relationship,” Hiddleston explained. “There were a lot of things to get a handle on, but it was so fulfilling. I hadn’t seen (I Saw the Light) for a long time, but I watched it again this week (at the premiere) – that was a journey of a thousand miles.”