Tom Hiddleston got his first taste of celebrity on a global scale last week when The Sun newspaper announced to the world his relationship with Taylor Swift under the memorable headline "Tinker Taylor Snogs a Spy." His star has been on the rise for some time but suddenly Swift introduced him to a whole new audience who might have only known him as the bad guy from Thor. So, where did he come from?
Before paparazzi spotted Hiddleston, 35, cozying up with Swift on a Rhode Island beach next to a pile of rocks last Wednesday, he was following in the footsteps of other young, good-looking-but-serious British actors like Benedict Cumberbatch, Eddie Redmayne, and Michael Fassbender who have since become enormously successful. There were the early humble beginnings in historical dramas -—Cranford with Judi Dench, anyone? — but then came 2011, when Hiddleston was cast as Loki in Marvel's Thor, the film that officially put him on the map. That same year he was featured in strong supporting roles in films by marquee directors like Woody Allen (Midnight in Paris), Steven Spielberg (War Horse) and Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea).
Leading roles in serious movies that no one saw followed, like Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive and Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak. These roles found him flexing his dramatic muscles without compromising an aura of mystery, and he was beginning to cultivate a following among fans hungry for a brand-new posh, British heartthrob. (There was even a Buzzfeed quiz: "Is Tom Hiddleston Or Benedict Cumberbatch Your Soulmate?") Fan-made videos of the actor started popping up on YouTube, a good sign for someone on his way to becoming the Internet's New Boyfriend.
Swift is not Hiddleston's first celebrity relationship, though he has been reticent about publicly discussing past romances. He was flirtatious, but tight-lipped, when the question was posed in April about his I Saw the Light co-star Elizabeth Olsen in a New York magazine story — “Some things have to remain sacred. You could write that I’m single. There’s no ring on this finger,” he said. He dated Wallander co-star Susannah Fielding for several years before a split that was followed by a series of rumored relationships with Crimson Peak co-star Jessica Chastain; with Sherlock actress Laura Pulver; and with Kat Dennings, who appeared in Thor (though the pair didn’t have any scenes together).
This public image of Hiddleston as the romantic lead on and off screen fueled speculation that he is in the running to take over for Daniel Craig in the James Bond series, a global franchise that could use an actor romantically linked to a global music star like Swift. (And come to think of it — couldn't Swift write a Bond theme song or two?)
In fact, Hiddleston's latest role, in a television adaptation of John le Carre's The Night Manager has been widely interpreted as an audition for Bond because he plays the titular character, Jonathan Pine — a soldier-turned-hotel manager who goes undercover to infiltrate an arms and drug trafficking ring — with all the debonair sex appeal and good suits of, well, James Bond!
Still — “I’d make a terrible spy, because everybody knows who I am,” Hiddleston tells W. “But Susanne Bier, the director of The Night Manager, said that she thinks I am very enigmatic and good at keeping secrets.” Hint, hint, Broccoli family.
The show also proved that Hiddleston knows his way around a good headline, and has sex appeal to spare - a scene featuring his naked behind during a tryst was cut from the series' broadcast when it came to AMC.
Was he surprised the scene caused a furor? “I’m here to tell you that my butt is not dangerous,” Hiddleston says. It seems Taylor Swift agrees.
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