When Benedict Cumberbatch dropped out, Guillermo sent the script to you and he said that you turned around almost immediately and accepted, I think he said within 72 hours.
Was it based on him, or was it based on the script, or was it based on – What was it that made you say, ‘This is definitely a part worth taking’?
HIDDLESTON: Well, it happened very quickly. He called me, my agents called and said, ‘Guillermo Del Toro is going to call you in the next hour’ and he called me and told me the story and he said, ‘Don’t say yes, or no. But I’m gonna rewrite the script this weekend or tonight or tomorrow, and I’m gonna send you a new draft’ and like an hour later Jessica [Chastain] called me and said, ‘You have to do it’ [Laughs] ‘I want you to do it, and Guillermo wants you to do it’ and I was really excited I couldn’t wait to read the script. Then, it must have been like a day later, I got it and I read it immediately in one sitting and he had rewritten the role, so I got sort of my own draft, he had rewritten the part for me in a way. It’s just brilliant, it just is a brilliant screenplay, and I wanted to work with him, I knew that Jessica, and Mia [Wasikowska], and Charlie [Hunnam] were locked in and on board; and I love Mia and I know Jessica from before and I wanted to work with Charlie so there was just no possible way I was going to say ‘no’. Working with Guillermo who I’ve admired for so long, and the script itself was just brilliant, the screenplay was captivating and rich and sophisticated and terrifying; and the role was amazing, and different than anything else I’d done, It was a very, very quick ‘yes’ after that.
Guillermo showed us some stills from the film and we saw the color scheme that Mario Bava, Hammer Films, bright Technicolor color scheme. Does that sort of aesthetic play into the performance as well, is there some level of bigness to it or are you guys playing smaller in that brighter, colorful space?
HIDDLESTON: Yeah, I didn’t think about the color too much in my approach, even though Kate Hawley’s sort of mood boards, the costume designer, she put together these extraordinary mood boards which covered her entire office with different headlines so it would be these massive posters of imitism, for Sharpe it might be Caspar David Friedrich’s painting Wanderer above the Sea of Fog, or depictions of Byron, or old kind of early, early prints of these long-haired Victorian engineers standing on hill tops, which seem like a cliché but it’s true. And then stuff about the mines, so all these pictures of boys who’d just crawled out the mines or people being washed after they’ve been down the mines for weeks; all those mood boards are plastered around the side of my trailer because the images themselves are so inspiring. Just the way people look, the way people dress, the way people carry themselves, the way people sat and stood, faces and haircuts. I did a lot of that just thinking about the visual sort of thing, but not necessarily color even though I knew that there’s this very dark midnight blue or something that we always have for the Sharpes, that Lucille and Thomas should have black hair.
We wanted Thomas to look like this Byronic hero, to be the tall, dark stranger in the new world, Charlie Hunnam is blonde and Mia is blonde and these two dark strangers from the north of England come along and they’re sophisticated and old and European and they should bring with them the era of gothic romance. I read some stuff, Guillermo pointed me towards The Mysteries of Udolpho which is this sort of early gothic romantic classic by Ann Radcliff, and The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole, we talked about Rochester in Jane Eyre, even Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice; these figures, these wealthy gentlemen with big houses who possibly become emblems of English privilege that everyone’s talking about. Who is that man in the corner with the dark hair and the intense stare? The interest of that mystery, that there are gentlemen with dark secrets was something that was very compelling at the time.