Thursday, August 4, 2016

Tom Hiddleston as Hank Williams

A swanky hotel in lower Manhattan. A banquet room with hot and cold food available for members of the entertainment press.  A movie junket was underway and the stars of the movie were granting on-camera interviews in a rooms down the hall.  I sat with a plate of food and went over my interview notes while reporters at another table were praising an actor who was not in the movie being promoted.  The actor -- Tom Hiddleston.
 From what I could overhear, Hiddleston had granted interviews for a movie in which he starred.  The reporters chatted enthusiastically about his charm, graciousness, humor and the attention he gave to them.  He made each interviewer feel special whether that interviewer was from a big deal network program like the TODAY Show or from a modest TV station in Tacoma, Washington.  I immediately thought:  One day, he'll get a Golden Globe or Oscar nomination.  Or both. That's how the Hollywood game works.                                   
In my long career, every time I've heard members of the press rave about the good manners of an actor granting interviews, that actor went on to win a big entertainment prize -- Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock.  Then there's the occasional case of an actor that domestic and foreign press could not wait to interview after loving a new film performance only to be disappointed by the actor's blas√© attitude towards non-network interviewers.  I bet Rupert Everett wishes he could do his MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING junket interviews all over again.  After the preview screening of that movie for press, there was major buzz from reporters about him getting an Best Supporting Actor Oscar or Golden Globe nomination for his festive comedy performance.  And then we entertainment reporters met him.  He dampened his own buzz with his lukewarm personality, as I told the New York head of 20th Century Fox film publicity.  But that's another story.
I SAW THE LIGHT came out early this year.  It came and went apparently.  It's a biopic about the late country music superstar, Hank Williams.  Some of the singer/songwriter's famous hits are "Hey Good Lookin'", "Your Cheatin' Heart", "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", "Cold, Cold Heart," and "I Saw the Light."  Tony Bennett, who turned 90 this week, recorded "Cold, Cold Heart" in the early 1950s and Bennett's cover reportedly widened the awareness and popularity of the Grand Old Opry star.   British actor Tom Hiddleston played Alabama native Hank Williams.  And Mr. Hiddleston played him very, very well.
I saw I SAW THE LIGHT just last month.  I was so impressed with Hiddleston's performance that I watched it twice.  His slim, jackknife frame resembles the late singer's and his lean face has angles that lend the actor even more of a resemblance.  As movie biopic, the film is not satisfying, not in comparison to much better biopics like WALK THE LINE about Johnny Cash or LA VIE EN ROSE with Marion Cotillard in her Oscar-winning performance as France's singing legend, Edith Piaf.  You can even go back to an older classic like 1955's I'LL CRY TOMORROW starring Susan Hayward as Lillian Roth, a singing star who also battled alcoholism.  In those films, we see the pain and heartaches that lead to addictions.  Hank Williams was an alcoholic whose drinking was so severe that it surely took a toll on his health.  He died of a heart attack at age 29.  We don't really get a definite sense of why he drank so excessively.  What was the hole in his soul that he tried to fill with liquor?  He had constant back pain.  He had a wife who was another constant back pain.  As the film opens, they're getting married on rainy night.  She's in his band and fancies herself a good singer.  She is not.  But she wants to be a country music star and believes she is just as talented as Hank.
Why did he marry that annoying woman?  What was the major attraction?  We don't get a sense of that either.  But we do get a sense of how much Hank's mother cannot stand her daughter-in-law.  The mother-in-law is a short but juicy role played expertly by Cherry Jones. Actress Elizabeth Olsen hits just the right note as Audrey, the wife jealous of Hank's stardom,

I SAW THE LIGHT is not a bad movie.  The screenplay is not fully realized.  We need more information to give us more insight into the character.  Nonetheless, it is worth watching for the masterful performance given by Tom Hiddleston.  The twang, the rhythmic and sexy way he moves his leg and shoulder while singing onstage, his inner light that turns on when he hits the's all there.  Hiddleston does his own singing.  Here's a trailer.

The British star won the cheeky "Rear of the Year" award for a TV appearance his bottom made.  His hot buns were out in a sexy scene in a British mini-series.  Lately, Tom Hiddleston has gotten entertainment press attention because he's the boyfriend of pop singer Taylor Swift.
As Hank Williams sang -- "Hey Good Lookin'!" I wonder if Taylor realizes what a good actor Tom Hiddleston is.  You think she's seen I SAW THE LIGHT?  If you can, check it out on video.  You won't be disappointed in his performance.

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