Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston Interview
Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hiddleston Interview
It's a bit different, isn't it, riding through Asgard and charging across fields in World War I?

Tom Hiddleston

Well, by the time I got to the stunt farm to be trained and the three of us were trained for about five weeks and I looked like a sack of potatoes.

Benedict Cumberbatch

You sat back as if you were on some sort of sofa. I mean, we were no better, but he had this sort of skill, that was then completely lost ...

Tom Hiddleston

I always say it was like the beginning of City Slickers, when Billy Crystal just looks kind of shocking up there on this horse. But we were drilled, I mean, English cavalry – we had to look impeccable and immaculate and we had the best teachers in the world.

Benedict Cumberbatch

And the best horses.

Tom Hiddleston

And the best horses – they were Spanish stallions. It was much more complex, because English cavalry saddles are very small and narrow and flat and we were also riding on double reins, so that means four pieces of leather in your hand -

Benedict Cumberbatch

And single-reining those double reins as well, so you were controlling everything from speed, transition, and movement left and right with one hand.

Tom Hiddleston

With the sabre in your other hand. And then keeping formation and just learning how to do that, learning the precision, the physical and psychological precision that you need to ride a horse like that, because those kinds of horses understand – they almost understand some kind of – they can feel – like, as the thought of cantering transfers itself synaptically to your legs, they can feel that happen, somehow, because they're so sensitive. I know that sounds crazy, but it's true.

Benedict Cumberbatch

You sort of get conditioned once they're on set. You have to be very careful – they key up very quickly, so you can suddenly have a moment where - I was leading the charge, so I shouted the command and by the second time when it was just “Forward to walk, march,” the horse wanted to go, it just wanted to do the final charge, it just heard the voice and sort of associated with that, so it's difficult to control.

You have to be careful with bullhorns and the usual tools of controlling a big army and a big set of people doing their jobs, so that after a while, Adam – who was our very brilliant and able First [Director] - he had a massive problem with his throat afterwards because he had to do so much shouting. But he had to be told to calm down, because the horses, the minute they heard him, they were like, ‘Right, we're off ...' So that could be quite interesting.

But what you were talking about, you saw that in the most expert riders that we had, who were tuning the horses to be these Ferraris or stunt horses or less instantaneously responsive to commands, so that they were controllable in a heightened situation, like a film set. You saw the horsemen that were training them, you couldn't tell the movement between – it was exactly as you just said – the synaptic thought and then the move to the legs and muscles, you couldn't even see those instructions, you just saw a man sitting very still and then a horse getting down, getting up, rearing, charging, stopping. Incredible.
If you fall off, there's a whole regiment behind you, which will trample you underfoot...

Tom Hiddleston

They're amazing, these guys. And the technicality required, as well. I mean, one of the thrilling days for me was doing the practice charge with Ben, when we're all dressed in our Navy blue military dress -

Benedict Cumberbatch

Sergeant Pepper ...

Tom Hiddleston

Yes! And it turns into a race, basically. It's a big moment for the story, because the rivalry between Topthorn and Joey is converted into a friendship – I think that's really important – and somehow Topthorn and Joey inherit the rivalry between the two of us. But we had to gallop out of a bank of mist and on the other side of the mist, chase and then keep track with a 4x4 vehicle, out the back of which is hanging the camera on it, on a mechanical crane. We had to gallop up to it and then stay ten foot from the lens, side by side, our legs almost rubbing up against each other, not put our swords through the front of the lens, no further back or forward than ten feet, otherwise you're out of focus. It was pretty complicated, wasn't it? But so thrilling when you got it right.

Benedict Cumberbatch

It was. It really was. And just starting it, as well, knowing that you're leading a charge of about 250 and we couldn't see the ears of our own horses when we began in this bank of fog.

Tom Hiddleston

And if you fall off, there's a whole regiment behind you, which will trample you underfoot.

Benedict Cumberbatch

You felt like you were leading the Grand National.

Tom Hiddleston

We were lucky, because on other films they probably wouldn't let us do it, but Steven was adamant that he wanted to be able to shoot us, on those horses, going at 40 miles an hour. To the extent that even American friends of mine – the film's already come out over there – they say, [does American accent] 'So, Tom, like, they CGI-ed your face onto a stunt man, right?'

Benedict Cumberbatch

Yeah, I've heard this as well. What do you have to do in the modern world to prove that you were actually there doing it? It was all real.
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Content updated: 17/11/2019 22:31

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