The biopic designation bugs Abraham and Tom Hiddleston, the British actor who plays the legendary country singer-songwriter behind standards like “Your Cheatin’ Heart” and “Hey, Good Lookin’.” The director and his star approached “I Saw the Light” much like they would a movie of any genre.
“I never thought about the film as a biopic, not after a while,” Hiddleston says.
“I just thought about my obligations to Hank to get things right — to change the way I looked, to change the way I play the guitar, to change the way I sounded and sang — and the rest of it was about trying to get underneath, to get inside the soul of a man and express universal feelings.”
Still, those universal feelings are being expressed through a person who was very real (Williams died in 1953 at the age of 29). Hiddleston, who’s been busy the past few years playing Loki in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films, says that taking on Williams’ mannerisms didn’t feel all that different from his usual preparation for a role.
“If I were playing a fictional soldier, he’s still a soldier, so there’s a certain physical discipline I would have to put myself through,” Hiddleston says. “Otherwise people wouldn’t believe the fact that I’m a soldier.”
Getting people to believe that Hiddleston was Williams, Abraham says, was the major reason he chose to have the actor sing the film’s songs rather than lip-sync to recordings of Williams.
“It wasn’t Tom’s job to sound exactly like Hank Williams,” Abraham says. “His job was to create a representation of a real person, but more of a character — to make him vibrant and alive and feel the sweat and understand the pain, to bring that level of passion in his performance of those songs.
“It wasn’t exactly a match [vocally], but who cares when you’re caught up in the passion of a performer giving you that much?”
More film interviews from Kristen Page-Kirby