English actor Tom Hiddleston, perhaps best known for playing Loki in the Marvel films, has been tapped to play country music legend Hank Williams in a proposed biographical movie. Williams is up there with Elvis Presley as someone who has tremendous importance to 20th century American music, so this piece of casting is worthy of some discussion.
Here are some of the pros and cons. The look is actually pretty good. Each man has a similar facial structure and features. Hank was tall, but not buff (rather skinny, actually), so that doesn't work as well. However, it seems that English actors are usually quite good at mastering twangy American southern accents, so that should work out well. Hank only lived to be 29 and Hiddleston is past 30, so playing a guy in his 20s might call for some creative makeup and lighting.
For purists, perhaps the biggest problem is that Hiddleston will be singing the songs himself rather than use the original recordings (apparently rights have already been secured). When playing a singer, recreating a voice that is so important in the lexicon of popular music (in this case the country-western genre) is a very daunting task. Despite an Oscar nomination, Gary Busey's rendition of Buddy Holly songs in "The Buddy Holly Story" (1978) could not capture the charm and spirit of the originals, while Joaquim Phoenix gamely trying to recreate the depth of Johnny Cash's vocals also came up short. This is not the fault of the actors, each of whom gave good performances. They were asked to master the singing voice of two enormously important song stylists whose work has transcended time and generations. Hiddleston has a very distinctive voice, one that handles narration beautifully. But capturing the yearning passion of Hank Williams stark vocals on songs like "Cold Cold Heart" and "Lovesick Blues" will be quite a challenge.
That said, it should be pointed out that the success of the movie "The Buddy Holly Story" did cause people to investigate Holly's original recordings. At the time, very little Buddy Holly music was available, but because of the movie's success, a couple of greatest hits albums popped up featuring original Holly recordings, and his work was embraced by people born after his 1959 death. Soon, all of Holly's original recordings became available. Perhaps this Hank Williams biopic could generate a response from younger people to investigate Williams' original work (all of which is accessible) and be exposed to an area of music's history they might not have investigated otherwise.
Producer Marc Abraham will direct from his own script, which is based on the 1994 book “Hank Williams: The Biography” by Colin Escott, George Merritt and William MacEwen. Hank's story is very tragic and he was not exactly a great guy all the time. It would stand to reason that Abraham realizes Hank's importance to 20th century music and his film does not concentrate on the negatives. It is not a big studio blockbuster like Hiddleston's marvel films, but an independent production co-funded by RatPac Entertainment, Bron Studios, and Creative Wealth Media Finance according to Deadline.com, which first announced the movie. It will begin shooting in October on location in Louisiana.