By Jeffrey Slonim
Updated March 26, 2016 at 02:43 PM EDT
Credit: Robin Marchant/Getty Images
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How does Tom Hiddleston, an Oxbridge man who went to Eton with Prince William, score a role playing Hank Williams, the twangy legend of the Nashville’s Grand ole Opry? Apparently by looking just like him and doing his best Owen Wilson impression for the director.

“I saw him in War Horse, and thought he looked a lot like Hank Williams,” I Saw the Light director Marc Abraham said of Hiddleston. “And my casting director said, ‘You’ve got to make sure he can do the accent,’ and over a three-hour dinner [Hiddleston] showed me his imitation of Owen Wilson.” He immediately chose him to play Hank Williams opposite Elizabeth Olsen in I Saw the Light, a biopic about the short, tragic life of the Opry legend.

Hiddlelston also played American icon F. Scott Fitzgerald opposite Wilson in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris and bonded with Wilson on set. “I’d done it in the past,” he said of his Wilson impression at the Cinema Society’s Hestia-sponsored New York screening of I Saw the Light. “The first time it happened, I was just telling a story about the Midnight in Paris shoot. It’s something I’ve always done when I tell stories. I naturally do all the voices.”

So naturally, we had to ask, can he do an impression of his BFF, the hammer wielding Thor, Chris Hemsworth? “I’ve done it in front of him. He thinks it’s hilarious,” offered Hiddleston at the Metrograph theater. “Chris is one of my best friends. Making the first Thor film was just a novel experience for both of us, we became firm friends and remain so. I’ve never surfed with him, but I met up with him in Australia when we were shooting Skull Island, the new King Kong film [Hiddelston plays the lead, an adventurer opposite Oscar-winner Brie Larson]. He lives a couple of hours away and I stayed with him on the weekend at the new house [in Byron Bay]. It was lovely to see him again. He’s got a great spot.”

Hiddleston has neither confirmed nor denied that he is up for the role of 007 in the next Bond film, but he was dressed as if he was already playing James Bond in a natty three-piece suit by Ralph Lauren that looked as if it had been tailored on Saville Row. “I liked all the Bond’s,” he told PEOPLE. “But, you see, I grew up with Sean Connery and Roger Moore. And I also think Daniel Craig is terrific. I remember going to see Golden Eye and it felt like Bond had been absent for a long time and Pierce Brosnan did a terrific job. He’s a part of the fabric of Brit culture.”

PEOPLE asked Hiddleston if it would be dangerous for a man whose career is considered meteoric to take on a role like Bond that is so iconic that some actors have found it career-constricting. “I couldn’t possibly comment on that,” he answered diplomatically. “Honestly, I feel like the conversation around James Bond is something that happens. It’s one of the nation’s favorite pub conversations. People love to speculate on who it’s going to be.”

But, at the Metrograph, it was clear he could capture the accent for that role with ease. “It’s the same dialect,” Hiddleston said, admitting with a broad smile that he already speaks like Bond. “Hank Williams was about as foreign as it gets.”

I Saw the Light

2015 movie
  • Movie
  • Marc Abraham