We never knew just HOW much Tom Hiddleston loves John Le Carré’s The Night Manager

The real-life Jonathan Pine shared his thoughts about the original novel at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival

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If ever you needed a reason to love The Night Manager even more, we’ve got one: Tom Hiddleston is an expert on the original novel.

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Speaking at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival, Hiddleston praised John le Carré’s original novel (from which the series takes its name), in particular how central character hotelier-turned-spy Jonathan Pine was described.

“The character was so appealing: a lost soul looking for a cause,” Hiddleston began. “In the opening paragraph of the third chapter Jonathan Pine is described as a ‘graduate of an archipelago of orphanages, foster homes, half mothers and cadet units. A sometime army wolf-child in a special unit. A chef, catering, itinerant, hotelier, perpetual escapee of emotional entanglement. A Collector of other people’s languages, a-self exiled creature of the night. A sailor without a destination.’ That was my diving board from which I jumped.”

Now, yes, it is an actor’s jobs to cement a myriad of lines into their memory banks. But to still remember a description not in the script almost two years after filming? There’s no doubt about it: Hiddleston a) has a terrific memory, and b) he put a lot of thought into the character.

So far, so admirable. But later in the session, Hiddleston also offered a concise analysis of Jonathan Pine. 

“The whole character, for me, centres on the malleability of identity,” the Thor star began. “The idea that somehow there is something blank and broken about Pine is something that is unique to him. That something is repressed in him from his military service, his tragic love affair.

“All this grief has been tied up with him for so long. He’s been hiding: that’s why he’s the night manager. He hides behind the uniform, he hides behind the cover of darkness –literally. He doesn’t have a character apart from the moral compunction that Olivia Colman’s character [Angela Burr] latches onto and says ‘come and do the right thing’.”

Despite Hiddleston’s fluency with the novel, meeting the author himself led to a brilliant misunderstanding. During the restaurant scene where Corky (Tom Hollander) punches the waiter, John le Carré was on set and made a cameo as an agitated diner – a little too agitated. Although the script required Hiddleston to calm the diner, le Carré improvised his lines.

“I don’t know if John had read the par in the screenplay giving him direction for the scene. But he refused to be settle,” explained Hiddleston. “Like any great actor, he made me try harder to achieve my objective, which I almost didn’t achieve.” 

After le Carré kept on insisting that Hiddleston’s character should apologise to the beaten waiter, director Susanne Bier (who appeared alongside Hiddleston at the festival) had to speak to the author to move the scene along. 

But, of course, that didn’t deter Hiddleston’s admiration of the writer: “It was amazing to be in a scene with John,” he said. “It was a remarkable honour for all of us.”

Tom Hiddleston is an expert on The Night Manager. And we don’t just mean the TV series – the actor’s memory of the novel it is based on is remarkable… 

Speaking at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival, Hiddleston praised John le Carré’s 1993 thriller (from which the BBC series takes its name), in particular how his hotelier-turned-spy Jonathan Pine was written.

“The character was so appealing: a lost soul looking for a cause,” Hiddleston began. “In the opening paragraph of the third chapter Jonathan Pine is described as a ‘graduate of an archipelago of orphanages, foster homes, half mothers and cadet units. A sometime army wolf-child in a special unit. A chef, catering, itinerant, hotelier, perpetual escapee of emotional entanglement. A collector of other people’s languages, a self-exiled creature of the night. A sailor without a destination.’ That was my diving board from which I jumped.”

Yes, it is an actor’s business to cement myriad lines into their memory banks. But to still remember a description not in the script almost two years after filming finished? There’s no doubt about it: Hiddleston a) has a terrific memory, and b) put a lot of thought into his character.

So far, so impressive. But later in the session, Hiddleston also offered the audience a concise analysis of Jonathan Pine. 

“The whole character, for me, centres on the malleability of identity,” the Thor star began. “The idea that somehow there is something blank and broken about Pine is something that is unique to him. That something is repressed in him from his military service, his tragic love affair.

“All this grief has been tied up with him for so long. He’s been hiding: that’s why he’s the night manager. He hides behind the uniform, he hides behind the cover of darkness – literally. He doesn’t have a character apart from the moral compunction that Olivia Colman’s character [Angela Burr] latches onto and says ‘come and do the right thing’.”

Despite Hiddleston’s fluency with the novel, meeting the author himself led to a brilliant misunderstanding. During the restaurant scene where Corky (Tom Hollander) punches the waiter, John le Carré was on set and made a cameo as an agitated diner – a little too agitated. Although the script required Hiddleston to calm his character, le Carré improvised his lines to the extreme.

“I don’t know if John had read the part in the screenplay giving him direction for the scene. But he refused to settle,” explained Hiddleston. “Like any great actor, he made me try harder to achieve my objective, which I almost didn’t achieve.” 

After le Carré persistently insisted that Pine should apologise to the beaten waiter, director Susanne Bier (who appeared alongside Hiddleston at the festival) had to speak to the author to move the scene along. 

But, ever the gentleman, that didn’t deter Hiddleston’s admiration of the writer: “It was amazing to be in a scene with John,” he said. “It was a remarkable honour for all of us.”

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Tom Hiddleston was speaking at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival in a panel alongside Night Manager co-star Alistair Petrie, director Susanne Bier and executive producer Simon Cornwell.