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Tom Hiddleston embarks on origins adventure in ‘Skull Island’

March 6, 2017 GMT

LOS ANGELES — Tom Hiddleston can recall precisely when he was approached to play the dashing soldier of fortune who hopes to survive a trip to “Kong: Skull Island.”

It was exactly three years ago — March 2014 — while filming “Crimson Peak” that producer Thomas Tull visited the set to say, “We’re making ‘Kong,’ which is full of action and adventure, and at the center of it there is an adventurer, a former soldier, who goes on a journey.”

“I’ve loved King Kong since I was a child,” Hiddleston, 36, said at the Ritz-Carlton, “and to be in an iteration of the Kong myth was exciting.”

This origin story about the movies’ mighty monstrous ape is set in 1973 on the South Pacific’s mysterious uncharted Skull Island.

As war still rages in Vietnam, Hiddleston’s mercenary British Special Forces veteran Capt. James Conrad leads a group consisting of a perhaps foolhardy scientist, soldier and a photographer (respectively, John Goodman, Samuel L. Jackson and Brie Larson).

On Skull Island they discover the legendary big ape, king of the many monsters that will soon devour and decimate the troupe.

“I love adventure movies where people go to an unknown land,” Hiddleston said. “In our civilized world, we’re all quite curious to know how we’d get on, on an undiscovered island, untouched by man.”

This “Kong” proved to be a physical challenge for the actor. “It required stamina: a lot of running, climbing and fighting.

“Also, if I’m playing a soldier — and this guy is highly decorated for the Special Air Service — it’s my duty to make some strides to replicating the fitness that soldiers have to match.

“I trained with two former British Royal Marines and one former U.S. Navy SEAL. Just the physical discipline of training with them helped me play this role.”

Although best known as Loki in the Thor series, his recent triumph on TV’s “The Night Manager” with a best actor Golden Globe prompted speculation Hiddleston’s in the running to be the next James Bond.

Did he want his Conrad in “Kong” to be a spy?

“No,” he answered with a smile. “I wanted him to be someone who starts off in a world-weary place and finds that his experiences on the island give him a new humility in the face of the wonder and power of the natural world, which Kong represents.”

(“Kong: Skull Island” opens Friday.)