Drawing: Tom Hiddleston in Coriolanus at The Donmar Warehouse

Tom Hiddleston

I remember meeting Tom Hiddleston at the UK premiere of Joanna Hogg’s Archipelago at The Vue Cinema in Leicester Square. It was in competition for the BFI London Film Festival and a twilight screening, but certainly the dawn of Tom’s career.

Sandwiched between two ‘bigger’ films that attracted large crowds, Archipelago only had a sprinkling of attendees – most of them curious tourists. Tom went unnoticed.

He was already an accomplished stage actor, with two Olivier Award nominations and in fact won one. But I recognised him from the poster and one of the PAs confirmed it “oh yes, that’s Tom Hiddleston, he’s going to be a big star one day. I’ll call him over, if you want his autograph.” So he did and Tom duly obliged. His long moniker took time, even with his speedy style!

We joked that he may have to shorten it when he becomes really famous and having to sign zillions for premiere crowds. Well, the PA was right. He is now a global superstar, thanks to roles such as Loki in Marrel’s Thor series and his signature varies wildly, depending on the moment. But I still have one perfectly formed, every letter (well almost) visible.

Fast forward to the quaint 350 seat Donmar Warehouse in Covent Garden. Tom is in the title role of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, directed by Josie Rourke. Seventy performances, eight shows, a week of physically and mentally demanding play. He is bruised, battered and scarred! Critics loved him, “Tom Hiddleston has blazing stellar power… magnificent,” wrote the Independent. His fans adored him.

They gathered by their hundreds, covering both exits in a nightly vigil. Tom would come out under tight security, sign for a few and then quickly leave. I didn’t have a hope. I left a sketch at the theatre, but it was only one piece of mail among thousands for the ‘man of the moment’.

He was nominated for an Olivier Award so I managed to secure a spot at the Royal Opera House, dominated by Tom’s fans. He even signed down my side, but it was bedlam and the sketch went unnoticed in a sea of items wanting his sig, which had reduced to some quick scribble.

Plan C, Canada. I found out he was still shooting Guillermo del Toro’s Crimson Peak at the Pinewood Studios in Toronto. I packaged up the sketch and mailed it, and set about formulating Plan D. To my surprise, it arrived in the post yesterday. Tom had also written his line from the scene (3.2.14)  – “Rather say I play the man I am.”

Plan D was shelved.

Drawing: Birgitte Hjort Sorensen

Birgitte001

The Danish actress Birgitte Hjort Sorensen took the role of Roxie Hart in the 2007 production of Chicago at the Del Ny Theatre in Copenhagen. Based on that success she reprised the role in the London production at the Cambridge Theatre. Birgitte gained international prominence playing the crusading reporter Katrine Fonsmark in the Danish radio and television production Borgen.

She returned to London last year to play Virgilia in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus opposite Tom Hiddleston at the Donmar Warehouse, where she signed this sketch last week.

Drawings: Ralph Fiennes

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Ralph Nathaniel Twisleton Wykenham Fiennes was only signing programmes and tickets at the stage door of the Royal Theatre Haymarket in London in August 2011. He was playing Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Although spelt ‘Ralph’ it is pronounced ‘Rafe’, so don’t ask ‘Ralph’ for a ‘graph or you may not get one! The theatre management were very strict about the signing policy, so I made do with my ticket and programme siggys. I did however, leave a drawing of Ralph as Prospero and Elisabeth Hooper as his daughter Miranda at the stage door, and it was returned, signed by both.

Ralph Fiennes Elisabeth 002

Later that year Ralph also made his film directional debut, with an adaption of the Bard’s tragedy Coriolanus, in which he also played the title role. It screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October that year. Ralph attended and was happy to sign and dedicate my sketch at the Odeon West End Theatre in Leicester Square. Coriolanus actually had its premiere at the Curzon Mayfair in early January 2012. Once again Ralph attended and this time signed a sketch I did some years earlier, when he was on Broadway in 2006, playing Frank Hardy in Faith Healer at the Booth Theater. I was, in fact, in New York during the play’s season, but couldn’t get a ticket. Anyway, he was once again obliging with his autograph and complimentary comments.

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Drawing Miss Daisy – James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave and Boyd Gaines

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After a sellout season on Broadway, Driving Miss Daisy transferred to Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End with the original cast – Vanessa Regrave, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines. It was the latter and 4 time Tony Award winner whose ‘graph was the simplest to get. Boyd left via the stage door, happily signed the sketch, made polite conversation and then went on his merry way.

James Earl Jones is a excellent signer, but not at the stage door. Once ensconced in his dressing room his son appears at the stage door and says, “Is there anyone here waiting for James Earl Jones’ autograph?” All nod. Then he proceeds to collect all the material with instructions and takes it in for his father to sign. Depending on the amount of items, he returns shortly thereafter to hand back the ‘graphed memorabilia to their respective owners.

Vanessa Redgrave made use of the many doors of the Wyndham’s Theatre. If you’re lucky enough to catch her, and depending on how she feels you may get an autograph or a polite refusal followed by a variety of reasons. I remember having a very nice conversation with her before she wandered off to her waiting car without signing. The sketch was actually signed at the Coriolanus premiere at the Curzon cinema in Mayfair some months later. It was a bitterly cold evening and everyone thought she would just do press an then quickly go in. That certainly looked like the plan when she arrived. But, she then deviated across to where I was standing behind the barriers, opposite the drop off area. She saw my sketch and was very impressed with it, taking some time to sign and dedicate it between her conversation covering a multiplicity of subjects, much to the annoyance of the other ‘graphers. She then thanked me and walked off to the waiting paps… much to the extreme annoyance of the other ‘graphers. Quotation: “You and your bloody drawings,” one said. Yes, indeed. My bloody drawing with 3 very nice dedicated signatures on it.