Early Man preview: Tom Hiddleston on finding his 'Allo Allo' voice for the pompous Lord Nooth

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Director Nick Park and ‘Early Man’ stars Maisie Williams and Tom Hiddleston pose for cameras. (Studiocanal)

The first footage from Aardman Animations’ ‘Early Man’ has been shown to press, and we think it’s safe to say the studio responsible for ‘Wallace and Gromit’ and ‘Chicken Run’ has another stop-motion smash on its hands.

Around 15-minutes of footage from the “soon to be classic” animation (Aardman founder Peter Lord’s words, not ours) were previewed at a special event last week by director Nick Park and two of the film’s stars – Tom Hiddleston and Maisie Williams – giving the assembled guests a flavour of the prehistoric hilarity we can expect when the film arrives in UK cinemas on 26 January, 2018.

The delightful preview introduced the main players of the film that has been animated using the traditional claymation methods the studio is known and beloved for around the world. Eddie Redmayne plays Dug, a plucky Stone Age caveman whose peaceful life is turned upside down when a Bronze Age tribe – led by Tom Hiddleston’s evil Lord Nooth – invade his tribe’s land.

One clip showed Lord Nooth’s giant armoured elephants pounding into the Stone Age encampment after a rabbit-hunt, another showed Eddie Redmayne’s Dug entering the Bronze Age city for the first time. Eventually Dug becomes embroiled in a football-based plot that’ll see the Stone Age “brutes” taking on the Bronze Age champs, a battle Nooth is sure he cannot lose.

Aardman’s witty wordplay, gentle slapstick, and good-natured ‘Two Ronnie’ style humour was all present and correct – one barnstorming sequence with a messenger pigeon brought the house down – but it was ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ star Tom Hiddleston’s OTT turn as Lord Nooth that stole the show.

An Aardman animator adjusts a model of Lord Nooth used in the film. (Studiocanal)

“I got this sketch of Nooth, this overweight, frustrated middle manager, with small hands, and I thought ‘Nick Park’ is the first director to really see me as I am,” joked Hiddleston.

“It was clear from the script that he is incredibly pompous, and puffed up and self-important, and ridiculous. He thinks he’s so much more important than he is, and he’s obsessed with money, and he wants to just fleece the Bronze Age. He wants civilisation, basically for money. He’s a very small man ultimately. Not physically.”

At first listen, it was hard to tell that the smooth-voiced Loki star was the man behind the bald blob of Playdough, as he’s played with a thick cartoonish French accent. This buffoonish character choice came from director Nick Park himself as Tom explained.

Maisie Williams and Tom Hiddleston, who play Goona and Lord Nooth, at the ‘Early Man’ preview photocall (Studiocanal)

“I remember our first session was really about finding the voice, and Nick had lots of ideas. Firstly he said ‘I think you should do it in French.’”

“But it was a ‘Allo Allo’ sort of French. Nick was always chasing the funniest version of the line reading. It was trying to find the funny and silly. He’s this man who has such a self-aggrandising idea of his own importance, and I basically just tried to make Nick laugh.”

‘Game of Thrones’ star Maisie Williams, who plays Dug’s love interest and football whizz Goona, says her character’s lilting voice was inspired by a Norwegian vlogger she’d found online.

Models of Goona, Chief Bobnar (Timothy Spall), Dug, and Hognob were on display at the preview. (Studiocanal)

“It’s quite exciting when you’re creating a cartoon character,” Williams expanded.

“Because you can really just have fun with it. It’s not like a test: nothing’s wrong. You can just have fun and Nick just opens it up so you can just have a mess around really, and try it all sorts of different ways.”

‘Early Man’, which also features the voice talents of Timothy Spall, Richard Ayoade, Johnny Vegas, and Selina Griffiths, arrives in UK cinemas on 26 January, 2018.

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