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The Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light covers the country-music legend’s rise, his volatile relationship with his wife, and his struggles with substance abuse and spina bifida — all before his death at 29. “He was really the first rock star — and the first rock star to go down like that,” says director Marc Abraham (Flash of Genius), who also wrote the script.

Tom Hiddleston stars as Williams, and Elizabeth Olsen plays his wife, Audrey. To play the troubled singer, Hiddleston honed his singing and guitar skills with Grammy winner Rodney Crowell, even moving into Crowell’s house outside Nashville to practice all day, every day. The result? “Every note, every line, everything is Tom,” Abraham says. “He’s crazy talented. If you didn’t like him, you’d be jealous of him.”

Instead of aiming for a perfect imitation of Williams’ signature voice, Abraham says their goal was for Hiddleston to capture the singer’s emotion and authenticity, adding, “I knew that Tom Hiddleston or anyone was never going to sound exactly like Hank Williams.” Still, Abraham says Hiddleston nailed it — even if he isn’t exactly from the south.

“When people ask me, ‘Why’d you get an Englishman?’ I say, ‘He’s the best actor I know to play the part,’” Abraham says. “Who’s the most famous southerner ever portrayed in the movies? Scarlett O’Hara. Who plays her? Vivien Leigh.”

I Saw the Light will hit theaters on Nov. 27.

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