Jodi Guglielmi
September 13, 2015 04:45 PM

When it came time for director Marc Abraham to cast the lead in the Hank Williams biopic I Saw the Light, he didn’t have to look for long.

As soon as Abraham sat down with Tom Hiddleston over dinner to discuss the role, his mind was made up.

“When I met him, it was completely a gut reaction,” he told PEOPLE.

Abraham was familiar with Hiddleston’s previous work on War Horse and The Deep Blue Sea and was “taken with him on screen.” Not to mention Abraham couldn’t help but notice a resemblance between the actor and Williams.

Tom Hiddleston, Elizabeth Olsen and Marc Abraham
Peter Hapak

Halfway through their first meeting in Los Angeles, Abraham knew Hiddleston, 34, was right for the part.

“I had a really strong feeling that I was sitting with the person who should play [Hank Williams],” he said.

He was convinced when Hiddleston’s thoughts and observations about the story aligned with the same vision Abrahams had for the film after reading the script just once.

By the time the meal was over, he officially offered Hiddleston the part, and when the actor requested time to prepare for an actual audition first, Abraham was so sure of his decision that he told Hiddleston he didn’t have to do an official reading for the role.

“I told him, you don’t have to do it – you don’t have to read. Let’s just do it.”

Hiddleston is earning rave reviews for his portrayal of Hank Williams in the biopic, which premiered Friday night at the Toronto International Film Festival. Elizabeth Olsen, 26, also shines in the role of Williams’ wife, Audrey.

For full coverage of the 2015 Toronto Film Festival – including the hottest premieres, the biggest stars and the buzziest films – check out people.com/tiff, instyle.com and ew.com

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