There is no one out there who doesn’t love Tom Hardy. The tough-looking actor has played every role, from superhero villain to East London gangster, from tortured romantic hero to post-apocalyptic adventurer. And now he visits our screens every week with the phenomenal miniseries Taboo.
But only six years ago, Hardy was starting to make a name for himself in Hollywood. He had already enjoyed the success of Inception, and was about to get even more praise for his performances in The Dark Knight Rises and Warrior. It was then that Hardy spoke to loaded, and as we can expect, he pulled no punches…
Do not mess with the London-born, Hollywood-storming, MMA-slaying, Batman-crushing, crack-beating Tom Hardy. You’ve been warned…
By the time you read this, you’ll have convinced your girlfriend to forgo Sarah Jessica Parker’s latest mortgage-sorting romantic comedy nonsense, and instead enjoyed the best fight film since Rocky IV (apologies Sly, but we’ve spent 21 years vanquishing Rocky V from our memories, and Rocky Balboa just doesn’t count). And it’ll have been worth the effort. Warrior is a brutal, raw and strangely effecting modern man-classic that’s finally made a bona fide star of its hulking main man.
“It’s all about the Hollywood pay cheque,” Tom Hardy grins at loaded. “I’ve found it really hard to break in and get noticed. So, yes please, I’ll have some of that Hollywood money. I definitely want some of that in my career if I can get it.” That shouldn’t be too big an issue any longer. Thanks to an increasingly canny flotilla of work, the 33-year-old has muscled his way into Hollywood’s VIP room. There was some bruising soldier fare in Band Of Brothers and Black Hawk Down. The ultra-cool turn in big budget bonce-scratcher Inception. His freewheeling, star-making show as Charles Bronson in, um, Bronson.
Not to mention Warrior, his Bee-Gee’d hair showing in spy instaclassic Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and a little role as super-villain Bane in a tiny new movie called The Dark Knight Rises. “I think Bronson changed more things for me than Inception,” Hardy says.
“It’s a great business card. But I’ve been up for loads and loads of roles I didn’t get. I went to play Orlando Bloom’s part in Pirates Of The Caribbean. It’s a conveyor belt of what’s hot and what’s not. Stars rise and fall. Today’s a good day. I’ve got Warrior and The Dark Knight Rises, which was heaven-sent. It’s incredible. But I’ve been up for everything, man. Everything that happened in the past 10 years that’s big, I’ve been up for it. Just clearly I didn’t get it!”
For now though, Hardy can bask in some of Warrior’s glory. Which might be considered ample reward when you see the size the Londoner jacked himself up to.
“The producers didn’t think I could pull it off, to be honest,” he says. “I had to audition the arse off this! After a lot of battling and a lot of negotiations, the director Gavin O’Connor managed to secure me the job. But the training was so hard. It was all food and training. We were training two months before Warrior and all the way through. The big job was to get rid of the fat, and put on the weight in muscle.” Of course, a lot of Hollywood show ponies get themselves ripped only to allow stunt blokes and green screen to put in the elbow grease while they pout and kick back in their mega-trailers. “I found it very fucking hard work,” he winces. “I learned bits and bobs of the MMA stuff, but not to the level that boys really do it. I was a minnow going in there. The director is a massive fan of UFC, so there’s loads of research and authenticity on the floor.”
So, did you get a rough time from the genuine fighters? “Oh yeah,” he laughs. “I’m the biggest bitch in it, you know what I mean? All the other actors even, they’re much tougher than me. Much harder, much smarter, much quicker, much better at fighting.” We hope you picked up some obligatory and cred-enhancing knocks, too… “Yeah, I cracked my ribs, broke my little toe and pulled a ligament in my right hand. And I bitched about it all the way through! It was fucking hard. The other lads were like, this is wonderful!”
Read up a little bit on Hardy, however, and you get the impression he’s a bit tougher than he’s letting on. He’s spoken freely in the past about his early twenties spent hooked on booze and crack, the blackouts he endured and his candid revelations about gay sex (“Of course I have,” he said when asked if he’d had sex with a man. “I’m an actor for fuck’s sake”). “I am a bit of a rageful person,” he admits. “I’m a bit of a powder keg. I certainly was when I was a kid. I’ve got a lot of passion in me. I’ve got a busy head. I come from a long line of drinkers. So I have very erratic behaviour. That’s just standard. It’s not out of my remit to be rebellious, and react to any stimulus that’s coming in – badly.” And these days? Oh, much less so. But the characters I play, definitely. I identify totally with them. I play diseased characters. Or not-at-ease characters.”
And when was the last time someone left you not-at-ease? “You mean when was the last time I hit someone for real?” he asks. “Ha! It was an open hand. Just a slap. To tell them off. It was a dude. I only hit people when they’re absolutely unacceptable and they’re putting me in danger. Or, if they’ve hurt my family, in which case I will fucking annihilate them…”