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Profile: Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy is a name all film fanatics are familiar with, and as of 2015 it is a name recognised universally. Starring in films such as The Dark Night Rises (2012), Inception (2010), Bronson (2009) and Warrior (2011), Hardy's detached and troubled characters are presented as so much more than an actor playing a role. The characters he manifests into

Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy is a name all film fanatics are familiar with, and as of 2015 it is a name recognised universally. Starring in films such as The Dark Night Rises (2012), Inception (2010), Bronson (2009) and Warrior (2011), Hardy‘s detached and troubled characters are presented as so much more than an actor playing a role. The characters he manifests into feel bona fide, and whilst his obvious talent contributes to that, his life additionally plays a part in the process as it reads like a script, making him a man made for storytelling.

His recent roles in the highly admired The Revenant (2015), Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Legend (2015) have entranced audiences to a great degree. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in the critically acclaimed The Revenant, Hardy has virtually become a cinematic guarantee: you see his name on the poster, it will not disappoint.

In The Beginning

Hardy grew up in East Sheen, London, and although he attended private school and was afforded all the privileges any child could possibly want, he felt that he was a social misfit and was prone to lashing out which subsequently lead to nights in prison. As Hardy went off the rails, he was often causing internal harm through alcohol and drug abuse.

With this lifestyle in the past, he is now an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, a leading UK charity which provides training, personal development and advice for young people struggling with similar issues.

“Everest is obvious to climb because it’s there, but with personal Everests, you can’t see them, and that journey to the top of the mountain and back down again is fought with hazards, and nobody can see them but you.” – Tom Hardy on battling addiction – source.

Despite his troubled youth, he decided to enrol at Drama School London, and during his time there he ventured into plays and modelling, whilst still dealing with his drug and alcohol addictions. Despite this inner struggle, Hardy took a chance and decided to drop out of drama school so he could play a small role in Steven Spielberg’s award winning 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.

During this project he worked alongside an incredible cast, with the likes of Tom Hanks, Damien Lewis, Michael Fassbender and Simon Pegg. His role as John Janovec, directed by one of the most acclaimed directors in Hollywood, which allowed him to make his way up in the industry.

Band of Brothers (2001) – source: HBO

Later that year, Hardy earned his first big screen role as an army specialist in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down (2001). At this point in Hardy’s life, his talent could be seen on a larger scale and was consequently offered more roles. In 2002 Hardy played a supporting role in Simon: An English Legionnaire (2002), before he received widespread recognition playing the villain Shinzon in Star Trek Nemesis (2002).

Becoming Bronson

During interviews for the 2008 biographical psychological drama on notorious prisoner Charles Bronson, director Nicolas Winding Refn revealed that he was grateful to Jason Statham and Guy Pierce for not accepting the lead role as Bronson, because they would not have been able to match or even come close to Hardy‘s standard as he is a “powerhouse of an actor”. Hardy‘s dedication to the film not only changed him mentally but also physically, as he gained 42 pounds to play the troubled criminal.

The role of Bronson allowed Hardy to showcase his craft and combine the world of film with theatre, as it sways in and out of cinematic and theatrical expressions, proving to audiences that he is more than a two dimensional actor, and can excel in many other artistic formats. The film earned Hardy a London Film Critic Circle Award nomination for British Actor of the Year as well as the British Independent Film Award for Best Actor, a well deserved win as his heart and soul was truly in the project.

Bronson 2008 Source - Vertigo Films

Bronson (2008) s- source: Vertigo Films

To prepare for the role, which ultimately took Hardy out of the shadows and into the spotlight, he formed a friendship with the prisoner Charlie Bronson himself, and in one interview the actor recalls a phone conversation between the two which was the pivotal root for their friendship. Hardy decides to open up to Bronson about the breakup with his girlfriend, to which Bronson responds:

“Do you remember the floods in Oxford? Remember that boy who got his foot stuck in a grate and the river kept rising and rising and eventually they tried to get him out but he drowned? Well that wouldn’t’ve happened to me because I’d have said ‘cut it off now’. What I’m trying to say is, sometimes you’ve got to cut a little piece of yourself off, no matter how much it hurts, in order to grow and move on.”

His relationship to Bronson as the man and character was personally therapeutic as it connected Hardy to himself. Bronson represented an extreme version of Hardy during his twenties, which infers that the role was, in a way, a healing process for the actor as it allowed him to release the inner turmoil and connect with someone who has fallen down a hole deeper than his own.

London to Hollywood

After his performance in Bronson, Hardy was cast in a film currently ranked number 14 on IMDb’s best movies of all time, playing the character of Eames in Christopher Nolan’s Inception, starring alongside Leonardo Dicaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. This film’s success and worldwide recognition meant that Hardy wasn’t going to slip under the radar.

Hardy’s Eames earned him several prestigious nominations and a rising star BAFTA award. The actor admitted on a chat show in 2015 that he did not actually understand the plot of Inception but “it all worked out. I had no idea, but I knew it was awesome and I’m really grateful to be in it”. Showing his comical and down-to-earth side, instead of what we usually see when it comes to Hardy‘s professional work: depictions of strong yet broken characters.

His work with Nolan on Inception was not a onetime partnership, as Nolan recognised something in Hardy and wanted to push him further, and did so by casting him as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. As Hardy went on to play the roles of more offbeat, damaged and sometimes terrifying characters in the tear-jerking Warrior, Lawless (2012), Peaky Blinders (2014) and The Drop (2014), he surprised many by taking to roles that audiences would not expect see him play.

For example, the funny British heartthrob in the action rom-com This Means War (2011), starring alongside Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon. Thus highlighting a lighter side to the actor yet still containing Hardy’s archetypal, action packed content.

Locke (2013) Source: IM Global

Locke (2013) – source: IM Global

Another role he played a few years later which couldn’t have been predicted was the character of Ivan Locke in Locke (2013). Hardy plays a dedicated family man and successful construction manager who receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career, which sets in motion a series of events that threaten his carefully cultivated existence.

As the entire movie is set in Locke’s car, the film contains Hardy and only Hardy visually, with most shots solely of the actors face. Lacking a physical ensemble, he took on a challenge with this unique film, and it was a challenge that definitely paid off, as the movie was awarded the British Independent Film Award for Best Screenplay and is rated 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, yet again revealing his versatility as a performer even outside of the action genre.


Last year, Hardy exploded onto the big screen with three motion pictures that shot him to the top, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Revenant and Legend. Together, Mad Max and The Revenant are nominated for a total of 22 Oscars this year, and are both in the category for Best Picture.

Alongside these highly anticipated movies, Hardy also played the character of Agent Leo Demidov, who investigates a series of gruesome child murders in Joseph Stalin‘s Soviet Union, based on the novel of the same name, Child 44. Not only did the actor delve into more exciting and crazy characters on the silver screen in 2015, he surprised us all by playing a small part in the musical picture London Road in which he plays a suspicious taxi driver, and also partakes in singing – an extremely unexpected yet pleasantly surprising move from Hardy.

Mad Max: Fury Road is unquestionably one of the best films of 2015. Part of an ensemble cast with Charlize Theron and Nicholas Hoult, Hardy takes the role of Max Rockatansky, an ex-cop (previously played by Mel Gibson), who is on the hunt for redemption in a corrupt dystopian world. The film is very much relevant to society today, with themes of female empowerment and liberty, George Miller’s Fury Road allowed Hardy to be part of something bigger than the movie: an ode to the world enforcing the importance of freedom and survival across all walks of life.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) Source: Warner Brothers

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) – source: Warner Brothers

Hardy plays the character of Max with great strength and transparency, as it is evident throughout the film that Max’ past life has caused him to be a dead man walking. Haunting memories of people he tried to save surround him throughout the movie, and Hardy depicts these moments with such believability.

As the story develops, Hardy has the talent and ability to transition Max from lonely and cynical to a hopeful and content character seamlessly. Max doesn’t just go from A to B, Hardy takes audiences on a deep journey of self-discovery in a natural and unforceful way. As Max is a man of few words, Hardy could not rely on the script for the majority of his characterisation, and instead he manifested his whole being into the role, dissolving the actor and bringing Max to life.

Hardy’s first Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor goes to his work in Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant for playing John Fitzgerald, a cold-hearted man who abandons explorer Hugh Glass (Leonardo Dicaprio) after he is savagely attacked by a bear. Hardy’s dedication to this film cannot go unsaid, as they filmed in below freezing temperatures (sometimes minus 50) and when asked about what it was like on set he modestly responds “it wasn’t a hardship shoot” as everyone knew they were signing up for a “shoot in the wild”.

Hardy admits that similarly to Mad Max: Fury Road, he was able to dive deep into this character, as he had the ability to “justify everything Fitzgerald does from a place of desperation”. One of the things that he admired about the film was how he didn’t see it as a protagonist/antagonist situation, alternatively he views it as a story which focuses on the grey areas of humanity and the human condition.

Legend (2015) Source: Working Titles

Legend (2015) – source: Working Titles

Last but not least, Hardy decided to take on another difficult and strenuous role in 2015 with the film Legend, by playing two characters, identical twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray. The film depicts the lives of London’s most notorious gangsters in the 1960’s. Not only did Hardy have to grasp the role of Reggie (the brains behind the duo), he also had to portray Ronnie, his extremely violent and mentally ill brother.

When researching the characters for these roles, Hardy discovered that Charles Bronson attended the same prison as Reggie Kray, as their sentences overlapped, and through this link he decided to include the line “sometimes to achieve greatness you have to cut off a little piece of yourself in order to grow, in order to move on.” – Bronson‘s words of wisdom during preparation for the 2008 biopic.

This modern-day ‘Parent Trap’ method was received well by audiences, as the film became the highest grossing 18-rated British film of all time in the UK, surpassing Trainspotting.

What’s next for Hardy?

While audiences are excited for the next Mad Max movie (Mad Max: Wasteland) which has recently been announced, Hardy plans to release a miniseries this year which he has written and produced with his father. The series is based around adventurer James Keziah Delaney (Hardy) who builds his own shipping empire in the early 19th century.

Amongst his new writing and producing endeavours, Hardy is set to star in Christopher Nolan’s movie Dunkirk (2017). The film tells the story of the Dunkirk evacuation, which took place at the beginning of World War II, and Hardy will be starring amongst Kenneth Branagh and Mark Rylance.

When looking at the works of Tom Hardy, it is clear to see why he is one of the most in-demand actors around. The dedication and quality of performance he delivers makes him a worthy nominee for an Academy Award. Throughout the years, Hardy has slowly come out of his shell and has invested in layered and intricate characters for the big screen and TV. Initially he was an angry, troubled young man who restricted himself to very specific roles, however, now it is evident that he has grown not just as an artist, but as a human, by channelling the internal struggles he deals with on a daily basis into his work.

Hardy wasn’t born into this industry, he rightfully earned his place, and the physical and emotional journey he has been on to get there is not for the fainthearted, but as Tom Hardy likes to say: to achieve greatness, you have to cut off a little piece of yourself in order to grow.

What’s your favourite Tom Hardy film? Do you think he should win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor in The Revenant? Share your thoughts and comments!

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Opinions expressed in our articles are those of the authors and not of the Film Inquiry magazine.

Rachael Sampson is a third year university student in York pursuing a career in the film industry as a screenwriter. She has directed, written and produced a short titled In Bloom, and has a credit in the BAFTA nominated film The Selfish Giant. She likes to critically analyse films, alongside writing articles that regard film theory or discuss the work of cinematic icons. She firmly believes that Pirates of the Caribbean should have remained a trilogy and thinks Inglourious Basterds is the greatest movie ever made.

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