LOS ANGELES: It’s an understatement to say that British actor Tom Hardy is rising fast. Last year, the 33 year-old actor earned Hollywood credibility as a member of Leonardo DiCaprio’s dream travelling posse in Inception. The film’s director, Christopher Nolan, then cast Hardy in one of 2012’s most coveted roles: the villain Bane in Batman flick, The Dark Knight Returns.
On September 9, his movie Warrior, filmed before Inception, set in the world of mixed martial arts, released in US theatres. In Warrior, the actor plays a former wrestling prodigy-turned-marine who returns to the ring to fight for a $5 million prize, only to be pitted in the ring against his estranged brother played by Australian actor Joel Edgerton.
For the film, Hardy gained 30 pounds (lbs) of muscle thanks to physical training and lived out a Rocky-esque fantasy in scenes where he waded through crowds of cheering fans on his way toward the fighting cage. As convincing as he may look physically for the role on screen, Hardy harbours no notions that he could actually thrive as a fighter in the world of martial arts. “I’d get knocked out, stone cold,” said Hardy with certainty. “I’d probably trip on the stairs on my way up to the ring and knock my teeth out.”
Still, that doesn’t stop the actor from taking on roles that might prove otherwise. Hardy put on over 40 lbs to play the real-life UK prisoner Charles Bronson who spent most of his life in solitary confinement in the 2009 film Bronson. His current weight as Batman’s rival Bane is 192 lbs — the most he’s ever weighed. “I feel heavy,” he admitted. “This size is not real. I only feel strong in short stints at times. If I needed to get across the room and throw someone through a door, I could do that, but as soon as I’m done shooting, I’m dropping the weight.”
Career twists and turns
Hardy’s role in The Dark Knight Returns landed on his plate unexpectedly. While in Canada, shooting the romantic comedy This Means War, with Reese Witherspoon, Hardy was getting ready to head to Australia to spend a year shooting the new version of the 1979 Mad Max film, Fury Road. But Mother Nature had other plans.
The Australian desert was flooded with torrential rains, wiping out the wasteland setting and cancelling the shoot, despite the fact that sets already had been built.
Hardy was devastated — until Nolan called about playing Batman’s powerful foe. “Chris rings and says, ‘I’m not sure if it’s your sort of thing because it would mean wearing a mask. How do you feel about wearing a mask as an actor?’” Hardy laughed when recalling the day that changed his career: “How do I feel about wearing a mask? I’d wear a plastic bag over my head for Nolan! I’ll do anything for him. I did not see that coming. I never, ever thought I’d be in Batman.”
The rising career trajectory is something Hardy attributes to his longtime sobriety. As a young man, he said he drank, did drugs, carried firearms and stole cars. His record was so tarnished that he now has to check in with the American embassy in the UK before coming to the US. “Even if I come here for a holiday, I have go to the embassy and ask,” said Hardy. But he’s the first to admit that, “I’m 10 years into being aware of my addictions and in those 10 years, my life has gotten fortuitously better.”
That life also includes 3 year-old son Louis (with ex-girlfriend Rachel Speed) and fiancee Charlotte Riley.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 10th, 2011.