Tom Hardy: The Sweetest Taboo

201706JEFF VESPAFor someone who has spent a great deal of his career playing psychopaths (the British killer Chales Bronson, Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, both Reggie and Ronnie Kray in Legend and the impossibly brutal James Delaney in the BBC period drama, Taboo to name but five of his alarming roles), women seem to be irresistibly attracted to Tom Hardy. Whether it's his looks or the sense of menace he is able to evoke, clearly this actor, who turns 40 in September, has what it takes to have a long career in films and TV.

Born in Hammersmith, London on September the 15th 1977, Thomas Edward Hardy at least had two parents who understood the creative process (his father Edward 'Chips' Hardy is a novelist and comedy writer and his mother, Elizabeth, is an artist) and were able to support him in his ambition to become an actor. The family moved to East Sheen when Tom was young and he attended Tower House School, a private prep school which lists Mark Lester, Louis Theroux, Jack Whitehall, Rory Kinnear and Robert Pattinson among its alumni. At the age of 11 he was sent to Reed's, a public school in Cobham, Surrey for his secondary education before transferring to Duff Miller Sixth Form College in Kensington, London to prepare for his 'A' levels.

With school behind him Hardy commenced his training, enrolling at Richmond Drama School before signing on at the Drama Centre London in 1998. In that same year Hardy had won a modelling contract with the agency, Models One via a competition on the popular TV programme, The Big Breakfast. In the end neither his career as a model nor his time at the Drama Centre would last long because he won the part of Private John Janovec in the World War Two mini-series, Band of Brothers. As a 'starter' job, this was about as good as it gets and Hardy soon found that he had been noticed by some very powerful players in the entertainment industry. In 2001, the same year in which Band of Brothers premiered, Hardy appeared in Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, a fictionalised account of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu. He followed this by landing a part in Star Trek: Nemesis, playing a younger clone of Patrick Stewart's character, Jean-Luc Picard, Director, Stuart Baird, had specified an unknown actor and despite delivering a screen test which Hardy labelled “appalling”, he landed the job.

Unlike many actors who hit the big-time with solid roles in TV and movie production and turn their back on the theatre, Hardy was keen to hone his talents and, in 2003, was awarded the London Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Newcomer for performances in Blood and In Arabia We'd All Be Kings at the Royal Court and Hampstead Theatres respectively.

Despite appearing in blokey gangster films such as Layer Cake and Guy Ritchie's RocknRolla in which his turn as Handsome Bob, a gay gangster who has a crush on One-Two, a character played by Gerard Butler, won him more fans, Hardy clearly had plans to break with convention. For many, the first time that they were aware of hearing his name was when, in 2008, he was signed to play British psychopath, Michael Gordon Peterson, better known as Charles Bronson. Famously known as “the most violent prisoner in Britain”, Bronson has spent time over the years in such high security facilities as Rampton, Broadmoor and Ashworth Prisons and Hardy's research for the role brought him into contact with Bronson, who offered to shave off his handlebar moustache so that it could be made into a prop for the movie. Of course, the news that Bronson was to be immortalised by becoming the subject of a biopic did not play well with more conservative elements of the media and Hardy and the Bronson team had to deal with more than their fair share of criticism. Once released, though, it was agreed that Hardy was most definitely a talent to watch, even if the parts he was choosing failed to win over all of the critics.

A couple more, well chosen parts in Christopher Nolan's Inception and Tomas Alfredson's adaptation of John Le Carre's Tinker, Sailor, Soldier, Spy in 2010 and 2011 did Hardy's cause no harm at all. However, the next big breakthrough came the following year when Christopher Nolan cast him as the villainous Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, the final installment of his Batman trilogy. Hardy succeeded in turning heads, not to mention a few stomachs, as this masked protagonist and, in order to seem more physically imposing, he piled on 14 kilograms for the role in the manner of Robert De Niro in Raging Bull. What his growing army of female fans thought of this latest incarnation nobody thought to ask, but Hardy's turn as Bane was certainly an attention grabber, with reviewers commenting on how terrifying his portrayal was and comedians reprising his mumbling delivery as part of their stand-up routines.

It seemed that nobody could curb Hardy's relish for playing characters that are  euphemistically referred to as 'challenging'. Cast as both Reggie and Ronnie Kray in Legend, critics generally agreed that the leading actor was one of the stand-out aspects of a somewhat patchy project, despite fielding a cast that included Christopher Eccleston, David Thewlis, Paul Bettany, Tara Fitzgerald and Kevin McNally. Hardy's star, however, remained in the ascendant and when, in 2016, he won his first Academy Award nomination (as Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Revenant) nobody was remotely surprised.

While appearing as Alfie Solomons in the second series of the popular and critically acclaimed BBC drama, Peaky Blinders, Hardy came into contact with the writer, Steven Knight who was to prove a valuable ally. Tom and his father, Chips, had an idea for a TV series based on a dispute in the early nineteenth century between James Delaney, the heir to Nootka Sound, a vital strip of land in Canada and the poweful and all-conquering East India Company. It perhaps doesn't seem the most promising premise for a successful eight-part series but the team set to work and came up with scripts that were green-lit by the BBC. Hardy Jr. bagged the part of James Delaney for himself and a cast that included Jonathan Pryce, Tom Hollander, Oona Chaplin, Mark Gatiss, Stephen Graham, David Hayman and Jason Watkins was assembled. The bold decision was taken to screen Taboo during a primetime Saturday night slot, starting in January 2017. Given that this was an audience that, until very recently, had been accustomed to seeing the far less demanding Strictly Come Dancing in a similar time slot this could have scuppered the series's chances before it started but, in the end, there was no need to worry. Taboo garnered rave reviews and built up a loyal following who were thrilled to learn that it had been recommissioned for at least one more series. Knight had already let slip that, in his view, there was material for at least two more, so those who had decided to brave Taboo's grimness and ultra-violence will ultimately be rewarded.

Not only has Tom Hardy built a solid reputation as one of Britain's finest actors on stage and screen, he is fast becoming famous as being both completely unlike his brooding presence in roles such as Bane and Delaney – and exactly the same as these ruthless characters. In a recent interview with The Daily Telegraph Emily Browning, who played Reggie Kray's doomed wife, Frances, in Legend revealed that her expectations of what Hardy would be like were completely confounded: “I was worried before I met him. At first, I expected him to be very intense and very serious and very method – but he’s not at all! We were goofing around on set a lot. He’s hilarious.” Equally smitten were Taboo's crew members, who also saw the lighter side of the actor, as he insisted on bringing his rescue dog to the set every day and personally thanked everyone on the completion of filming, from the director to the lowliest runner.

Perhaps it was a slow news day, but information about Hardy's citizen's arrest of a thug who was attempting to steal a moped also hit the headlines recently. The villain was only apprehended after the actor had chased him through several gardens and a building site, impressing witness Arun Pullen who said, “Tom must have been walking down the road [in Richmond, London]. He went off like a shot in pursuit and looked furious. I asked Tom what happened and he told me he chased [the culprit] through my back garden and caught him around the block – but the route was like an assault course. It was mental – like he’d switched to superhero mode in an action movie. Tom Hardy’s clearly not a man you’d mess with. I think he even checked the kid’s ID before cops took over.”

Now married for the second time - to actress Charlotte Riley - and a father of two, one with Riley and one from a previous relationship with assistant director, Rachel Speed, Tom Hardy is well placed to welcome his middle years. If his looks fade, this actor has a bankable talent that is built to last, even in the fickle world of showbusiness.

Tom Hardy Quotes:

“Fame and stuff like that is all very cool, but at the end of the day, we're all human beings. Although what I do is incredibly surreal and fun and amazing and I'm really grateful for it, I don't believe my own press release, do you know what I mean?”

“I'm from a nice, suburban, middle-class family, but my tattoos remind me where I've been.”

“My father came from an intellectual and studious avenue as opposed to a brawler's avenue. So I had to go further afield and I brought all kinds of unscrupulous oiks back home - earless, toothless vagabonds - to teach me the arts of the old bagarre.”

“I'm into parlour dramas. I'm into theatre. I'm trained for the stage. I trained to do Chekhov and Shakespeare, I was trained for the stage.”

“I wanted my dad to be proud of me, and I fell into acting because there wasn't anything else I could do, and in it I found a discipline that I wanted to keep coming back to, that I love and I learn about every day.”

“Max, my dog, was my support unit, it’s like I had a focus; I had an identity and higher self-esteem because something relied on me and loved me constantly... I’m very, very lucky that people - from 17 to now - have always allowed me to have my dog around.”

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