Since he appeared on the scene Tom Hardy has quickly ascended to the top of Hollywood's tough guy list. But Hardy has much more to offer than imposing physicality, displaying a remarkable emotional range and depth alongside his classic leading man ruggedness.
His most iconic roles in The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max, and Bronson pin him as an imposing presence, but Hardy offers much more than rippling muscle, delivering gripping performances from right across the emotional spectrum. Physically Hardy has undergone transformation after transformation for various roles, alternately gaining and dropping weight, often in contrast to the emotional clout demanded by the role. Now Hardy returns in perhaps his most physically and emotionally intense role yet, starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant.
Hardy plays the complexly vile John Fitzgerald who leaves his business partner, Hugh Glass (played by DiCaprio), for dead after a bear attack, unleashing the chain of events that becomes The Revenant. This role could well be the apogee of Hardy's career where he perfectly brings together a character of complexity and color with the menacing presence his stature provides.
A Powerful Performer
Whether he is playing an MMA fighter, a prisoner, saving the post-apocalyptic world or breaking the Batman, Tom Hardy is without a doubt one of the toughest testosterone-fueled leading men around. However, many of Hardy's brutish characters have an emotional complexity that you might not expect from a typical musclebound movie star.
Hardy made his mark as Michael Peterson a.k.a. Charles Bronson (not the one from Death Wish), a real person known for being Britain's most violent criminal. When Hardy was cast to play this real-life career criminal, he had to both bulk and toughen up. He met with the real Bronson to study and master his mannerisms which helped him embody his charismatic persona perfectly. If that's not dedication to the craft, I don't know what is.
Bronson showcased both Hardy's darker brooding side and his lighter cheeky side. Bronson was a hardened criminal to begin with, but he was also just a man who simply fell in love with a woman and went a step too far when attempting to win her heart. Kind of romantic for a serial criminal, right? Not only was Charles Bronson a violent criminal, but in his little time outside of the prison bars, he was a barehanded boxer so the entire film is full of violence and foul language, making it a quite the testosterone driven role.
In 2011's mixed martial arts film Warrior, Hardy was again required to bulk up and strap on his tough guy boots. This would be a difficult role for anyone to take on, but Hardy made it look effortless and natural. To prepare, Hardy underwent MMA training and stuck to a strict diet of just chicken and broccoli to keep his physique in fighting shape.
The role of Tommy Conlon is an ultimate tough guy role; after all, he does get punched in the face for a living. Tommy not only picked a a tough career path that makes his life rocky, but also has to come face-to-face with his estranged, alcoholic father and successful, smug brother. As if a dysfunctional family wasn't enough to deal with, Tommy is harboring a dark secret from his past stint in the military. Conlon plunges himself into the rigors of physical combat as an escape from his emotional demons. He is a troubled, surly antihero, but despite being an unsympathetic character Hardy's gravitas ensures you still end up feeling for him by the end of the film.
His Blockbuster Breakthrough
Hardy is probably best known for his performance as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Bane's monstrous size meant Hardy had to pack on the pounds, tweak his accent and don a sinister mask to play this most formidable Batman villain. To get ready for the role, Hardy had to undergo a rigorous training program (again) to beef up. Using what he refers to as the "naughty way" (chocolate and everything bad for you) of dieting, Hardy quickly grew to the stature required. He even ran up and down stairs with his trainer and best friend, Peanut, on his shoulders. The routine worked, too! When he reported to set, he was over 30 pounds heavier than he had been when filming Warrior and weighing in at over 200 pounds, while only standing at 5'9", that's a pretty big deal.
Bane is the most formidable villain that Batman has ever faced. Hardy did a stellar job channeling the raging violence inside of Bane to perfectly capture the brute force and attitude of this monstrous man. Of all of the brutal bruiser roles Hardy has played, this one was the most tenacious. With only his voice and his eyes to convey the pure evil pouring out of Bane, he is delightfully frightful. The work he did with his eyes was enough to make the audience believe that he was truly hellbent on dismantling the pillars of Gotham alone.
For someone that hasn't been driving long—Hardy did not get his driver's license until he was cast in RocknRolla—he sure had some pretty impressive driving skills in [Mad Max: Fury Road](tag:41445). As Max Rockatansky, Hardy was the epitome of badass brute. The hardest part for him to ready himself for, though, was not the physical aspects, but the voice. Hardy likes to get the voice for the character down before he does anything else, explaining:
"I think that was actually the toughest thing. Normally, I like to get that sense of character with a vocal silhouette, and that was the toughest thing for me was to find Max's voice. Max hadn't spoken for many, many years. So it was, I think, synchronistic with character.” - Hardy to ET
And everything did eventually come together in this purely phenomenal portrayal. The role of Max is another that, yet again, required Hardy to couple both his more toughened and emotional sides together. He is more or less insane, traumatized and feral. And even though he's a complete and utter badass, you can't help but feel bad for him. The role of Mad Max definitely displayed how much of a treasured talent Hardy really is.
Hardy himself is a father, a dog lover and a giver of charity. He struggled with addiction in his early twenties and is a self-described "softy." He has often times said that he enjoys playing the stiff-lip, hot-tempered roles because he gets to channel a grittier attitude that lets him explore a different, darker side of himself.
The Perfect Balance
From the incredible trailer it seems a given that Hardy will be in full-scale terror-inducing beast mode. As we've previously seen in Inception, Hardy and DiCaprio create epic storytelling when they team-up, so The Revenant is sure to only further prove Hardy's outstanding work. Tom Hardy flexes his acting muscles, giving you the absolute widest range of tough and subtle. Filming in the harshest climates of Canada, this is by far his toughest role in terms of preparation where both his physicality and acting expertise were tested to bring out what should be his best performance yet.
No matter the type of role he is cast in Hardy delivers a commanding performance every time. Even though he now has a long list of films on his resume, Hardy is a severely underrated talent and I have a feeling that The Revenant is about to get him all of the recognition he so greatly deserves.