15 Surprising Facts About Tom Hardy
You don't have to be a Hollywood insider to know that Tom Hardy is widely considered to be one of the most talented actors of his generation … and that he has a reputation for not always being willing to play by Hollywood’s rules.
Since making his onscreen debut in 2001, the London native has gone on to collaborate with some of the world’s most talented filmmakers, including Ridley Scott, George Miller, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Sofia Coppola, and Christopher Nolan (on three occasions, and counting). He also created, produced, and starred in the FX hit Taboo and earned an Oscar nomination for his role in The Revenant—and all of this before hitting the big 4-0.
In honor of Hardy's 40th birthday, here are 15 things you might not have known about the celebrated A-lister.
1. HE WON A TELEVISION MODELING CONTEST.
Technically, Tom Hardy’s onscreen debut came in 1998, when he took part in a modeling contest on the British morning show The Big Breakfast. Among the facts we learned about the then-21-year-old: He was a drama student who idolized Gary Oldman, liked Eddie Izzard, wanted to write and direct his own short films, and didn’t like football. And yes, he won.
2. HE MADE HIS ONSCREEN DEBUT IN BAND OF BROTHERS.
In September of 1998, shortly after he began attending the Drama Centre London, Hardy dropped out when he was offered a role in the Steven Spielberg-produced WWII miniseries Band of Brothers (2001). When asked about the experience by IGN in 2002, Hardy said that, “Band of Brothers was my first job so I was virtually out of the frying pan and into the fire, really. I'd not had previous experience with working in front of the camera, so there was dealing with that. Also, I had the research material—not that I'd need it. I mean, I was in two episodes and had 12 lines. That was the sum total of work [I] had to do.”
Hardy made his big-screen debut in 2001 as well, playing Twombly in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. “I was the Ranger who got left behind,” he told IGN. “He was sort of, if you could call it, comic relief to [a] very precarious situation.”
3. HE WENT TO SCHOOL WITH MICHAEL FASSBENDER.
While attending the Drama Centre London, Hardy looked up to a fellow student who was two years older than him: Michael Fassbender. “He was a really serious method actor and we used to watch him and think, ‘F**k, man! He’s the sh*t!,’” Hardy told The Daily Beast. “He was in an Irish play about this guy who came back from the First World War who was a great athlete but ended up in a wheelchair, but at lunchtime he wouldn’t come out of character and was always in his wheelchair and we’d be like, ‘Dude! Just order your lunch and come along! We’ve got an hour before we have to go back to class! But he was the best actor in the school.” (Fassbender, too, landed a role in Band of Brothers.)
4. HARDY REPLACED FASSBENDER IN TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY.
Though their careers have taken different paths, Hardy and Fassbender overlapped a bit in 2010, when Hardy replaced Fassbender as British operative “Tricky” Ricky Tarr in Tomas Alfredson’s 2011 adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a Cold War thriller based on the John le Carré novel.
5. HE IDOLIZES GARY OLDMAN.
That aforementioned modeling contest wouldn’t be the only time Hardy expressed his admiration of Gary Oldman. In 2011, he told ShortList that, “Gary Oldman is my absolute complete and utter hero. He’s the f**king man. I look at him and I want to be like that for my generation—I want to have that same quality. He’s incredible.”
That same year, Hardy got the chance to star alongside Oldman in the Oscar-nominated Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. “There is a definite ‘hang on a minute’ [moment], but I’ve got past the star-struck part now,” Hardy said of getting the chance to act opposite Oldman. They have since worked together on three more films: Lawless (2012), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), and Child 44 (2015).
6. HE BATTLED DRUG AND ALCOHOL ADDICTION AT AN EARLY AGE.
With his star on the rise, Hardy was forced to confront an issue he had been dealing with since his teens: a serious alcohol and crack addiction. After shooting Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), Hardy checked himself into rehab. “I didn’t want anyone to know I was out of control, but I couldn’t hide it,” Hardy said in 2014. “I went in thinking I’d do it for a little bit until I can go out and drink and people forgive me. But I did my 28 days, and after listening to people who had been through similar circumstances I realized I did have a problem.” Hardy has been sober since 2003.
7. HE HAS DUG INTO HIS PAST FOR CERTAIN ROLES.
When discussing his role in 2011’s Warrior, in which he plays the son of an alcoholic former boxer played by Nick Nolte, Hardy told ShortList that, “In the [alcohol abuse] scenes with Nick Nolte, if you’ve been to those depths, experience allows you to think ‘this is right’ or ‘this is wrong’ and know how to react. There’s only so much imagination you can use before you have to go out and live life again. You see these kid actors who work from 10 to 21 and then all of a sudden they disappear for a bit. They’ve got nothing to draw upon apart from a life of working, so you need to go out and catch up and then come back in again.”
8. HE ALMOST PLAYED MR. DARCY IN JOE WRIGHT’S PRIDE & PREJUDICE.
Hardy auditioned to play Mr. Darcy in Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley. The role ultimately went to Matthew Macfadyen, while a studio head told Hardy that, “Babe, every woman in the world has an impression of who Darcy is and you’re just not it.”
“That hurt, that really hurt,” Hardy told The Telegraph in 2009. “I’d worn a blue shirt and jeans and a blue blazer and been doing my best Hugh Grant impression. But now I was back to playing the wonky skewiff-teeth kid with the bow legs.”
9. HE GAINED MORE THAN 40 POUNDS FOR BRONSON … BY EATING CHOCOLATE AND PIZZA.
Hardy first gained international attention for playing the title role in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson (2008), an in-your-face biopic about Michael Gordon Peterson, who has been called both the “most violent prisoner in Britain” and “Britain's most notorious prisoner.” He gained 42 pounds to play the role.
“I was a mess after Bronson,” he told ShortList. “I got really fat. I was a real road crash ... By the time I went to Pittsburgh to film Warrior I had two hours of boxing, two hours of Muay Thai, two hours of Jiu-Jitsu, two hours of choreography, and two hours of weightlifting a day, every day for eight weeks. I don’t know how people do that every day. Bronson was fun. For Bronson I just ate chocolate and pizza, lifted [my friend] Pnut up and down the stairs, played Xbox, shaved my head and grew a moustache."
10. HE ATTRIBUTES HIS ACTING TALENT TO BEING A GOOD LIAR.
When asked about how he ended up pursuing a career in acting, Hardy said that, “In the end there was nothing else I could do. I had a busy head and I didn’t really want to do things that I found boring. The only thing that kept my attention was to play and have fun and manipulate. I’ve always been a liar, always been able to manipulate. I pretty much get whatever I want.”
“Acting really is a mixture of bullsh*tting and manipulating and the study of action-reaction,” he added. “And camouflage—hiding yourself in other languages, bodies, and shapes. Acting channeled me into something. I found some self-esteem and thought, ‘I’m actually quite good at something.’”
11. HE’S AWARE THAT HE HAS A REPUTATION FOR BEING CHALLENGING.
Over the years, Hardy has developed a reputation for being an intense collaborator—and not always in a good way. Hardy knows what people think of him, but he doesn’t know that it’s well deserved. “There's this myth, which is quite asinine, that circulates about me—usually by those who haven't worked with me,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “There's only one thing worse than being talked about and that's not being talked about in this game so I'd rather it be that, I guess. But there are other people who I work with consistently who know that's not the case—who just wouldn't risk having somebody like that in their midst because there's too much at stake. Obviously you're going to rub people the wrong way … and I've been a dick. But then, who hasn't?”
12. IT’S HARD FOR HIM TO CRY ON CUE … BUT MR. HOLLAND’S OPUS MAKES HIM WEEPY.
For an actor with a reputation for being a tough guy, it’s probably not surprising that Hardy can’t cry on cue. “I find crying difficult,” he told ShortList. “It takes a long time for me to go. And I won’t know what will send me. I’m quite sentimental. If my son tells me he loves me, that will make me cry. Mr. Holland’s Opus, unbelievably, broke me. A random anomaly. Bambi would probably do me. Or Shrek."
13. HE PREFERS PLAYING VILLAINS, BECAUSE HEROES ARE “BORING.”
When discussing his penchant for playing villains, Hardy told The Hollywood Reporter, “I play a lot of scary blokes, and there are probably a few reasons why. First, villains are much more interesting than hero leads, who are, for the most part, really boring. The thought of going into work day in and day out to play someone who is just mind-numbingly boring fills me with dread, so I don't bother. Another part of it is when I was younger I remember being frightened a lot—of being small and skinny and vulnerable and feeling that I could have been preyed upon easily. So, everything that I play is what scared me.”
14. HUGH JACKMAN THINKS HE’D MAKE A GREAT WOLVERINE.
With Hugh Jackman’s run as Wolverine winding down, MTV UK asked the actor who he thought might be able to fill his mutant shoes. Jackman did not hesitate to suggest Hardy for the part.
15. HARDY THINKS HE’D MAKE A BETTER JAMES BOND.
When asked about the chances of returning for a fifth go at playing James Bond in 2015, current 007 Daniel Craig famously stated that he’d “rather … slash my wrists. No, not at the moment. Not at all. That’s fine. I’m over it at the moment. We’re done. All I want to do is move on.” Ever since, rumors have swirled about who might replace Craig with Tom Hiddleston and Idris Elba becoming two of the most frequently talked about replacements. But when Hardy made it known that he’d be game to take over the role, if Christopher Nolan would direct, the regular collaborators became the most likely suspects to take over the franchise.
“You know, there’s a saying amongst us in the fraternity of acting, and in the fellowship of my peer group, that if you talk about it you’re automatically out of the race,” Hardy said when asked about the possibility of becoming Bond. “So I can’t possibly comment on that one! If I mention it, it’s gone. But Chris Nolan, what a fantastic director for a Bond movie. Because Daniel [Craig] is so good, and what [Sam] Mendes, and [producer] Barbara [Broccoli] have done has been so impressive, that it would be a very hard reimagination to follow after. I wonder what the next installment of that franchise would become, and I think when you mention someone like Christopher Nolan, that’s a very powerful figure to bring into that world who could bring something new and create something profound … again.”
When asked whether he’d be into reinventing another franchise, Nolan told Playboy “definitely … I’ve spoken to the producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson over the years. I deeply love the character, and I’m always excited to see what they do with it. Maybe one day that would work out. You’d have to be needed, if you know what I mean. It has to need reinvention; it has to need you. And they’re getting along very well.”
But fans will have to wait and see. In August, Craig confirmed that he will be returning for Bond 25.