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15 Surprising Facts About Tom Hardy

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NIKLAS HALLE'N/AFP/Getty Images

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.

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Marvel Entertainment
10 Facts About Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian
Marvel Entertainment
Marvel Entertainment

Nearly every sword-wielding fantasy hero from the 20th century owes a tip of their horned helmet to Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Barbarian. Set in the fictional Hyborian Age, after the destruction of Atlantis but before our general recorded history, Conan's stories have depicted him as everything from a cunning thief to a noble king and all types of scoundrel in between. But beneath that blood-soaked sword and shield is a character that struck a nerve with generations of fantasy fans, spawning adaptations in comics, video games, movies, TV shows, and cartoons in the eight decades since he first appeared in the December 1932 issue of Weird Tales. So thank Crom, because here are 10 facts about Conan the Barbarian.

1. THE FIRST OFFICIAL CONAN STORY WAS A KULL REWRITE.

Conan wasn’t the only barbarian on Robert E. Howard’s resume. In 1929, the writer created Kull the Conqueror, a more “introspective” brand of savage that gained enough interest to eventually find his way onto the big screen in 1997. The two characters share more than just a common creator and a general disdain for shirts, though: the first Conan story to get published, “The Phoenix on the Sword,” was actually a rewrite of an earlier rejected Kull tale titled “By This Axe I Rule!” For this new take on the plot, Howard introduced supernatural elements and more action. The end result was more suited to what Weird Tales wanted, and it became the foundation for future Conan tales.

2. BUT A “PROTO-CONAN” STORY PRECEDED IT.

A few months before Conan made his debut in Weird Tales, Howard wrote a story called "People of the Dark" for Strange Tales of Mystery and Terror about a man named John O’Brien who seemed to relive his past life as a brutish, black-haired warrior named … Conan of the reavers. Reave is a word from Old English meaning to raid or plunder, which is obviously in the same ballpark as barbarian. And in the story, there is also a reference to Crom, the fictional god of the Hyborian age that later became a staple of the Conan mythology. This isn't the barbarian as we know him, and it's certainly not an official Conan tale, but the early ideas were there.

3. ROBERT E. HOWARD NEVER INTENDED TO WRITE THESE STORIES IN ORDER.

Howard was meticulous in his world-building for Conan, which was highlighted by his 8600-word history on the Hyborian Age the character lived in. But the one area the creator had no interest in was linearity. Conan’s first story depicted him already as a king; subsequent stories, though, would shift back and forth, chronicling his early days as both a thief and a youthful adventurer.

There’s good reason for that, as Howard himself once explained: “In writing these yarns I've always felt less as creating them than as if I were simply chronicling his adventures as he told them to me. That's why they skip about so much, without following a regular order. The average adventurer, telling tales of a wild life at random, seldom follows any ordered plan, but narrates episodes widely separated by space and years, as they occur to him.”

4. THERE ARE NUMEROUS CONNECTIONS TO THE H.P. LOVECRAFT MYTHOS.

For fans of the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, one of the only names bigger than Robert E. Howard was H.P. Lovecraft. The two weren’t competitors, though—rather, they were close friends and correspondents. They’d often mail each other drafts of their stories, discuss the themes of their work, and generally talk shop. And as Lovecraft’s own mythology was growing, it seems like their work began to bleed together.

In “The Phoenix on the Sword,” Howard made reference to “vast shadowy outlines of the Nameless Old Ones,” which could be seen as a reference to the ancient, godlike “Old Ones” from the Lovecraft mythos. In the book The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian, editor Patrice Louinet even wrote that Howard’s earlier draft for the story name-dropped Lovecraft’s actual Old Ones, most notably Cthulhu.

In Lovecraft’s “The Shadow of Time,” he describes a character named Crom-Ya as a “Cimmerian chieftain,” which is a reference to Conan's homeland and god. These examples just scratch the surface of names, places, and concepts that the duo’s work share. Whether you want to read it all as a fun homage or an early attempt at a shared universe is up to you.

5. SEVERAL OF HOWARD’S STORIES WERE REWRITTEN AS CONAN STORIES POSTHUMOUSLY.

Howard was only 30 when he died, so there aren’t as many completed Conan stories out in the world as you’d imagine—and there are even less that were finished and officially printed. Despite that, the character’s popularity has only grown since the 1930s, and publishers looked for a way to print more of Howard’s Conan decades after his death. Over the years, writers and editors have gone back into Howard’s manuscripts for unfinished tales to doctor up and rewrite for publication, like "The Snout in the Dark," which was a fragment that was reworked by writers Lin Carter and L. Sprague de Camp. There were also times when Howard’s non-Conan drafts were repurposed as Conan stories by publishers, including all of the stories in 1955's Tales of Conan collection from Gnome Press.

6. FRANK FRAZETTA’S CONAN PAINTINGS REGULARLY SELL FOR SEVEN FIGURES.

Chances are, the image of Conan you have in your head right now owes a lot to artist Frank Frazetta: His version of the famous barbarian—complete with rippling muscles, pulsating veins, and copious amounts of sword swinging—would come to define the character for generations. But the look that people most associate with Conan didn’t come about until the character’s stories were reprinted decades after Robert E. Howard’s death.

“In 1966, Lancer Books published new paperbacks of Robert E. Howard's Conan series and hired my grandfather to do the cover art,” Sara Frazetta, Frazetta's granddaughter owner and operator of Frazetta Girls, tells Mental Floss. You could argue that Frazetta’s powerful covers were what drew most people to Conan during the '60s and '70s, and in recent years the collector’s market seems to validate that opinion. In 2012, the original painting for his Lancer version of Conan the Conqueror sold at auction for $1,000,000. Later, his Conan the Destroyer went for $1.5 million.

Still, despite all of Frazetta’s accomplishments, his granddaughter said there was one thing he always wanted: “His only regret was that he wished Robert E. Howard was alive so he could have seen what he did with his character.”

7. CONAN’S FIRST MARVEL COMIC WAS ALMOST CANCELED AFTER SEVEN ISSUES.

The cover to Marvel's Conan the Barbarian #21
Marvel Entertainment

Conan’s origins as a pulp magazine hero made him a natural fit for the medium’s logical evolution: the comic book. And in 1970, the character got his first high-profile comic launch when Marvel’s Conan The Barbarian hit shelves, courtesy of writer Roy Thomas and artist Barry Windsor-Smith.

Though now it’s hailed as one of the company’s highlights from the ‘70s, the book was nearly canceled after a mere seven issues. The problem is that while the debut issue sold well, each of the next six dropped in sales, leading Marvel’s then editor-in-chief, Stan Lee, to pull the book from production after the seventh issue hit stands.

Thomas pled his case, and Lee agreed to give Conan one last shot. But this time instead of the book coming out every month, it would be every two months. The plan worked, and soon sales were again on the rise and the book would stay in publication until 1993, again as a monthly. This success gave way to the Savage Sword of Conan, an oversized black-and-white spinoff magazine from Marvel that was aimed at adult audiences. It, too, was met with immense success, lasting from 1974 to 1995.

8. OLIVER STONE WROTE A FOUR-HOUR, POST-APOCALYPTIC CONAN MOVIE.

John Milius’s 1982 Conan movie is a classic of the sword and sorcery genre, but its original script from Oliver Stone didn’t resemble the final product at all. In fact, it barely resembled anything related to Conan. Stone’s Conan would have been set on a post-apocalyptic Earth, where the barbarian would do battle against a host of mutant pigs, insects, and hyenas. Not only that, but it would have also been just one part of a 12-film saga that would be modeled on the release schedule of the James Bond series.

The original producers were set to move ahead with Stone’s script with Stone co-directing alongside an up-and-coming special effects expert named Ridley Scott, but they were turned down by all of their prospects. With no co-director and a movie that would likely be too ambitious to ever actually get finished, they sold the rights to producer Dino De Laurentiis, who helped bring in Milius.

9. BARACK OBAMA IS A FAN (AND WAS TURNED INTO A BARBARIAN HIMSELF).

When President Barack Obama sent out a mass email in 2015 to the members of Organizing for Action, he was looking to get people to offer up stories about how they got involved within their community—their origin stories, if you will. In this mass email, the former Commander-in-Chief detailed his own origin, with a shout out to a certain barbarian:

“I grew up loving comic books. Back in the day, I was pretty into Conan the Barbarian and Spiderman.

Anyone who reads comics can tell you, every main character has an origin story—the fateful and usually unexpected sequence of events that made them who they are.”

This bit of trivia was first made public in 2008 in a Daily Telegraph article on 50 facts about the president. That led to Devil’s Due Publishing immortalizing the POTUS in the 2009 comic series Barack the Barbarian, which had him decked out in his signature loincloth doing battle against everyone from Sarah Palin to Dick Cheney.

10. J.R.R. TOLKIEN WAS ALSO A CONAN DEVOTEE.

The father of 20th century fantasy may always be J.R.R. Tolkien, but Howard is a close second in many fans' eyes. Though Tolkien’s work has found its way into more scholarly literary circles, Howard’s can sometimes get categorized as low-brow. Quality recognizes quality, however, and during a conversation with Tolkien, writer L. Sprague de Camp—who himself edited and touched-up numerous Conan stories—said The Lord of the Rings author admitted that he “rather liked” Howard’s Conan stories during a conversation with him. He didn’t expand upon it, nor was de Camp sure which Conan tale he actually read (though it was likely “Shadows in the Moonlight”), but the seal of approval from Tolkien himself goes a long way toward validation.

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iStock
The Annual Festivals That Draw the Most People in Every State
iStock
iStock

Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis. Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the can't-miss events across the country.

As the graphic below explores, some states' biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsin—which holds the world record for largest music festival.

Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana. Oktoberfest and other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nation's largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.

In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montana's biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famous daredevil. And Washington's biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokane's annual three-on-three basketball tournament.

Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.

A graphic list with the 50 states pictured next to information about their biggest events
Genfare

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