Tonight, Tom Hardy walks the red carpet at the Toronto International Film Festival in support of LEGEND before it hits theatres everywhere on October 9. In the London-set thriller, Hardy does double duty as identical twin gangsters, Ronald and Reginald Kray.
In celebration of Hardy’s upcoming thirty-eighth birthday and to get ahead of the curve before LEGEND drops, let’s catch up on some of the bulky Brit’s greatest roles – from Nicolas Winding Refn’s Charles Bronson to, of course, Christopher Nolan’s Bane.
Does your favourite Tom Hardy movie make our must-see list?
It takes a certain amount of dedication and self-sacrifice to believably portray the most violent prisoner in Britain's history and Hardy proved he was up for the challenge in every scene of Nicolas Winding Refn's brutal, innovative and punishing Bronson. As a wannabe criminal who was sentenced to seven years in prison for armed robbery but whose outrageously violent nature led him to repeated bouts of solitary confinement, Hardy wore a shaved head, waxed-tipped, strongman moustache and bulked up deltoids to pull off the Bronson look. With Refn's off-kilter but astute direction, we were able to see a man unleashed, who had delusions of grandeur and embodied the notion that all the world's a stage...on which he chose to commit horrendous acts. If you're going to have a coming-out party to grab the attention of American studios, Hardy chose well with the jaw-dropping Bronson.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
It seems impossible that at such a young age Hardy has already peaked, but his masterful performance as the nihilistic Bane was controlled, terrifying and made even more impressive since half of his face was obscured, which meant no relying on facial cues to get the message across. Not only did his baddie terrify Christian Bale's Batman, Hardy went to town on his body once more, gaining an unprecedented amount of muscle - those SHOULDERS - and bravely losing himself in the role. Turning his character's propensity to mumble into a deep-throated threat, Hardy was the Batman villain without a moral compass, choosing to just watch the world burn while he stood atop the ashes. A dark place for an actor to go and Hardy pulled it off by committing to the character, one that you wanted to hate and yet tried to understand. In a blockbuster movie where the likes of Bale's injured Batman, Anne Hathaway's purring Catwoman, Michael Caine's wet eyes, Gary Oldman's can-do-ness and Marion Cotillard's, well, face, are competing for screen time, Hardy's Bane was one of The Dark Knight Rises most watchable characters.
This Christopher Nolan mind-bender Inception served as most mainstream audience members' introduction to Mr. Hardy, where his chiseled features, dry wit and ability to fill out of a suit were put to good use as Eames the forger, a man who was able to take on the physical attributes of others while in the dream-state where he and his sneaky- smart team, including Leo DiCaprio, Ellen Page and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, did their handy work. As Hardy himself is no stranger to shape-shifting on film, this character is especially apropos and marked his first collaboration with Nolan, who would later cast him as the villainous Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, and propel him even further into the public sphere.
Layer Cake (2004)
While this was most certainly Daniel Craig's, and to a lesser extent Sienna Miller's, movie, Hardy's pillow-lipped pout all but demanded the audience's attention as he took on the role of Clarkie, a science-smart, dour young man who gets into business with a cocaine dealer (Craig) known only as XXXX, who is on the brink of an early retirement. Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) directed a smart, breezy crime thriller that would establish Hardy's intensity and presence on -screen, even when sharing a scene with the future James Bond.
Between 127 Hours, Buried, and Locke, for a while there, Hollywood got a little obsessed with the one-man show. In the latter film, Hardy played a construction foreman who, nine months after a one-night stand, struggles between the duties of being present at his child’s birth and returning home to his wife and sons. Through thirty-six phone calls en route to the hospital, Ivan Locke’s (Hardy) life is turned upside-down.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Though Charlize Theron's Imperator Furiosa is clearly the star of the show, Tom Hardy’s takeover of the Mad Max franchise’s titular role was received with an incredible amount of critical acclaim. Hardy and, frankly, Max are happy to play second fiddle to Furiosa and Immortan Joe’s Wives, supporting their escape and journey to the “Green Place.” No one has ever made grunting so nuanced, and after the George Miller film, we kind of love Tom Hardy 100% more.
Handsome Bob; the name says it all. In Guy Ritchie's crime thriller, Hardy held his own against more established names like Tom Wilkinson, Gerard Butler, Mark Strong, Idris Elba and Thandie Newton and although RocknRolla wasn't Ritchie's return to critical (and box office) form that Sherlock Holmes would eventually turn out to be, it's the kind of big-deal, shoot-'em-up that would get Hardy on the map. Plus, he got to play a complicated gangster coming to terms with his sexuality and his crush on best mate One Two (Butler) with whom he shared a tender and well-deserved slow dance in a scene that remains memorable in a movie with grandiose action sequences. No easy feat, that.
Stuart: A Life Backwards (2007)
Alexander Master's autobiographical look at his unlikely friendship with a homeless alcoholic, Stuart Shorter, got an impressive HBO/BBC one-off movie treatment in 2007. Here Hardy takes on the tricky role of Stuart, a mentally unstable, career criminal with a violent past, while fellow Brit Benedict Cumberbatch co-stars as writer and charity worker Masters. As their friendship deepens and as Masters learns more about Stuart's traumatic childhood, they decide to tell his complicated life story but, as the title suggests, backwards, so it's "like a murder mystery." It's a master class in acting to watch Hardy recount the twists and turns that led Stuart's life to spiral so badly out of control. From post office heists, to institutionalization, to suicide attempts, each piece is recounted with a slight humourous edge and a resiliency that makes his alien world accesible, both for Masters and for the audience. It's no wonder the role brought Hardy his first BAFTA nomination for Best Actor.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
Gary Oldman leads an impressive all-star British cast in this adaptation of John le Carre's bestselling novel, which delves deep into the internal workings of Britain’s top intelligence community at the height of the Cold War. Hardy co-stars as suspected double agent Ricki Tarr, a talented infiltrator who finds himself emotionally compromised in the middle of his biggest assignment yet. Though a bit rough around the edges, Hardy imbues Tarr with an unmistakable air of intelligence and capability under pressure, which proves invaluable to uncovering the mole in MI6. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is essential viewing for any Hardy fan, and indeed any Oldman fan, but if there is just one must-see scene it is a heated and important confrontation between Tarr, Smiley and Tarr's boss, Peter Guillam (Benedict Cumberbatch), that breaks open the investigation and shines a light on all the intrigue.
After his career took off thanks to the overwhelmingly positive reviews, and impressive box office haul, of Inception, Hardy followed up that rather toned-down performance with one that was intensely physical, emotional and heavy in this family drama starring Nick Nolte and Joel Edgerton. Again using his physicality to help sell the role, Hardy played Tommy, an ex-Marine still haunted by his own past experiences who enlists his estranged, alcoholic father to train him so he can compete in an upcoming Mixed Martial Arts match. Given what he had to put his body through and the emotional weight of playing a member of such a fractured family, Hardy at once broke our hearts and then made us wince as he continued to take punches and give them out in this emotional and complex story about beating the odds, family and forgiveness. A movie that seems, on the surface, to be geared towards a niche crowd, Warrior is immensely satisfying and heart-breaking and Hardy was one of the driving forces behind its universal appeal.