Tom Hardy is best known for his portrayals of brooding, intense, even savage men: Max Rockatansky in Mad Max: Fury Road, Batman’s nemesis Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, a deranged English criminal in his audacious breakout in Bronson. So the presumption is that the man and his cinematic counterparts must share some dark blood.
But in a hotel suite in Los Angeles earlier this fall, the 38-year-old Brit seemed far more teddy bear than grizzly — a stuffed rabbit peering out from inside the pocket of his button-down shirt, metal bracelets jangling on his wrist. Everything about him is unexpected, and he likes it that way. “I’m not really interested in [playing] straight leads,” he says. “I have crooked teeth.”
This fall he will bare those teeth playing notorious twin gangsters Ron and Reggie Kray, who terrorized London in the 1960s, in Legend. And in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s The Revenant, he costars as John Fitzgerald, the mercenary fur trapper who abandons Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass in unforgiving 19th-century terrain. Making the film was grueling, by all accounts. Iñárritu, who won Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director for Birdman earlier this year, insisted on shooting in often freezing temperatures in the wilds of Calgary and Tierra del Fuego and pushed his actors and crew to extremes. “He’s unlike any director I’ve ever worked with,” Hardy says. “He sees things how he sees them, so to give him back what he wants is quite an interesting experience. It could drive you f—ing nuts.”
To loosen things up on set, Hardy chose an unconventional method: wrestling with his director. “When things get a bit too serious, I go, ‘Why don’t we have a cuddle in front of all these people here?’ ” Hardy says. “It ends with both of us falling down in the snow. I think that’s a good thing. If I’m the naughty boy for doing that, then I’d rather be the naughty boy and release that tension.”
For his part, the director came to appreciate his star’s contradictions. “On the surface, he can look inaccessible or difficult,” Iñárritu says. “But he is just a beautiful human being. He’s incredibly sensitive and lovable.”
And quite funny. He likes to compare his director to a well-known cartoon character. “He had the affability to me of the donkey from Shrek and I’m Shrek,” says Hardy. And he has a lot to say about working with his pal, DiCaprio: “I do a bit of heavy-lifting with all the lingo and Leo does the face-pulling. He does some significant face-pulling. And he’s awesome at it.”
If nothing else, Hardy is unpredictable. Most actors dream of an Academy Award, but Hardy doesn’t think he should be allowed into the Oscar theater. “Lock me out of that, for your own good,” he says. “It’s like putting a wig on a dog, or a tutu on a crocodile. It doesn’t look right, it’s not fair to the animal, and inevitably someone will get bitten and hurt.”