It's been a busy few days for Tom Hardy. Whilst filming The Dark Knight Rises this week he has also apparently signed on to play pop culture's favourite prohibition era Mafioso Al Capone in what looks set to become a trilogy's worth of life story. With his Hollywood future becoming more and more assured with every passing day and the conclusion of the Batman franchise set for release in 2012, Hardy's role as chemically enhanced super-villain Bane should surely help cement him as one of Hollywood's most unlikely leading men. But if you can't wait until next year to see Tom's considerable heft heaving around your screen, on September 9th he also stars in WARRIOR. A film that, if the gratuitous use of capital letters and MMA theme are to be believed, will surely be a thoroughly testosterone-soaked affair with no shortage of pugilistic face fisting. So, with all of these projects on the horizon and his stock in Hollywood already sky high, the question remains; just where did it all go so right for London's very own Edward Thomas Hardy?
Well it hasn't been easy. On the set of the upcoming The Wettest Country in the World Hardy apparently took the violence off-screen by entering into what can only be described facetiously as gladiatorial combat with the eminently punchable Shia LaBeouf. But putting aside an altercation as ludicrously pitched as Rocky's Rocky versus meat montage, their physical size isn't the only difference between the two. Unlike LeBeouf who was given fame, fortune and the opportunity to bask in the universal derision of critics through Steven Spielberg's complete disregard for who clings to his coattails, Hardy's rise to prominence on hasn't been as meteoric as it may seem at first glance.
Never one to shy away from a bit of the old 'on-screen', Hardy nakedly burst onto the scene a whole ten years ago in Band of Brothers. Fast forward six years and his starring role 2007's Stuart a Life Backwards earned him a BAFTA Television award nomination for Best Actor. Three years on from that and he wins a BAFTA Rising Star award. A year on from that? He looks poised to take Hollywood by storm, swiftly becoming the most in demand hard-nut type around.
But a sentient man's Jason Statham Hardy is not. Never one to play to type, he is a private school educated, ex-alcohol and crack cocaine addict and ex-bisexual with a self-confessed feminine disposition. His masculinity, he argues, comes from overcompensating because he's never felt like 'one of the boys'. This sort of persona that he has created suited him ideally for what I believe was his true breakthrough film.
In 2009's Bronson Hardy proved himself a superbly dynamic leading man by delivering a performance of nuanced menace, great presence and, more unconventionally, gratuitously flailing genitals. His portrayal of one of Britain's most notorious prisoners won him a lot of praise (and potentially the role of Eames in Inception, his most direct step up into the mainstream so far) even in the face of controversy for what many saw as the film's glorification of violence. Bronson's focus upon a man playing a role that may or may not be contrary to his true nature is something which Hardy evidently took to easily. It was also a role that isn't your conventional studio fodder.
That a slightly odd-looking British character actor is stepping up to the big leagues after years of minor productions and supporting roles is encouraging. In a Hollywood producing groomed-for-glory stars such as LaBeouf and his Michael Bay-championed ilk, a rough-around-the-edges talent like Hardy is a sight for sore eyes (although that may indeed be due to the 3D glasses that so often these days find themselves nestled upon my nose). The release of The Dark Knight Rises with its stellar cast, writers, director and insistence on the use of glorious 2D is a refreshingly cerebral take on the blockbuster in what is increasingly becoming an intensely commercial world. The film won't harm underdog Tom's chances at becoming the next Christian Bale either.