In the 'Mad Max' world

In the 'Mad Max' world

Hollywood diaries

In the 'Mad Max' world

For someone who earns an excellent living as an actor, Tom Hardy has surprisingly little interest in the film industry. In fact, he says, he’d rather not see films or talk about them.“I don’t really watch a lot of films. Maybe I should but it just doesn't work for me.”

Tom Hardy has never hesitated to speak his mind. And if it’s not what the listener wants to hear, then too bad.

A former juvenile delinquent and drug addict, he has tackled Hollywood on his own terms. In doing so has become a charismatic leading man while still being able to pass unnoticed on the street.

Interviewing Tom Hardy is not an entirely comfortable experience; although he is friendly and cheerful, one cannot help being slightly wary about what he might say or do next.
George Miller, who directed him in Mad Max: Fury Road sums him up: “On the one hand, there’s extraordinary attractiveness; on the other, you know there’s something unpredictable and dangerous at the same time. He’s tough yet vulnerable. These are essentials of a movie star.”

It is 36 years since Miller brought the first Mad Max to the screen. An unknown Mel Gibson, armoured in black leather and rage, created an iconic hero in what became a cult classic that would change the action genre forever.

Miller made two more Mad Max films, The Road Warrior and Beyond the Thunderdome and then moved on to other projects. Then in 2000 a new Mad Max idea came to him but because of various setbacks it wasn’t until 2009 when Gibson was 53, tainted by scandal and no longer a viable Max, that Miller was able to press ahead and look for a new star.

He had seen Hardy as the ferocious tough guy Bronson in the movie of the same name and also as the chemically-enhanced muscleman Bane in Christopher Nolan’s Batman: The Dark Knight Rises and he saw a connection between the 37-year-old Hardy and Gibson. “They both have a darker, dangerous side. With that tension, there is a sense of unpredictability,” he says.

But he had heard that Hardy could be combative and “difficult” on movie sets so he contacted Chris Nolan, whom Hardy had worked for on both Inception and The Dark Knight Rises, and Nolan reassured Miller than the actor was a total professional.

“I knew he checked my background with other directors to see what it was like to work with me and then he offered me the role,” says Hardy. “When I got over the initial jubilation and excitement I suddenly realised that Mad Max is synonymous with Gibson. If it’s not Mel it’s not Mad Max, and that was a little bit daunting and possibly people were going to dislike the change.”

Set in the post-apocalyptic future where there is no rule of law, no water and no power grids, the movie sees Max being swept up with a group fleeing across the wasteland in a War Rig driven by the androgynous warrior Furiosa (Charlize Theron). “Max just wants to go home but there is no home,” says Hardy. “There’s nothing but silence, pain and destruction. He lives in a place where there’s no humanity yet he still yearns for it. But relationships cost in this world.”

Life may be good for Hardy now, but he has known some bad times. The only child of Cambridge-educated writer Edward “Chips” Hardy and artist mother Anne, Hardy grew up in East Sheen, London. He started drinking at 13, became addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine, periodically spent nights in jail for disorderly conduct and was once arrested for stealing a car and gun possession.

Nevertheless at 19, he entered and won The Big Breakfast’s Find Me a Supermodel competition and briefly had a modeling contract. He studied Method Acting at the Drama Centre in central London but cut his studies short when he landed a role in the TV miniseries Band of Brothers followed by roles in Black Hawk Down and Star Trek: Nemesis. He says: “I wanted my dad to be proud of me and I fell into acting because there wasn’t anything else I could do. In it I found a discipline that I wanted to keep coming back to, that I love and I learn about every day.”

A supporting role as a sleazy street thug in the crime thriller The Killing Gene was the start of a run of gritty roles in which he brought texture and depth to unsavoury characters: Bill Sikes in the BBC version of Oliver Twist, a gay gangster in Guy Ritchie’s RocknRolla and then Bronson.

“Ninety-eight per cent of actors are unemployed so I come from a background of not expecting to always work,” he says. “If somebody offers me a job then I will gladly accept it. However, I’ve been doing it for about 13 years, possibly more now, so I don’t just take any job. I like to pursue the craft of acting and try my hand at many different characters. I don’t have a method of acting. I just... you know.... I do a job.”

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