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For the very first time online, please enjoy our classic Tom Hardy BLAG cover interview.
Shop classics from the BLAG x Tom Hardy collection below.
The original story was first published in BLAG Vol. 3 Nø 3 print edition in 2012.
Interview &Photography: Sarah J. Edwards
Shot on location at: The Arts Club Mayfair www.theartsclub.co.uk
“...I have to keep pushing my boundaries to do better work. Like, take on bigger characters...”
I could start by writing about how Tom Hardy’s career is heading for stratospheric heights. I could start by talking about how this British treasure and talent was once a naughty boy and has now far out-weighed his badness and has done very, very good. Or I could write about how he skillfully and convincingly throws himself into characters that he wows even the hardest critics. Or about his blissfully honest and humorous approach to the media, which is blatantly self evident, but I won’t. You know all that.
I’ll start with how we met. It was seven years ago, I was stupidly busy, we’d just come off the launch of an edition, putting a new one together and almost simultaneously had a huge project with Chuck D, Common, The Twilight Players, Stretch Armstrong and The Light Surgeons. Tom and I had talked on the phone and via email to organise his feature in Vol.2 Nø 2 and in all honesty we didn’t get off to an entirely good start. Our over zealous sub had tidied up Tom’s writing to the tune of, “I don’t want you to run this, I sound like a 13 year old girl,” we got it fixed, literally at the eleventh hour the night before we hit the press. On that same call, he’d asked if we could meet up when he got back from filming in Luxembourg. It was a quick and memorable first meeting, Tom joined me on a walk between two appointments across Soho, starting on Neal Street we walked and talked and talked. The conversation took on many levels of curiosity, like a tag team game working across a maze. Tom had a funny approach to walking by drains and would bounce around like playing hopscotch ‘three drains are bad luck, two are good luck and one drain cancels out three drains,’ all of which emphasized his animated character. In a flash we arrived at my meeting. Moments after we’d said bye, I noticed a message, it was a humorous text from Tom reiterating our conversation and it sealed the deal on our friendship.
Back in the current day, Tom and I thought BLAG’s 20th Anniversary would be a great opportunity to genuinely collaborate on a feature and we have him to thank for bringing Noomi into the equation. It happened after a long phone call about ‘who’s proper’ in film these days.
As we get set up for the laptop video interview, Tom pulls on his shades, “May I wear these as well, because it looks like Joaquin Phoenix?”
“No.” I reply, dryly.
Tom lets out a gassy laugh and pulls out his beard. “Or, Michael Madsen, if I cross my arms like this.” Tom raises up his shoulders and stares intently into the camera, creating a still across the computer screen.
Alright, describe yourself in one word in the following areas: Sense of humour.
Brilliant. It’s true. Key talent?
“Errr,” he pauses, “talking.”
[laughing] True. Best habit? Shall I mark you out of 10 for these?
“My shameless honesty.”
Yep. Worst habit...?
Shh... one word!
“One word, oh.”
We used to talk loads about how it was imperative for you to get particular roles to get to the next kind of level and it’s probably changed now, hasn’t it?
“As in credibility?”
Yeah, because you had to...well – from my recollections – you had to do it to kind of prove yourself to get to a certain status.
“Yes, the credibility struggle, laughable isn’t it? He who dresses up and pretends to be somebody else for a living, a hired fantasist, the blaggard. Craves such a thing above all else, the sanctimonious virtue. The rare, precious and sacred prize of ‘credibility’. It’s like a treasonous swindler howling at the palace for a knighthood...mind you...many succeed.”
This is true.
“I remember at the time I first met you I had been deployed in a stinker and had recently been introduced to a song that had rather serendipitously been called ‘I’ve Been Down for So Long (It Looks Like Up To Me)’. I was doing an off the scale non-profit grossing film called The Minotaur and I was very low. [laughs and frowns]. A very low ebb in my career. Minotaur was undoubtedly a fair attempt to bring alive the legend, in current form, cutting edge, on a shoestring budget and sticky back plastic. We fell admirably and to a man rather unepically in front an audience, swinging all manner of rubber weapons, flailing in the dust, personally to the smotherings of an ill fitted wig. I think I actually wore a mini dress at one point and spent countless hours gazing into the distance hoping to catch a bus. A bus that never comes.”
“I think at this point, it is important to remember, someone who was wise and knowing said, ‘Hang on to your terrible movie choices and your deepest fears, don’t fight against the tide, you’ll go under.’ Every happy actor has a collection of stinkers under their belt somewhere and one I think is allowed to...and should be encouraged to gather and accrue and embrace those terrible, terrible projects that haunt and goad in good faith and humour; like a boxer hangs onto the visceral feeling of being knocked unconscious. These power stokes of impending shame, appalling monstrosities that loom in the background of many successful forays into the world of entertaining the great public are the battle scars of the credible actor and should be held aloft as medals, pinned to our little chests to be worn with dignity and forbearing knowledge of the cringing we have encountered, emblazoned on our imdb pages.” [laughs]
[smiling] “... And yet, I couldn’t piece together a way up the line quicker or blag anyone to actually get myself off the ground. I was pretty sure I had wings, but I needed to fly. With parts and roles, I suppose I have had to do what I could along the way, to find a way of getting into a position where I could possibly choose the roles that interest me the most, in order to challenge myself and have lots of fun. It’s difficult to get trusted. It’s hard to get financial backing. Bankability and credibility, that’s a rare position. There are various tests that need to be passed along the road and experiences collated, there is certainly no such thing as an overnight success, in my experience. Not one that has remained consistently plodding away tapping out quality work. And luck plays such a huge role of course as well.”
“I got stuck for a while, I won a model competition and it taught me about rejection and humiliation based on aesthetic. It’s hard not to take that personally. There’s nothing wrong with being a model and despite those that have a very pragmatic view of that sort of thing and almost decry the intelligence of models – or how easy it is to be one – let alone someone lucky enough to get paid to do what they love to do, it is quite a specific experience you can’t really talk about unless you’ve lived it...”
Well, I can certainly empathise with that.
“To me it was a bit of a shit job for the most part and I was incredibly unsuccessful.”
[laughs] “Apart from that – I’m very grateful for those humble roots and actually getting any exposure at all to help me up the ladder. Through modelling I met a casting agent who actually remembered me to come back, pluck me out of my Drama School and fight my cause to get a role in Band of Brothers. The downer is models aren’t taken terribly seriously. And that is a dilemma; if you want to be taken seriously and I don’t think I’d really thought it all through. I expected to make a quick buck for turning up and doing nothing, quite a reasonable request I thought being a spoilt brat – also I remember that I felt so terribly ashamed at the time of selling my body and face. I felt powerless viewed by casting agents in modelling cattle calls, stamped as what felt like “reject” often, based on my looks. ‘No.’ ‘Not you...no..’ ‘Not you..’ ‘No..’ ‘Thank you, next. Hang on to your dreams pal’. But this wasn’t actually my dream [laughs] and then the lads I grew up with laughed at me for being a noddy which was just embarrassing. Anyway I’m grateful to have had the breaks, but, I didn’t want to be trapped inside the modeling world. I crave to understand character studies, I like to find them in the workings out and show them. That’s why moving pictures and acting is so compelling for me. We get to show our workings out, our investigations, human behaviours and patterns. Observe and reflect, show and tell in psychological action and physical, not just images or still photography, people in motion. I just wanted to get on and tell stories. I’ve been lucky to do some great projects Stuart, Bronson, Warrior, Lawless, The Dark Knight Rises, but Minotaurs, well they etch out all the hard work in a single shot. I train students ‘acting for camera’, with that in my back pocket, I say ‘Look, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that it’s alright. No matter how bad it is, no matter how embarrassed or awkward you may feel, if you’re creating something and it’s not working. Or if you worry about something looking stupid, then please, go home and you take a good look at me in the Minotaur.’ [cracks up laughing]. You will immediately feel better, and not so alone...because when you’ve finished eating that shit sandwich you’re working on, there will always be another shit sandwich for you to eat and the reward for patience is yet more patience. I’ve had to battle for credibility for a long time, but with myself first and foremost, harsh critic, never mind anybody else, you know? I come from a privileged background, it’s all white, middle class, painfully so. Boring. Uninteresting. And however much I love it, which I do, I don’t think that old credibility struggle will end soon... I fucking hope it does and I find Nirvana.”
I know, why am I here?
“Why do I get all the fun and glory?”
“It’s true. I’m intrinsically much duller than the people that I play. There’s a desperation to validate myself with credibility all the time. Before, it was like, I’d drink on it and be romantic and full of passion and...bollocks. Ultimately, it’s still there with me. I. Am. Not. Credible. I look at Michael Fassbender, Ryan Gosling, Michael Pitt and to some extent the rebel, James Franco. I look at these credible guys actually James Franco’s a renaissance man of a different type. Those actors like Michael Fassbender for certain, his credibility is very high – I went to school with him. You look back at the Pacinos, De Niros and Gene Hackmans of their day, those guys are really credible they’re incredibility, incredible. That is gold dust in the business. I’d love a taste of that. More than an award. More than Oscars, more than money. To be that guy. It’s like, if you’re going to be in the Olympics, that’s winning the Olympics. Fuck actually that’s breaking records too.”
Don’t you think you’ve got to a stage where people don’t really care about your background now? They don’t care. Everyone thinks most people who are in your position now came from somewhere pretty privileged anyway. They just forget about it.
“You’re probably right. I’m not sure. I’m sure, a lot of us are and on top of that I don’t think I’m that interesting, I find when I’m most interested, in my own company I’m discovering how and why someone else does the things they do...that’s really interesting. That’s why I’m not into doing tonnes of press. I don’t find myself very interesting, I don’t want to bore everyone to tears and I don’t feel like being in the public eye for being me. I think there should be some sort of mystery about actors, some sort of allure. Privacy.”
“What we do as actors, we’re pointless on one hand. What the fuck? I mean, a fireman plays a far more important role in life than what I do... I’d certainly prefer a fireman around rather than an actor in an emergency. But I suppose we’re also not to be undervalued on the other hand either. For what it is we try to contribute in the most benign of ways. Simply drawn, actors, writers, directors, musicians, producers to a certain extent bring stories, or pleasure, at times to people. We get paid to tell stories as well as we can, fortunately and I’m just a part of an industry vehicle. A small cog in the wheel as an actor and it’s hard to gauge the audience and what they desire to see. Though we try to guess, somewhere between pleasing ourselves and guessing on taste and pattern spotting. We want to please the audience, we intend to serve the writer but at the same time we want to set personal achievements within the career, so it’s a private journey as well, chasing the demographic serving 33.3%...not that there is no passion for my work coming from me, that’s the fundamental drive to do any of it... I love it.”
Of course you do.
“You’ve got these reality shows where on the one hand you’ve got these tremendous character studies for someone like me, that have huge popularity...and then us pretending. What’s more compelling, reality or artificial reality? Question, what is real about reality shows? It’s a business. Point is, have I got to the point where the audience have stopped judging me for who I am? No. Never going to happen. There’s the business, the love and the...private path of the artist...the fun catharsis, observations, studies. Whatever it is. No. I don’t think I will ever be able to forgive myself for being privileged. [laughs] Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“At the end of the day, there’s this sort of guilt that says, ‘How come I get to be so successful?’ Then bloody hell, if I am successful, then I’ve got to give back in someway, because it might all be taken from me. It’s truly selfish. At the same time, I have to keep pushing my boundaries to do better work. Like, take on bigger characters, Al Capone. Fuck. How am I going to play Al Capone? He “belongs” to America, iconic, I want in. Then I think I’m from East Sheen. [laughs]. Why have you chosen me to do that? They say, ‘Well, we think you’re good enough to do that, we’d like you to do that.’ It’s all about what their opinion of me is, but my opinion of me is... I’m still, from East Sheen, [laughs] I’ve got to do the best I can with work that I’ve been offered and sooner or later the audience is going to realise – if they haven’t done already – that I’ve got nothing up my sleeve
and then everyone will laugh at me. Does that make sense? What people’s opinions of me are and as to what my life is like at home...it’s got nothing to do with the work and even less to do with who I and my family really are. To me, as a performer, ‘the work is really important.’ As an actor I take it very seriously, but not so seriously that I can’t have fun doing it, or lose track of the ground. ‘Don’t talk to me, I’m focusing.. mm meth..I’m working here.’ No, that’s not me, I love what I do.”
[Laughs] That’s good.
“It’s a very strange job being an actor. Especially having now to some extent experienced being a successful one too – because at the moment, it feels as if the world is kind of my oyster. But this is a sense of false security I don’t really trust. I’m always ready to fall from favour, it’s just a fraction of an inch, an arm’s length, a poor choice away – not even necessarily my own choice either. And out here amongst the circus of it all, one can get an altogether unrealistic perspective and ungrounding experience of the world...never mind privilege. Bedlam out here is rife, where there is success and power, there is corruption, there are fantasists, delusions, deceit and lies. Keeping myself in check is an ongoing daily necessity, surrounded by artificial life for the most part, lies, hype and nonsense and it’s flunkies and constantly navigating the unsafe spaces within the world of entertainment, it’s quite an experience in itself. That becomes the norm, whatever normal is. It may not be the most important job – but it is relative and it is my bread and butter today, so I take it seriously and try to cut through the nonsense as best I can. It’s a bit of a jungle – good fun – but not without its serious days.”
“I’m aware of the opportunities that are there for me to participate in, if I come up with “good work.” And I’m grateful for them, but nothing is as important to me as staying grounded and safe. And knowing when to leave a party or the table is part of that for me, I have no intention of gambling away my personhood for kopeks. I would rather be at home be a Dad, a Teacher, paint, write. So, it’s very interesting. Sometimes, it’s a huge pressure and sometimes it’s not, there’s nothing I can do anyway. I just put one foot in front of the other and be grateful, it’s very simple. I just do the best that I possibly can and hope to get employed again. If people like me, great and I get another job. If not, great and it doesn’t matter. I’ll go home, I’m making hay while the sunshines, I don’t need to stay forever. [laughs] I think there’s a lot to be said about just being a father, looking after my family, my son, my dog and making sure there’s food on the table.”
That’s very you.
“The next question, which is more important is, what am I going to do with my life? At the end of the day. What did I do today? Did I do anything to contribute to world in a positive way? Have I been kind to those I love, am I present enough for them...for me...did I show up today? What is it I really love doing? Why do I do it? And how can I do more? Because Acting, Directing and Producing to me are all vehicles to being part of...and ways to be useful for me too. Not like your man Bono. But I would like to be useful and reliable...and serve a purpose. Be part of the solution not the problem. There’s a place for me here and I want to do something and I don’t know what it is yet. Acting’s the start. It’s got me on the straight and narrow. Does that all make sense?”
“You asked me the question.”
[Laughs] Much, less elaborately than your answer.
“I’ll change my opinion in the next five minutes and phone you back up, you know that thing...”
“...it’s complete bullshit, I’ve been thinking about it again. I’d like to take and retract.’”
No, I’ve just been looking at my next question, thinking, is it appropriate?
“You’ve only got to number one.”
Ok, in what ways do you feel better about yourself with age? I feel really, really different in my thirties.
“Yeah, I do as well, I don’t have to prove as much.”
I think I have more, this industry is all about competition and being one step ahead of the others with a mass of social currency to boot. But I’m trying not to give my age away now. I’m quite frightened about how old I’m going to become.
Yeah, well, how old I will have just become. You know when suddenly your next birthday is dawning on you...it’s just a number, but it’s going to give people a different perspective of me.
“Ok, I won’t change my perspective of you... I’m not so worried about people knowing my age, I’m 35 this year. I tell everyone I’m 35, I’m 35 in September.”
I’ve been doing that. Since I was due to be 30, at some point, I just decided to start saying the age I was going to be I don’t know why. Now I’m about to hit reverse on it. [laughs]
“It’s actually quite smart because you’re getting used to trying on the shoes of what you imagine could be the worst case scenario and living that reality before it actually happens. So that makes sense, so you’re 29 and you’re saying your 30. You’re not really 30 and that worry hasn’t really hit you yet. Living in anticipation prepares us for the hit and the hit is never as bad as the anticipation. Well not always. With getting old and not being able to get up from a knock. I like being older, but I wish my body could recuperate as quickly as a younger persons. Shit, that means I’m starting to say things like that...offending older people than me who want to be my age.”
“The next question, which is more important is, what am I going to do with my life? At the end of the day. What did I do today? Did I do anything to contribute to world in a positive way? Have I been kind to those I love...”
[laughs] Probably not. I wanted to talk about the importance of character development, you know that I’ve been sitting in on castings and things like that lately.
“And you have your film.”
“Character development. it’s very important.”
Yeah. Exactly. I feel, for me now, experiencing some of that and it’s only a tiny, tiny bit compared to you obviously, but it feels so important for somebody to really get inside a character as opposed to just learn lines in an accent and do it take for take. Can you talk about the step by step of getting to know a character, how you do it and whether it’s different each time?
“I’m going to sound like such a wanker.”
No you’re not.
“It’s different for everybody. I teach acting sometimes...when I can...”
I mean from your perspective.
[laughs] “You can’t teach people to act, they either can or they can’t. There’s two types of acting, there’s convincing and then there’s not convincing. It’s all about creating truth when it’s completely artificial, bringing the truth to something which is ultimately a fantasy. So, even if it’s a factual story, as an actor? You’re pretending. You make believe. So, we have to get this person in a position whereby they can act convincingly and that breaks into two different types of skill set, that one has to learn. I have to do this for me and I’m twelve years into acting on the floor of films, TV and theatre and I trained for four or five years before. So, I’ve been doing it for a while. There are two types of acting that my students and I need to master and one is what I call ‘The Hustle’ and The Hustle is basically, as simple as this, I need to be able to get whatever it is that I need off anybody in the world at anytime. My physical look is going to be something that stops me from fulfilling that in every demographic. We’re looking for a superman or woman, [laughs] with a skill set akin to the type of people that are recruited into the army – [laughs] who do it for real on much less pay – to the police undercover. Those kinds of skill sets of hustling or Derren Brown or Dynamo, who’ll give you illusions and hustle and flow. Real hustle. Street hustle. The dynamics of talking you into you giving me your body, your watch, your shoes, your teeth, your mother, anything I want. There are people out there who can do that. You need to be that good. [With hand on heart] I’m not saying I’m that good, but I’m aware that that’s how good it needs to be. Two, there’s camouflage, because of how we look, how we do this, what period we’re in. In acting they call it, who, what, where, when, why. Who I am? What I am doing? Where am I? When is this? Or why would I want this? You know? All that kind of stuff and there’s drama schools that spend hours teaching greenies to learn how to do this. I tell you this, one thing we can’t give a student is time. It’s time to practice this consistently, but camouflage is massively important. Can you do it in French? Can you do it in Serbian? Can you do it in Portuguese..? ...What was the question again?”
The importance of character development in the acting process and the process of getting to know the characters.
“Getting into character, really interesting. There’s a saying, ‘You can’t transmit a message that you don’t have.’ So, as an actor our job is to observe and reflect, really simple. I look at something, I reflect it in a show and tell. I don’t have to be an undercover agent so I’m not wearing a wire and no-ones life depends on it, but my standards are high. And sometimes I’m going to fail abysmally and people are going to laugh at me and that’s embarrassing. It’s not important, it’s just embarrassing. And sometimes it’s pretty cool, like, ‘Woah, I jumped pretty high there.’ I’m never going to be in the hall of fame as one of the greats because there’s Robert de Niro, Marlon Brando, Sean Penn, Meryl Streep, Anthony Hopkins, Gary Oldman, Al Pacino, the list goes on, right? But you kind of want to make the effort if you have the opportunities to be in these films. I have a first look picture deal today with Warner Brothers, that is a huge achievement, a validation, I am so grateful for.. but I can’t and won’t pat myself on the back...then I think I might also be one of the really boring actors in my generation.”
[I raise my eyebrows, smile and shake my head]
“It doesn’t matter, I’m genuinely...not as confident I’m going to be anywhere near as good as I dream of being...like my heroes...but I’m on the books, maybe today just isn’t yesterday...with the de Niros, the Penns...”
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
“Ok, when it comes to getting into characters, everybody is different. That’s why I go off to Siberia or get my arse out to Kabul and rattle around. I’ve got to make the effort to find out what’s going on if I’m going to take on roles. I have to go and have a little look where I can, because it informs the work exponentially...too many people phone it in. You meet some very interesting people when you’re working at this level, what’s not to love. Like, Warner Brothers will say, ‘Please use our research department for Al Capone. We have a researcher who will send you all the books, give us a list of the things you want.’ I’m like, ‘Ok, well can I have any photo evidence, any footage, any recordings of his voice? I want to know who his favourite hooker was, I want to know what were his favourite pizza joints, where did he eat after? How many men did he roll with at a time? What did he sleep in? What kind of pyjamas did he like? What did his rooms look like? Where did he have houses? Where were his mistresses? Who was he married to? Did he have any illegitimate kids? Are they still alive today?’ And you get some guy who’ll go out and find all that intel and send it in a document, like the CIA. It’s literally like opening up a case file.”
Wow, that is brilliant.
“It’s fascinating. Next thing you’ve got to do is, you’ve got to get yourself in some real spaces - “real life” experiences, some situations – embrace those – experience as “close to” as possible, to fast track the “mile in their shoes”...”get a taste of.” Some people might not want to. Most big movies lay on a research and development outreach...whether that is going out on a stakeout with cops in LA with Michael Mann, Fort Benning with Ridley Scott, Everest with Doug Liman. Film makers will mix the real world in their movies to create authenticity, it’s the only way really, but long before those high professional level opportunities experiences were available, I would take and observe from close my own investigations. Places I didn’t belong, to observe, partly for the rush, partly for control of fear. Mostly for a story and experience life. Sean Penn takes his work to one end of the spectrum, Johnny Depp takes it to another end of the spectrum, Christian Bale takes it to one end of the spectrum. Phillip Seymour Hoffman does his. A lot of the theatre boys in New York, the early LABrynth, Steppenwolf their writers. Writers often do this, investigative journalism, meets show and tell, meets creative writing. They’re really serious boys. And some people’ll just do a few weights and think that’s method acting [laughs]. He’s soooo intense..really? Then people start talking about authenticity, like you were talking about Malkovich walking through Covent Garden with his hat, painter’s smock on and his easel. [laughs] Cool man, I applaud eccentricity too and that’s what it’s like and getting in there and finding out. You have lots of ways to go as an actor and I think we have a bug for investigation of characters in this show and tell, because we play. We pretend. Partly therapy, partly cathartic, partly because we love telling stories. We love the lives of people, we have invested in people. It’s about finding out what makes people tick, looking at the beauty and the intimacies and intricacies of social interaction and behaviour. We study behaviour and the rules of life and exploring that and finding out what is out there, because it’s fascinating. Eternal students...celebrity is a silly game of charisma chicken. If you are an actor, you fucking know it. And if you are an actor and you see someone who isn’t really an actor, you fucking know it, in your gut. You know that saying, a pro will feel a pro.. real recognizes real?”
“I will immerse myself in a world and then bank it for later, to get into characters. It puts me in a good place for work, where I push myself to make choices, challenge myself to walk in the shoes of. Just for a minute, as much as I can. Sometimes, often, I find myself drawn well out of my comfort zone and I will pick up a lot, which will go into my work. So when the guy comes over and he’s wearing his helmet, he’s got his jacket and he’s got his rifle, I’ll look at him and I’ll go, ‘Ok’, sit with him, spend some time, wherever. I don’t become a liability in the real world and observe as closely as possible... I’m very sensitive... I only need a little exposure to certain truths to fill with them and grow my imagination from research, it’s key. I don’t even want to have to act, because I’ve landed there, I’ve seen it. I can expect the imagination to kick in and inform my hustle...“in the moment.” You can imagine only so much and there’s some things you need to be able to talk from within and immerse yourself with people who have been in. Whatever that is. Blending, parallel worlds, experience and fantasy, then play act, join the dots.”
Can you describe the sensation you get when you’ve just gone out and you’ve literally just done your first line for a character, can you pick one? “No. [pauses] It’s different every time, sometimes a voice doesn’t come...sometimes it’s the first thing but the walk is off. You shouldn’t be needing to think about what it sounds like. You’ve done the hustle, you’ve been doing the camouflage work for months and months. You meditate on it. I’ve been working on Mad Max for two years now. I worked on Charles Bronson for four years before I opened my mouth. Al Capone, I’ll be working on for two years before I get to the set and I’ll have done a lot of meditation on it. When I open my mouth it’s not saying lines, it’s just pinpointing lily pads of truth. Acting is something we do when we fall off the lily pad of truth and into the waters of the fraud. [laughs, gestures paddling, then Broadway-style arms up] We start doing tits and teeth and over semaphoring. I’m guilty of it as any other actor, I know when they’re doing it to me and I know when I’m doing it. It’s fucking alarming, it’s just anxiety making, it looks shit and we all look terrible – no matter how good you are. I don’t care, from Cate Blanchett to Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Shia LaBeouf to Audrey Hepburn, when we fall off and we’re in the non-truth water you start [gestures hands again] you start acting. Acting is what you do not want to do as an actor. You just want to join the dots of the lily pads of truth and get across the river to the other side where the credits roll and go home. [laughs] And if you enjoy that journey and it’s cathartic, then you probably are an actor. If you don’t enjoy that journey and it was cathartic in someway, then you probably are an actor.”
What is the process with the director? So, you’ve immersed yourself with Bronson for four years, was the director on board already?
“We went through a couple of different directors. The director fired me and brought me back on. Directors get to work with many actors but they never work with other directors. They’re in their bubble of wisdom and process. You don’t get a lot of directors working like whores, you know what I mean? We’ve had many directors. If you’re lucky, like me, you get to work with lots of talented directors and you have a relationship with each one, so you can rapidly distinguish the difference between one person’s process and another person’s process and he may think he’s the only person who thinks like that.”
Do you think there’s a stand out moment from one director that’s given you a little bit of a different approach or something that you’ve taken with you?
“Yeah. Every single one. Every single one has left [pauses]...like if I’m a bit of clay, I’ve been punched, thumb prints, good or bad on me and moulded me into the actor that I am.”
Is there a myth that you can dispel about acting?
“That it’s difficult.”
“It’s not difficult. A myth is that it’s all about in the moment, it’s all about preparation. I think it’s gift is fucking hard work in that gift and it’s luck. [laughs] A lot of luck. There’s so many talented people out there, who don’t put in the fucking effort, you know? They don’t put in the work really, the hard work. And the hard work doesn’t mean...”
That’s the bit that bothers me.
The people who don’t put the effort into it. You see, you question yourself about why you’re in this privileged position but you’re putting the work in and it would be worse if...
“...there’s a sense of entitlement.”
“Which I get bored with. What do I want to dispel about acting?”
“I want to dispel that it’s all about celebrity-ism, I’m fucking bored of people looking at whose shoes are interesting and what hat is interesting. Storytelling is very important to people, it comforts them, unites us, cheers us up, we can affect change with these arts. We need to be entertained, to connect...some of us are involved in connection, contact.”
Wait, actually I want ask about something, because you said to me you can’t laugh at yourself. Which is so important.
[Laughs] “I can’t help but look at myself.”
Oh, I’m the same.
“What’s that about?”
“...you know, when I Skype, when I Skype my little boy or I Skype my girlfriend or I Skype anybody, there’s a little box in the corner...”
“...where you can see you and I put myself [laughing] right up by the camera bit.”
[laughing and frowning]”...Don’t you?”
No, I just leave it down where it is, but I still...
[shouting and laughing] “Don’t lie!”
[dryly] I do look at myself and I’m like, I should’ve had that nose job.
[laughing] “You’ve got to, I don’t believe it. [leaning in and looking at himself on the laptop recording this] I think anybody that doesn’t have a little camera on themselves in the corner and looks at themselves, whilst they’re talking on Skype...”
My Auntie, said to me, when I was working in a bar in a village hall in Devon a couple of weeks ago...
Just for fun, yeah. I did it for my Auntie, helped her out. She was talking, she said, ‘Who looks at themselves in a mirror? I mean, I don’t look at myself in the mirror.’ And I said, ‘I do, [dryly] all the time and shop windows, car windows.’ And she was just [gob- smacked].
“I don’t think that’s vanity, I think that’s sensible. That’s being hyper vigilant.”
[dryly] That and I just like to do a, you know, bogie check, VPL.
“Yeah, that too, but I think there’s a hyper vigilance in looking at yourself.”
[laughing] Argh, you’re taking it all so seriously.
[smiling] “Well, it is true, there’s security and there’s insecurity. There’s also, what is behind the fact that you need to – apart from the blatant narcissism of looking in the mirror or wearing sunglasses and checking things out, there’s a certain level of hyper vigilance, which is wanting to know what’s going on more from all angles.”
“Do you know what I mean?”
“So you can develop your third eye and peripheral vision... see those bogeymen coming. [laughs]
THE FLOP & THE QUIP
See if you can pick two situations where one, your sense of humour’s come in handy, like a rescue thing and two, where it’s been really badly mistaken. Mine get’s really badly mistaken in LA, because I do that really dry sort of serious answer and they’re like, [serious, LA accent] ‘Yeaaahhh.’ or ‘Huuuuhh?’ I’ve got to stop that.
“Yeah, yeah, I know. You do it with me as well. Your sense of humour is like...sometimes you’ll crack a joke and you’re so quick. And I’m very quick and I don’t mean that wanky. You’re so quick. I’ll take it for given. [points, nods] She means that. And move on. And I think you think I’m self-obsessed with what I have to say and partly that’s right, I am. Another part is like, I’m processing that answer and it’s like, ‘I think that was a joke.’ And you go, ‘That was a joke, Tom.’ And it was a joke. And I acknowledge that joke...”
Yeah, but then you don’t really laugh.
[laughing] “I know!”
Because the moment has gone.
“Yeah, but it’s not like it failed. It’s acknowledge. It’s almost like when you read a joke and go, ‘Oh, that’s good. That’s fucking sharp,’ but we’ve moved on. You know what I mean? To rewind it back and go, ‘Ha ha!’ the ha ha is gone now.”
“That’s where the best clown work comes from is that flop. They call it The Flop. It’s like where you go, ‘let yourself hang out’.”
It’s quite bad for the person cracking the joke.
“It’s excruciatingly painful. I’ve been in that position.”
That’s why I laugh at my own jokes.
“That’s where the best clown work comes from is that flop. They call it The Flop. It’s like where you go, ‘let yourself hang out’. And you’re just hanging out and that’s it and everyone’s sort of moves on and looks at you and you’re like, ‘Ok, I’ll just put myself back together again and get on with it.’ That’s a comic conceit. It’s a technique.”
I just love laughing.
“I love laughing too. There are very few people on the planet who make me cry with laughter and belly laugh. Like, roll around laughter.”
Yeah. There was a quite a good one at lunch.
[laughs and rubs eyes]
[laughing] That was quite good. So, it was two situations, one where your humour has come in handy and the other one where your humour [laughing] is really mistaken and it caused a bit of a sore point? I feel quite bad asking that, because I just can’t think of any answers, but I quite like the idea of figuring it out.
“My Mum says and my Dad says that I’m the only person who can fall in the shit and come up smelling of roses. [laughs]”
[laughing] That’s funny, I can imagine that.
“And there’s times when my humour does get me out of scrapes and bumps. It also creates a smokescreen in order to give me a little bit of space to get away from certain issues and certain things that happen and sometimes it’s gone wrong. Obviously it goes wrong quite a lot, especially around other people’s friends, where one must contain.”
What do you think has been the biggest change for you with regards to your fame? I don’t know about you, but I’m really uncomfortable with it, as a word.
“What my fame?”
I’m uncomfortable with... [dryly] Yes. I’m really uncomfortable with Tom’s fame. No! It’s more about if I happen to mention your name, people are like, ‘He’s great. Wait! What? You know him?’ [frowning and puzzled]
“They’re probably prefacing...”
How does she know that Bronson guy?
“They’re normally about to say something rude or bad about me.”
No, no. What’s been the biggest change because for me...when I was planning the photo shoot it was quite fun having you around, because I would be on the phone, [gestures being on phone] ‘Shoot with Tom?’ and everyone said, ‘Yes. Whatever you need...red carpet?’ ‘And I was like, no, hold the red carpet. We don’t need that.’
“Ok, so...everything you say I believe.”
“I’m turning into some kind of strange innocent human being you’re corrupting again.”
[laughs] Wait? I’m corrupting you?
“Yeah, you’re corrupting me with your humour.”
“Yeah, it’s like I’ve gone around again.”
“It’s not like it’s my first rodeo, but it kind of is. [laughs] That’s what happens when you do too many jokes, Sarah. I just take you for literally what you say. It’s like, ‘they really wanted to roll out a red carpet?’ ‘No, Tom.’ Oh, that’s just me being gullible again. [smiles] Thanks.” [laughs]
“I want to dispel that it’s all about celebrity-ism, I’m fucking bored of people looking at whose shoes are interesting and what hat is interesting. Storytelling is very important to people, it comforts them, unites us, cheers us up, we can affect change with these arts. We need to be entertained, to connect...”
[laughing] The problem is [holds out hand] I’ve just got you here now. Mouldable.
“Like a new born baby. He’s like a new born baby, you can do anything to him or with him and he won’t remember. [serious] What was the question?”
What’s been the biggest change?
“For me, as a...for what? As an actor, as an adult, as a man or?”
No, with fame.
“I’m not famous yet.”
“I’m not famous where people stop me in the street by the truck load.”
“There are occasional spots where people’ll go, ‘Are you...?’ and I’ll go ‘Yeah.’ Do you mind if I take a photograph, I bet this happens all the time.’ Actually, it doesn’t. And they’re like, ‘Oh, you’re just saying that.’ and I say, ‘Well, no actually it doesn’t and I really appreciate you coming up to me.’ But then I’ve also been in say a situation where there was a blatant premiere, so everybody knew I was going to be there and people turned up and then there was a breakdown in security and we had to cross a road to an after party and we got pretty badly crushed and that was a dangerous situation, ‘technically,’ because it was just a mess.”
Yes, I think what I’m kind of interested in is what’s easier for you now? Maybe that’s a better way to word it. I know that you were saying the audition thing is different, but is there anything that just generally feels easier? Do you have a sense of comfort now?
“Financially I’m in a position where I can look after my son, have food in the fridge, a roof over my head. Financially, I’m in a really good space today. I couldn’t retire today so I have to keep working. I’m lucky to be doing a job that I love doing and doors have opened wide enough for their to be a significant amount of work and good work. I was reading James McAvoy’s article in one of the BLAGs and he said something really sharp actually. He was saying – I’ll paraphrase it – how he’s the type of actor who used to do anything, anything coming up. And I am exactly the same. I never expected to get to where I am. I always dreamt of it and wanted it. Deep down maybe would allow myself to think that it could ever happen. I mean, being in Batman, going into Mad Max, going into Al Capone. Massive dreams come true. They’re not lost on me. The opportunities that I’ve been given and by the grace of God – or whatever your concept of that is, the gifts that I’ve been given [pauses] whatever talent I have is not my own. I’m only responsible for the looking after and training of that and training hard or working hard at it, because it could disappear tomorrow. I didn’t create it, I just have it. Whatever it is that I do, that I’m hired for. I work hard at it, with it, but it’s an unknown commodity to me, so that has got me through a lot of doors where I never dreamt I’d even go through in the workplace. What’s got easier for me is I suppose things that I take for granted and because what’s on my plate constantly is the problem at hand.”
[laughs] “Because the opportunities have become more abundant and with that comes more responsibility. I think that’s the best way I can answer that question. What’s got easier? Everything and nothing, the road gets narrower. As I get more stuff, I get more thrown at me to deal with.”
THE FREUDIAN SLIP
How did you manage to avoid social networking? Well, you didn’t did you, for a little while. We talked about this before. there’s this alleged ‘social currency’ and it makes you more bankable and all that sort of crap.
“Airspace. Selling air.”
I don’t know if I even want to talk about this.
“What was the question again... Social Networking, where was it [grabs questions]. Social networking is that like going to the Polo and taking tea with people?”
[I raise my eyebrows]
“Well, I think people should sit down face-to-face and talk about things.”
“Email you obviously have to do for different things it’s fast, instant messaging is very useful. Twitter, Myspace and stuff like that are just ways of procuring, I suppose, for some. I think in my situation for the job that I do, there’s two different things. There’s output of brand, so it’s very useful but at the moment, I’m not really putting out a brand. I’m just trying to do work. So, if I was in a place where I was outputting a brand, say I’m doing work for Help for Heroes or Flack, or if we’re working for Bowel Cancer UK or any of the charities that are ongoing that we do work for then, absolutely. It’s vital that you use every platform. I think that if I wanted to monopolise and I will want to monopolise and capitalise on businesses, film companies. In business social networking is very important. Of course, I’m not going to underestimate its value in the work place and each one needs as many bells and whistles as possible. But for me, social networking as in ‘Tom Hardy!’ You know, like, [gestures typing] ‘I just took a shit’... Do you know what I mean? [gets excited, wiggling around, gestures typing again] ‘Ooh, I’m eating peanuts, I’m at the bar.’ Or tweeting, [waves hand around in the air] ‘Ohh, you’ll never guess what I saw!’ Or, ‘Here’s a photograph of my cock... [quickly] of my watch.”
[we both crack up, Tom leans forward and smacks my leg]
[laughter, finding it hard to speak] Why. Do. I. Get. Hit?
[into camera, smiling] “We both know what happened there. I had a Freud slip and [laughing] Sarah really went for it.”
[still laughing] No. I had a photographic visual.
[ditto] “You had what?”
I had like a photographic visual [I gesture towards the sky...peanuts at a bar.]
[Tom cracks up, claps his hands and throws his head back]
[I’m crying with laughter] That’s really bad.
[laughing into camera and waving his hand] “She didn’t actually have a real photographic visual, she thought she did, but we haven’t socially networked like that. [laughs] Because that’s all still on my phone. [picks it up and holds up to camera] Which is the Porsche BlackBerry by the way. [laughing] Very expensive phone. Doesn’t work very well. Anyway! Um, yeah. No, social networking I think is a way of procuring the ego, women or men or whatever. And also, I think it’s very dangerous.”
[laughing] I’m sorry that is still going around my head.
[laughs] “You’re still thinking about the watch?”
I just didn’t get all the giggles out yet.
[Tom laughs and covers his head] “I’ll just twitter on then. I don’t get it, when people who don’t have anything to do with being celebrity, twitter like they are celebrities?”
“Do you know what I mean? Because who’d want to be a celebrity anyway? I don’t get it. I absolutely don’t... I mean, I get it, I get it, totally but it’s not actually incredibly useful. But I don’t trust it. I think it’s very, very sketchy and that followers and following, I think that’s all a little bit weird and a little bit like consumerism gone riot. As much as it is fascinating to see what technology comes up with and what the latest trends are, I like to be on top on everything and what’s going on. I think there’s a lot to be said for writing, getting on the phone and talking and being face-to-face with people. BBM is really useful and WhatsApp is really useful for staying in touch, but this whole fascination with who am I? Where am I? What am I doing? What’s going on? And having that information constantly at every level. It’s just gone a bit weird. It doesn’t allow any mystery or illusion to anything.”
No, I completely agree.
“And one wonders, when the batteries run out and when the electricity runs out what everyone’s going to do?”
“So... are you still thinking about a visual and trying not to laugh? [laughs]
No. No, it’s gone. It’s gone. Ok, you’ve just answered the next question, that’s good.
“...this whole fascination with who am I? Where am I? What am I doing? What’s going on? And having that information constantly at every level. It’s just gone a bit weird.
It doesn’t allow any mystery or illusion to anything.”
“What was the next question?”
Has technology made a difference for you and what do you miss? You kind of answered it.
“I love WhatsApp, I love BBM I think it’s really useful and I love the fact you can see if someone’s read your intel and they haven’t fucking answered back. And another thing that I get very, very OCD is about kisses on text.”
[smiling] Do you?
“Yeah, I count kisses.”
[smiling, surprised] Do you?
“I count punctuation. I count the amount of kisses, I read into that shit. And to some people it doesn’t mean anything and to some people it is a...”
That’s very feminine.
“No. No. It’s a manipulation. Why is that feminine?”
What to count kisses? It is. People read into their text messages, but the problem with text is – we’ve talked about this – the problem with text messages is how many different ways you can read a message.
You have to be really careful. And that’s why sometimes, I’m like. Ok, text up. Phone call please.
“That’s why it’s dangerous text messaging, I think you’re absolutely right, but I also think...”
[dryly] Also, I get a bit worried if you only send me two kisses. I get really concerned about that.
“Oh do you?”
[dryly] Yeah, unless there’s about four. I need about four and a couple in the middle of a sentence.
“Yeah, yeah you’ll get... they all mean something. It’s generally to do with mood. Or excitement. Kisses mean different things to different people. It’s like the LOL, laugh out loud or lots of laughter or lots of love. They all mean things. That is a whole new language one has to master. And yeah, you have to be really careful and I think you need to be very clear with text. I think what’s interesting is, you know, people tend to say what they wouldn’t dare say to your fucking face.”
Ok, why is realness and rawness really important?
“Because synthetic and symbolic are so fucking nauseating. Because symbolism is not naturalism. Semaphoring, pointing out what it might be and realism is like actually representing, because you’re never real in acting, really, because it’s fucking fake. What we do is complete posture.”
Yeah, if you think about what films you’ve done, that you could’ve done...
Yeah, I know. Well, I was going to tell you this.
“Could’ve been more truthful.”
That was so cocky. [laughs]
“Like, films that you could’ve done with more feeling.”
[laughs] “Or better.”
[laughs] No. I was thinking you could’ve done...some things could’ve been, like...
“Like Minotaur, go on.”
I haven’t watched it. [laughs]
“For a reason.”
[laughs] I was sworn off it.
“For anybody who’s going to Drama Schools having a tough time...should watch it.”
No, that’s in the earlier part of the interview.
“Let’s not use up all our grapes. [laughs]”
[laughs] Yeah, let’s not have too much repetition here.
[smiles into camera] “Ok.”
No. As much as...that was funny.
“Well, you’ve killed the funny now haven’t you.” [laughs]
You do it to me.
[laughs] “What was it?”
About realness and you made a joke about it. No, what I was saying was, you make a film and it could be way, way glossier and it could be...
“A Battleship kind of thing?”
[laughs] No. There’s this thing about how someone tells a story from an experience they’ve had. You might tell me a certain way because you have a certain comfort level with me, but then you might tell your Dad it a different way or the guy at the cafe. You’ll tell everybody it in a different way and that story could end up completely different and that’s what I’m trying to say. The films that you make have a real realness to them and that’s what you bring to it. As opposed to a gloss over.
“Ok, that’s specificity. It’s a word, right?
[I frown, here the difference in public and state school education shows again] I don’t know. Dictionary! [laughs]
“Specificity is a word often used by people who do what I do, who are really, really good at what I do. In order to please people like that, I have to try and be more specific. If there’s a realness or a rawness in my work it’s just because, I like to find things. If it is going to be convincing then you’re going to have to take risks. And that risk has to be interesting and entertaining. Both, you know? Because the people who are watching are paying, but it also has to be interesting and entertaining for me to do the job. If I’m doing something I love doing, I want to do much better at it than if I do something that I hate doing. Although, I don’t believe that one must suffer unnecessarily for great work. Though, you will suffer, [laughs] If you’re doing great work, you should suffer because you’re working hard. Going, ‘Oh, I am exhausted and actually, I really put my body through the mill and actually, I’m in a pretty dark space right now, but I fucking enjoyed that.’ In the hunt for what is on the output rawness and real perhaps, or current or specific. Specificity is about going, ‘How close to the truth can my play acting be? How close to reality can we be in this false environment?’ There’s something about the competitive nature that I have in me of wanting to be – I think it’s very three-year-old – it’s like, bigger, better, more, smarter, faster, cleverer.”
“More daring, yeah, yeah. Got there first. Look at my shit! It’s very hip hop in the same way that you have a dance off. Like, Michael Fassbender, I will look at him and think, ‘Hmm! Yeah! You’re fucking cool. Let me show you how I would do it!’ [smacks one hand into other fist and smiles], ‘Yeah, but if I was on the floor.’ And that’s the different between phoning it in and the work. I don’t want to be a model or an actor, a star thing. I don’t want to be that. I want to be known for the work, I’m going to fuck up sometimes, I’m going to do terrible work, [to camera] please watch Minotaur. [laughing] I’m going to do some terrible, terrible stinkers you can name a plethora of them and there are haters out there who do. And good for you, wicked! But the long and short of it is, make the effort to swing from fences. There’s nothing worse than phoning something in and there’s no such thing as a free dinner. And I’ve got a buzz for trying to achieve chal