Tom Hardy has always given the impression of being a little dangerous. He admits to drinking so much in his early twenties that he has few memories of that time in his life. But he’s long since atoned for his hell-bent past and in recent years has emerged as one of Britain’s top stars with performances in The Revenant (for which he earned an Oscar nomination), Mad Max: Fury Road, and his new BBC TV series, Taboo, on which he did double duty as producer and star, and which has just been renewed for a second season.
Next up, however, is DUNKIRK, Christopher Nolan’s highly anticipated WWII drama in which he stars as a spitfire pilot. It’s the third time Hardy has collaborated with Nolan, having previously played in
Inception and The Dark Knight Rises and he believes that Nolan has crafted a masterpiece.
“Chris has made a classic film, it has the epic quality,” Hardy says. “It was a huge production to be part of and you feel the responsibility of telling a story that left its mark on everyone. You grow up hearing so much about it…Dunkirk was a big turning point in the war.”
The film also co-stars a certain pop star – Harry Styles – who will doubtless add to the hype preceding its summer release date. Hardy didn’t have any scenes with the “Sign of the Times” heartthrob, but
speaks highly of the former One Direction frontman. “I met him once, really briefly. It was lovely, big hug. He’s very polite and just a sweet guy.”
Hardy, 39, lives in London with his actress wife Charlotte Riley and their 18-month-old son. They began seeing each other after working together on Wuthering Heights in 2009. He also has a son, Louis, 8,
from his previous relationship to Rachel Speed.
With respect to working with his father Chips Hardy on Taboo, it all came down to Hardy’s desire to have a greater say in the creative process: “(I did) Taboo because I had that drive to be a bit more
than just an actor. Not just because I want more meat in a hamburger or I want to be heard; it’s that I really care about problem-solving. I can do the acting relatively easily at this point, so my energy is
kind of, “Oh, how can we make it better? I want to help the team.” But the team just wants you to “shut up because the team needs to think.” (Laughs.) It’s like, “But I’m on the team! I want to help you think.”
“Just f-ing shut up, OK.” So now I have that place where I can go.”
Q: Tom, Dunkirk marks your third collaboration working with Christopher Nolan. What do you most appreciate about him as a director?
HARDY: Chris has complete command of the operation and you feel very secure working with him. It’s great working with a man who’s got everything under control. He’s also open to ideas, which is a sign of a confident director, and I know I’ve been irritated some directors because I’m always trying to make things better and I feel I can contribute something more. But with Chris I wouldn’t even think of
arguing with him…He’s the kingpin.
Q: How do you compare developing, producing, and acting in Taboo where you were responsible for basically everything to being an actor on a mammoth undertaking like Dunkirk. Were you able to relax more?
HARDY: I usually don’t relax when I’m working. (Laughs) What was easier about doing Taboo is that shooting in London meant I was able to go home every night and spend time with my family. My youngest was born three weeks before we started shooting (Taboo).
Q: Did it give you a special feeling to able to work with your father Chips who co-wrote Taboo?
HARDY: Yeah, I wanted to work with my dad. Chips has a lot of great ideas and I saw him as my partner in crime on this.. It was also a chance for me to tell a story the way I wanted to and work in TV where
you have much more time to develop the characters and unfold the story.
I really liked the idea of returning to my roots and going back and working with the BBC the way I started out when I did Oliver Twist and I wasn’t sure if I could make a living as an actor.
Q: How did your father help you in terms of specific things you wanted to bring to Taboo?
HARDY: He helped me try to break with the way a lot of historical dramas tend to be done in Britain. They’re usually too ideologically correct, ceremonious and false. I wanted to break with that and do
something more visceral. What we wanted to do was tell a story that felt more authentic and departed from that classic kind of storytelling without losing that sense of history and those elements
that formed our society and culture.
Q: You had a turbulent relationship with your father as a teenager and as a young man. It must be comforting to have sorted out things between you two?
HARDY: That’s water under the bridge. I’m nearly 40, I have two kids, and my relationship with Chips has changed radically. As an only son, I had this deep need to rebel against daddy. While I was
growing up, my father worked very hard and usually came home late and I didn’t see him very much. Then I was sent to boarding school and for a long time I was looking for a father figure.
But my mistake was that I chose the wrong people to hang around with who I thought were giving me a sense of security. My father and I only started to talk again and become close during the last 14 years
or so. I needed to learn a lot about life and having my own children changed me forever. Now Chips and I are able to sit down and talk about everything and when we work together it’s not like father and
so, it’s more like the spirit of two artists collaborating.
Q: Has it been a source of pride for you to have accomplished so much as an actor that your father can appreciate what you’ve made of your life?
HARDY: I like being able to impress him. I also have so much respect for him and I’m grateful that we’ve been able to grow closer together again and in a completely different way from when I was growing up.
We can have conversations that are more like two men talking to each other and also like father and son.
Q: How has having children changed the way you see or appreciate your father?
HARDY: It’s made me see my time growing up and that part of my life with my dad in a completely different way. It’s opened up my eyes and things have become much clearer.
When you start raising your own kids, you learn very quickly how f–king hard it is! (Laughs) There are no guidebooks that are going to tell you how to be the perfect parent and it can be really tough. But it’s also the most awesome and rewarding experience of your life.
Q: You are noted for playing dark and dangerous characters. Is that your preference?
HARDY: (Laughs) I have a weakness for the darker side of things. I’m very suspicious of people who present themselves as noble and virtuous. I hate that kind of sanctimonious posturing and those kind
of people are often putting on a mask to hide.
I also believe that the protagonist needs to be a more paradoxical figure filled with contradictions and ambiguities even though his underlying strength is his nobility. That’s what makes truly great characters.
Q: You’ve described your family as your sanctuary. Is it a relief for you to be able to escape playing villains and get away from the dark side?
HARDY: I’m not dark at all in my own life. I love my family, my home life, and I love my dogs. If I’m working on a film, I live in that world that I’m creating through my character and that’s where I need to be. But once it’s over, it’s like the stroke of midnight and the carriage turns into a pumpkin and I get to go back to my real world which is my family.EJ