Tom Hardy is one of the most exciting and versatile actors of his generation: focused and committed, he never turns in a flimsy performance. As we welcome him back to season four of Peaky Blinders, streaming on Netflix from today (Dec. 21), here’s a reminder of his greatest ever roles.
Hardy packed on 40 pounds to play Charles Bronson, a prolific criminal and former bare-knuckle boxer who’s been dubbed “Britain’s most violent prisoner.” Director Nicolas Winding Refn has said the film is inspired by Bronson’s life, rather than being strictly autobiographical, but Hardy’s intense, muscular performance captures why this dangerous and disturbed man has become something of a cult figure. In what is probably his breakout film role, he simply eats up the screen.
In the first of his three films with director Christopher Nolan, Hardy plays a professional identity thief with a gift for impersonation. Nolan’s psychological sci-fi film is a clever, complex affair that makes more sense with repeat viewings, and Hardy’s soulful and stylish performance definitely stands up to close scrutiny each time you watch it.
Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)
This film adaptation of John le Carré‘s iconic spy novel has an awesome ensemble cast led by Gary Oldman, Colin Firth, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Hurt, and Mark Strong. Hardy more than holds his own in this fine company, bringing intrigue and charisma to his supporting role as rogue agent Ricki Tarr. If you’ve seen the film, you’ll know it’s hard not to wish he had a little more screen time.
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Hardy plays the main villain in Christopher Nolan’s third and final Batman film. He gained around 30 pounds to play Bane, a hefty and enigmatic revolutionary dead-set on destroying Gotham City and tormenting Christian Bale‘s Batman in the process. Hardy also worked hard to hone Bane’s distinctive voice, a gravelly growl partly obscured by the mask his character wears so he can inhale a pain-relieving gas. His baddie was polarizing, but pretty impossible to forget.
This daring and rather underrated film couldn’t succeed without Hardy — he’s the only actor on screen throughout its 85-minute runtime. He plays Ivan Locke, a construction worker posted away from home who leaves an important job early so he can be with his wife as she gives birth to their child. But during an overnight drive from Birmingham to London, Locke takes a series of phone calls that ultimately see him ruin both his professional and personal lives. Hardy’s portrayal of a man slowly unraveling is simply magnificent.
The Revenant (2015)
Director Alejandro G. Iñárritu‘s epic western is destined to be remembered for Leonardo DiCaprio‘s fearsome performance as a 19th century explorer fighting to survive after being abandoned in the American wilderness and getting mauled by a bear. After all, it’s the role that finally won Leo his Oscar. But Hardy also shines as charismatic baddie John Fitzgerald, a cool and conniving fur trapper who leaves DiCaprio’s character for dead. Hardy brings real menace and depth to the role, and was duly rewarded with his first Oscar nomination.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Few movie fans expected director George Miller‘s Mad Max reboot to be quite this riveting; punky and super-loud, it’s a post-apocalyptic road movie that never pauses for breath. But it also has emotional core provided by the grudging respect and eventual friendship that develops between Charlize Theron‘s badass Imperator Furiosa and Hardy’s defiant drifter “Mad” Max Rockatansky. Stepping into Mel Gibson‘s shoes must have been intimidating, but Hardy makes the role his own.
Could this be Hardy’s bravest move ever? In this gritty biopic of infamous London gangsters the Kray Twins, he takes on dual roles as identical twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray. The two characters may look the same, but they have very different personalities. Reggie is self-possessed and intelligent, whereas Ronnie is a more tempestuous figure who suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and extreme violent tendencies. Hardy gets under the skin of both men to make Legend a compelling if disturbing thrill ride.
Hardy doesn’t just star in this dark period drama series which aired on FX earlier this year; he also co-created it with his father Edward “Chips” Hardy and Peaky Blinders mastermind Steven Knight. He plays James Delaney, a shifty and mysterious figure returning to London after 12 years in Africa with two goals in mind: first, build a shipping empire, and second, avenge his father’s death. Unfolding over eight episodes, Taboo is an audacious and complicated tale with Hardy’s rousing performance as its beating heart.
Hardy is perfectly cast as unpredictable Jewish gang leader Alfie Solomons, a sometime ally to Cillian Murphy‘s Tommy Shelby whose loyalty is precarious at best. He made his Peaky debut in season two and will feature in four episodes of season four. Let’s hope Tommy keeps as close an eye on him as possible….
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