10. He Was Expelled – Twice
Born in Hammersmith, London, in 1977 and growing up in East Sheen, Hardy comes from a comfortable background; his father, Chips Hardy, was a comedy writer and is currently a creative director for the JWT advertising agency, and his mother Anne is a painter.
With creative blood clearly running through his veins, he was always more likely to be drawn to a career in the arts, but Hardy was a wayward youth who struggled to make the most of his education:
“I went to public school where I learned Latin at the age of nine, and certain expectations were made of me to go to St Paul’s, Oxbridge maybe, and all that kind of thing. And I failed systematically to meet the mark.”
Hardy was expelled from Reed’s School for theft, and then kicked out of Richmond Drama School for, as he put it, being “a little sh*t.” He also failed to complete his studies at Drama Centre London, though at least this time it was due to being cast in Steven Spielberg’s Band of Brothers, and Hardy seemed to gravitate towards anything bar the academic in his formative years.
9. He Was A Model
Remember The Big Breakfast, the ‘wacky’ Channel 4 light entertainment show from the 1990s? The light-hearted weekday-morning staple turned Chris Evans into a star, launched the careers of Gaby Roslin and Denise Van Outen and, rather regrettably, unleashed Zig and Zag on a wider audience. The Big Breakfast became the UK’s highest-rated breakfast TV programme, and a certain Simon Cowell must have been watching – you can blame him for the brief pop career of the alien duo, among other atrocities.
Someone else who must have tuned in around then was a young Tom Hardy, as in 1998 he participated in the show’s Find Me a Supermodel competition – and won. Along with a cash prize, Hardy was awarded a professional contract with the agency Models One, but he soon realised he felt more comfortable in the field of acting:
“I tried to be a model when I was 19 and I was sh*t. I can only function if I become someone else.”
8. He Once Had A Record Contract As A Rapper
Not that modelling was the only thing Hardy latched on to as a young man – it’s a little-know fact that one of his early aspirations was to become a rapper, and he came closer than you might think to making it a reality.
His hip-hop career didn’t quite come to fruition, but Hardy made enough of an impression as an adolescent to earn himself a recording contract, taken under the wing of the man who managed The Fugees and working with Grammy-winning producers Warren Riker and Gordon Williams to record a couple of albums.
Somewhat predictably for the self-effacing actor, he isn’t too complimentary about his own efforts, commenting that it didn’t pan out because “I come from a nice middle-class neighbourhood, it was a very hard sell. And I wasn’t very good!”
Hardy is almost certainly a better actor than rapper, but the above video is evidence that he does know how to rock a mic. It’s also, like, so darn cute.
7. He Was Addicted To Crack Cocaine
It wasn’t the lure of hip-hop or the catwalk that almost ruined Tom Hardy’s acting career before it even began – it was an addictive personality that led to alcoholism and a crack cocaine habit that very nearly claimed his life.
Hardy has classified his inner demons as a 400-pound gorilla that “runs around the darkness of my soul,” and some ill-advised high jinks as a seventeen-year-old would have led to a lengthy prison sentence were it not for his partner-in-crime’s father being a British diplomat:
“We’d stolen his father’s friend’s Mercedes, got pulled over in Kensington, and I had a gun on me. It was horrific, I didn’t really know how much trouble I was in.”
Although he had a lucky escape on that occasion, Hardy’s experimentation saw him become an alcoholic and a drug addict, both of which threatened to derail a career just starting to take shape after Band of Brothers and roles in Black Hawk Down and Star Trek: Nemesis. After a blurry night in 2003, the actor collapsed on Old Compton Street in Soho and awoke in a pool of blood and vomit, vowing to make a change before it was too late:
“I hit a brick wall of behaviour. There were the options of institution, death, prison or insanity, and I could tick the boxes on three of those so I was very lucky that I had a moment of clarity.”
Hardy has been clean ever since, but has never taken his sobriety for granted.
6. He Now Uses His Experiences To Help Others
Of his addictive tendencies, Hardy has said: “What I have is indiscriminate, like a bullet. If you are an alcoholic that is what you are.” He blames drugs for the collapse of his five-year marriage to Sarah Ward, and over a decade of sobriety hasn’t made him forget his own struggles or ignore the pain of others suffering from similar problems.
Hardy busies himself with a number of charitable endeavours when his schedule allows, becoming a patron for the Cambridge charity Flack after his portrayal of Stuart Shorter, a homeless alcoholic whose tragic life formed the basis of the biography and TV movie Stuart: A Life Backwards. He is also a keen environmentalist and an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust youth charity, and he has every intention of continuing to lend his support to those in need:
“I’m an addict and an alcoholic, so I have my ups and downs…I want to help other people and I’m really grateful of the things that happened in my life. It could have gone the wrong way.”
5. He’s A Romantic
Sorry, ladies – Benedict Cumberbatch is now officially off the market and so too is his Stuart: A Life Backwards co-star Tom Hardy, who is either engaged or married to fellow actor Charlotte Riley – no one, besides them, seems to know for sure.
The two met in 2009 when they were cast as tragic, star-crossed lovers Heathcliff and Cathy in a made-for-TV version of literary classic Wuthering Heights. They have been in a relationship ever since and have also both appeared in Sky 1 miniseries The Take and the recently-aired second series of Peaky Blinders.
Engaged since 2010, the couple became temporary tabloid fodder about six months ago when Hardy casually referred to Riley as his wife in an interview, and in September The Sun On Sunday reported that they exchanged vows in a private ceremony in the South of France in July.
Hardy is a believer in love at first sight and proved it by marrying Sarah Ward in 1999 just three weeks after the two met in Covent Garden. However, after appearing in the poorly received This Means War alongside Chris Pine and Reese Witherspoon in 2012, and saying “I didn’t understand how you could do something which is so much fun and be so miserable doing it,” don’t expect to see him in another romantic comedy any time soon.
4. He Has Experimented
For many moviegoers, their first sight of Tom Hardy came in Guy Ritchie’s British gangster film RocknRolla in 2008. Hardy played Handsome Bob, a member of One-Two’s The Wild Bunch gang and a closeted homosexual who has a crush on Gerard Butler’s Scottish mobster.
A few years ago, Hardy was asked whether or not he had ever had sexual relations with other men, and he answered the question with typical candour:
“Of course I have. I’m an actor for f*ck’s sake. I’m an artist. I’ve played with everything and everyone. But I’m not into men sexually. I love the form and the physicality but the gay sex bit does nothing for me.”
Not that Hardy has a problem with homosexuality or thinks of himself as particularly macho. In fact, he has said “I feel intrinsically feminine,” and claims to be anything but a hard man – a surprising admission from an actor who has played several dangerous, intimidating characters with such apparent ease.
3. On-Set Scuffles
Not that his pronounced feminine side has stopped Hardy from becoming embroiled in a physical altercation or two – a few interesting tales have emerged from his movies over the years.
Back in the days when he would show up to a film set worse for wear, Hardy was an unpredictable presence, persuading Ridley Scott to let him set himself on fire rather than use a stuntman for a scene in Blackhawk Down. Around the same period, he also starred in The Reckoning alongside Willem Dafoe, Brian Cox and Vincent Cassel, but made the biggest impression on Paul Bettany.
When Cassel interviewed Hardy for French magazine Premiere years later, he posed the question: “So, would you advise someone who’s shooting their first movie, to take a swing at the lead actor because he’s saying bad things about you?” To which Hardy responded: “I didn’t hit him, I slapped him. I didn’t want to leave a mark on his face.”
And then, of course, there was a more recent incident involving Shia LaBeouf. Reports surfaced that the two actors playing brothers in John Hillcoat’s Lawless brawled on the movie set, but Hardy has since played down the significance of what went on:
“We were just playing around. For the movie, Shia went from being quite a gentle young man into a very rough, heavy-handed individual and I’d just done Warrior and we were always play fighting and mucking around. So yeah, he gave me a bit of a slapping. He’s a big boy.”
2. Body Art Barmy
Tattoos may have become increasingly popular in recent times, but Tom Hardy has been adding to his ink on regular occasions for over twenty years now.
Hardy had his first tattoo done aged 15, picking out a fighting leprechaun to adorn his right bicep in honour of his mother’s Irish heritage. Apparently, she ended up crying rather than feeling honoured by the gesture, but that hasn’t stopped him from adding to the collection with each passing year and making a few more errors of judgement.
Hardy also got a dragon tattoo for ex-wife Sarah Ward because she was born in the year of the dragon – “That’s what you call a mistake tattoo,” he has since remarked – and his tattoos had to be digitally removed in post-production when he played Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. Expect a few more to be added yet:
“Each tattoo is a period of time in my life I’ve been through or a friend I’ve lost or made… I mark myself with everything I’ve been through at the end of every episode. When I went to drama school they used to tell me I wouldn’t get work if I had a tattoo, but I’m working so I get another tattoo every time I do a job.”
1. He’s Dedicated
If there’s one thing you probably do know about Tom Hardy, it’s that he commits to his roles with an intensity few actors can match, physically transforming as a matter of course if the situation calls for it.
The actor first came to prominence playing notorious prison inmate Charles Bronson – a role for which Hardy apparently did 2,500 press-ups a day to pile on the pounds and change his body shape. An impressive enough feat on its own, but this was actually the second time he’d bulked up for the role; he had already gone through the physical preparation a year earlier only for the film to fall through, and lost all the extra weight and more for Stuart: A Life Backwards.
To play the part of MMA fighter Tommy Conlon in Warrior, Hardy embarked on a regime consisting of “two hours boxing a day, two hours muay thai, two hours ju jitsu followed by two hours choreography and two hours of weightlifting seven days a week for three months.”
For the role of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy added 30 pounds of muscle to his frame, and although he is getting older and becoming more aware of the potential long-term damage such weight fluctuations can cause, it would be a surprise if he didn’t transform his physique again at some point in the future.