Published May 21, 2012
CANNES, France – The allure of movie stardom is becoming evident to Tom Hardy.
As he made his way down the glittering red carpet at the Cannes Film Festival for the premiere of his Prohibition-era gangster film "Lawless," Hardy found himself enjoying the extravagance — briefly, anyway.
"I saw what it meant to be a movie star for a second and I quite liked it," Hardy said in an interview at the French Riviera festival. "Then I went, 'Nah! Let's go back to work.'"
Hardy, who plays a grunting, cardigan-wearing Virginia bootlegger in the film, says he could see the addictiveness of such glamor and acknowledges more is likely on the way. He stars as the villain Bane in Christopher Nolan's upcoming, eagerly anticipated Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."
"I like shiny things, but all that glitters isn't gold," says Hardy." There's nothing that comes without cost. I've got enough cost in my life. I've got enough risk going on. I'm already crazy enough."
The 34-year-old British actor has already known similar pitfalls, having dealt with alcoholism and drug addiction in his 20s. But Hardy's burgeoning fame has come in tandem with a growing awareness of his considerable talent.
With a visceral masculine intensity that's drawn comparisons to Marlon Brando, Hardy has played an anguished mixed martial arts fighter in "Warrior," a double-crossed spy in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" and an identity forger in "Inception." A boiling rage often seems just below the surface of his characters.
Following years on the stage and on TV in Britain, Hardy's highest-profile roles are ahead of him. Aside from "The Dark Knight Rises," he'll star in a new version of "Mad Max," for which he's currently sporting a bushy beard. In "Lawless," which will be released in September, Hardy's performance stands out from an ensemble of Shia LaBeouf, Jessica Chastain, Guy Pearce and Gary Oldman.
His character — the mumbling, nearly inaudible Forrest Bondurant — is the middle of three backwoods brothers trying to protect their bootlegging business from a sadistic lawman (Pearce) from Chicago. Hardy modeled the character partly on Tom Berenger's gruff Sgt. Barnes from "Platoon," whom he calls his favorite villain.
"I'd love to have made a silhouette of Forrest," says Hardy. "I didn't want it to be any tough guy, I wanted it to be a silhouette, like (the violent "Oliver Twist" character) Bill Sykes.
As Forrest, Hardy cuts a striking figure. Dusty and rumbled, he's almost glacially poised, except when he uncoils ruthlessly into violence. But he also has a more docile side, which Hardy says his character's cardigan sweater symbolizes.
The actor speaks passionately about the detailed piecing together of a character, assembling the gestures, manner and wardrobe.
"You sit and you dwell and you wait and you read and you think and you meditate," he says of his process. "It takes time to think and ponder, and the work is never done because it just continues. It's looking for evidence of things."
LaBeouf calls him "hyper-specific" with mime-like abilities of replicating behavior gleaned from movie characters or people.
"He doesn't have five ways of playing it," says LaBeouf. "There's one right way and he does that until the camera fits him. He shows up perfect."
"Lawless" director John Hillcoat ("The Road") says Forrest was a character Hardy was "itching to play."
"He's part of a new wave of acting talent — including Michael Fassbender and Ryan Gosling — and Tom's very much a part of that kind of real rigorous and inspiring acting," says Hillcoat.
Hardy, who has a son from a previous relationship, is engaged to actress Charlotte Riley. (He referred to her as his wife, which would be his second marriage.) But as one of the most sought-after young actors in Hollywood, another night of parties in Cannes holds obvious dangers of excess for Hardy. Pearce, on parting with him, gently advises him to "try not to get killed."
But however uninhibited Hardy lives, it's clear acting brings an orderliness for him.
"When I'm working, I have this discipline and I get meaning from it," says Hardy. "It gives me purpose. And then I can turn to my little boy and say, 'Daddy does something. And I do it well. I may not be the best, but I'm the best that I can be. Now eat your f------ greens.'
Contact Jake Coyle at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle