It feels like the British acting bruiser Tom Hardy has been a staple of modern moviemaking, but his turn to popularity didn’t come until the 2010s, making him something of a recent Hollywood icon. Whilst contemporary audiences might recognise him from his turn as Venom in the recent Marvel movies, he started out with far more humble beginnings, making a name for himself in HBOs Band of Brothers, Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down and as Charles Bronson in Nicolas Winding Refn’s biopic.
Taking the role of Bronson shortly after appearances in Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette and Matthew Vaughn’s Layer Cake, Hardy had sufficiently worked up to his first major leading role, flexing his skills for drama and action filmmaking along the way. As the title character in Winding Refn’s Bronson, Hardy embodied the infamous British criminal known to be one of the most violent and eccentric of all time.
Though he appeared in a cast that included such supporting actors as James Lance, Matt King and Kelly Adams, Tom Hardy led the film from the front, with his dedicated performance helping to fuel the fires of the film. This was helped by the impressive physical stature Hardy developed to play the real-life convict, with Charles Bronson being so impressed by the actor after several phone calls and meetings that he even shaved off his moustache so that Hardy could use it in the film.
Whilst preparing for the role, Hardy sat down for several conversations with Bronson in order to gain an understanding of his complicated mindset. Deciding to break the ice a little before delving into deep subject matter, Hardy told the infamous figure: “I said ‘I’m just not comfortable, I’m saying goodbye to someone that I really loved. I’m not happy I’m not in a good space. I can’t be with a woman and yet I can’t be without one…It was like Therapy 101 with Charlie Bronson”.
Expecting some sort of heartfelt response from the convict, Bronson instead replied by saying, “Do you remember the floods? Do you remember that boy who got his foot stuck in the grate, and the river kept rising, and it kept rising, and it kept rising, and eventually they tried to get him out but he drowned? Well that wouldn’t have happened to me. Do you want to know why? Because I’d have said, cut it off now”.
Despite the peculiar response, Bronson’s speech ended with something of a prophetic sign-off, concluding by stating: “Tom, what I’m trying to say is, right, what I’m trying to say, son, is sometimes yeah you’ve got to cut a little piece of yourself off, yeah, no matter how much it hurts, in order to grow, yeah. In order to move on. Do you know what I mean?”. Such conversations gave Hardy the necessary insight to get under the skin of the character and deliver one of his finest leading performances to date.
Even Bronson, who is known for his artistic endeavours, was impressed by Hardy’s depiction of him, telling The Times in 2009, “I honestly believe nobody on the planet could play me as Tom did. He is more like me than I am”.
Take a look at the original interview where Hardy discusses his relationship with Bronson, below.