Politicians are lying to us. Brexit is dividing us. Donald Trump may be about to nuke us. But don’t worry, we’ve found a saviour….
Ask yourself: Tom Hardy. You would, wouldn’t you?
One of the finest talents of his generation, an enigmatically charming figure able to make straight men swoon – of course you would. We’re all mad about the Max.
While the UK entertainment industry gives rise to a new homogenised breed of thesp – your Cumbermaynes, your Hiddlebatches, each one so rakishly alike it's as if they were assembled on a RADA production line, dressed in Burberry and shipped directly to Hollywood, CA – Hardy remains a mulish exception to the rule, a throwback to those mercurial British actors who had a dash of the maverick about them. Unpredictable, raw, unrehearsed, on-screen and off it, leading men who don’t follow convention, convention follows them.
Granted, the 39-year-old is next level handsome: his beard, the sort a Victorian cricketer would be proud of, hangs off his face like a work of art, his rugged features are the Mount Everest of rugged features, doubtlessly moisturised weekly with handfuls of mud, and can he pull off a leather jacket? He makes James Dean look like Alan Pardew.
For all this God-given cool, however, it’s hard not to get the feeling he rarely gives a shit about it all, the vanity, the fame game, possessing the sort of nonchalant attitude toward red carpet protocol that is to be admired, commended even. Gone are the days where it was mostly females led astray by unhealthy beauty and body standards set by the rich and the famous, young men are also increasingly finding themselves afflicted by those same hang-ups too.
In fact, take a look around. Just look how enslaved we’ve become with our smartphones. Irreparably changing the way we see the world, news is now breaking so fast that we're reading about Donald Trump’s latest clanger before we’ve finished scraping flecks of cornflake from our breakfast bowls, days ruined before they've begun, rich media diets threatening to consume us whole.
And so as this combined clusterfuck of news and bland celebrities preening around rumbles on, I say we’re in need of some inspiration to take us away from it all. We need a hero, cut not of political cloth but of a humanistic one. Beckham's star has fallen, and bless Attenborough but the man just needs a warm fireplace. We need Tom Hardy, that swaggering, broad-shouldered chap with a gloriously sweet and sappy centre – the human embodiment of a Cadbury’s Creme Egg; a charmingly enigmatic fellow who, for a short time on Valentine’s Day, reminded us all just how good the world was by going onto CBeebies to read a children’s bedtime story.
There he was, The British Brando, a shining example of male masculinity, sat alongside a stuffed bear on a roof terrace to send thousands of toddlers to slumber with a tale about the pleasures of cloud spotting, his words – warm, rich, moreish – falling out of his mouth like meringue off Baked Alaska – and, if only for a moment, our attentions were diverted away from the ceaseless stresses of Brexit and the like, reminded instead of the smaller joys in life.
For Hardy though, it was merely the latest chapter in his ongoing series entitled How to Make the Rest of Men Look Like Douchebags. Among many other selfless acts, he’s raised thousands of pounds for cancer research, single-handedly saved a homeless charity from closure, and continues to support the UK armed forces, once admitting he’d have protected Queen and country himself if the acting didn’t work out. Barring a slew of leaked emails, it’s fair to assume he’s not angling for a knighthood, either.
If all that weren’t endearing enough, the performer is also well known for his love of dogs, adopting them from rescue centres, hanging out with one off-set (see: The Drop), or taking them as his +1 to film premieres (also see: The Drop). His affinity for the animal is unmatched, once telling Screencrave that they’ve all but made his need for mates superfluous: “I don’t have any friends. I don’t keep them or entertain them for any of that kind of problem. So I like to keep [to] myself. I have a dog and a son. A dog couldn’t do anything to upset me, you know, and neither could my son.”
Ever the introvert, his social media profile is scant. You can’t follow him on Twitter but thankfully we’ll always have his old Myspace profile, an eternal reminder that no matter how big his star becomes, at the end he is just like us: flesh, bone and another tragic victim of early noughties technology.
There too is much we can glean from Hardy’s career. Since his bruising breakout performance in Bronson, he’s regularly opted for personal projects over paycheques, hence much of his excellent recent work with friend and writer Stephen Knight. Together, the pair have worked on Peaky Blinders, and darkly gothic thriller Taboo, an eight-part BBC drama which Hardy created with his father, in which the former grunts a lot, and the indie film Locke, which is essentially Hardy driving down the M1 in a BMW and is far from as shit as it sounds.
Heck, if it hadn’t have been a Christopher Nolan joint, perhaps we wouldn’t have seen him strap up to play Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. A blockbuster face with an auteur’s eye, even his old Inception co-star Leonardo DiCaprio had to employ some forceful persuasion to get Hardy to play the pelt hunting bastard in The Revenant, a role which nabbed him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination:
"I shamelessly don't read scripts. But Leo called me up and said, 'Dude, you have to check this out, I think it's a brilliant piece and Alejandro's a genius – will you read it?' I was supposed to be doing Splinter Cell, so I was like, 'I'm going to jump out of helicopters, mate. I want to go and play soldiers!' and he said, 'Just read it, you idiot!' I was like 'Mmm, all right'." So he read it at least? "Half of it. Because Leo told me to do it. 'All right then, we'll meet this genius and we'll see,' I said. 'But until then I'll be sitting watching Come Dine With Me with the dog.’”
Mugging off DiCaprio for an episode of Come Dine With Me? It’s peak Hardy, but what’s more it’s utterly in-keeping with his no bullshit persona - spontaneous, unpredictable, unlikely to enjoy sitting on Graham Norton’s sofa spinning anecdotes about on set japes while flanked by Bradley Walsh and Tom Daley. To not give two fucks about showbusiness is to be admired, to do it and still be such a bankable star is testament to his character.
Yet it could have all been so different. Born into an affluent West London family (his mother, Anne, was a painter, his dad, Chips, a novelist) and afforded a private education, around the age of 13 young Hardy’s life went off the rails, experimenting with glue sniffing and then onto other hallucinogenic drugs, the ensuing behaviour saw him expelled from his Surrey boarding school and from there the slope became slipperier still. Addicted to alcohol and cocaine by his late teens and early twenties, Hardy got into numerous scrapes, most notably the time he was arrested for joyriding in a Mercedes with a gun - a charge for which he faced 14 years in jail but managed to avoid. He later claimed it was only after waking up in Soho, specifically in a pool of blood and vomit, that he checked into rehab and sobered himself up for good.
A Hollywood story in itself, the beginnings of Hardy’s life stand as a final lesson to us all: mistakes happen, adversity and addiction affects people in all walks of life, it's never too late to ask for help, stay true to yourself and you’ll be OK.
In Hardy’s case, ‘OK’ is somewhat of an understatement at the moment. Busier than ever in 2017, he’ll be back on CBeebies having recorded another three – yes, three – bedtime stories, we’ll see him take to the skies as a pilot in Christopher Nolan’s war epic Dunkirk, and then two other major upcoming roles – first, as war photographer Don McCullin, based on the snapper’s autobiography Unreasonable Behaviour; second as the title role in in Josh Trank’s Al Capone film focusing on the mob boss’s final days – suggest a first Oscar win can’t be too far away.
More than enough time to find a dog-sitter and record Come Dine With Me on Sky Planner.