Tom Hardy on Playing Twins in ‘Legend,’ Being Seen as a Tough Guy, and Working with Philip Seymour Hoffman
“I’m just surprised to be working, mate” – Tom Hardy
Though actor Tom Hardy is probably best known by general audiences for playing Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, he has undertaken much more challenging roles in recent years. In 2013’s Locke he is the only character who appears on-screen in the entire film, and in the soon to be released Legend, he plays a dual role as real-life identical twins Ronald and Reginald Kray, who were infamous English gangsters. Speaking with The Daily Beast, Hardy speaks about why he challenged himself to play twins, what he thinks of his tough guy image, and working with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, who directed him on stage.
Hardy was inspired to take on the challenge of playing two characters in the same film after watching Moon. He reveals, “I watched Sam Rockwell in Moon and thought, ‘He’s so fucking good. I’d love to do something like that one day if it came up.’ As an acting challenge, it was something that I’d never done before, and it was something I wanted to do to test the muscle and see if I could pull it off. I don’t think Brian [Helgeland] saw me playing both characters, and wanted to cast two different actors. But he really wanted me to play Reggie and I really wanted to play Ronnie, so we had a dinner and it culminated in, ‘If you give me Reggie, I’ll give you Ronnie.’ Then we had to figure out how it was going to work out. It boils down to split screens, a bit of face replacement.”
The Mad Max: Fury Road star’s main concern was that the audience didn’t think of seeing two of him on screen as a cheap trick that would pull them out of the movie. He explains, “I think it was the ensemble thing—making sure everyone else on the team knows what’s going on when the cameras are rolling, so that they feel that they’re not left out or subject to something that’s a gimmick. You don’t want to let the team down, and you want to create drama. We don’t want it to be all about trying to hide a gimmick—’Oh, there’s Tom there… there’s Tom there’— but for the audience to get immersed in the story. The hardest thing was creating that alchemy so that it didn’t affect anyone else’s work.”
Hardy also realizes that over the last few years he’s developed a reputation as a tough guy actor, which is something he never intended. He says, “It’s funny in that because it is acting, and playing pretend, but I didn’t see myself being synonymous with these tough-guy roles. That’s not really me. I love acting. There was Bane, Warrior, Bronson, and now the Krays. I’m just surprised to be working, mate. Whatever gets me through the door.”
While looking back, Hardy also recalls starring in The Long Red Road, a play directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, that he starred in at a difficult time in his life. He remembers, “I was a young actor and had just gotten out of rehab, funnily enough, and I didn’t think I would act again. I was in a really shit state. The long and short of it is, after rehab, I did a play called In Arabia We’d All be Kings, written by Stephen Adly Guirgis for the LAByrinth Theatre Company, in London. Doing that play, I met Brett C. Leonard, who introduced me to Phil, and I went in and met him for The Long Red Road, and we workshopped that for three years, and I got to know him well. He’s my friend. This sounds silly, but I wanted to impress him, because he was just brilliant. And he fought for me to work in the theater because he got me my equity card on Broadway, and in Chicago. It was just beautiful to see him in his element directing. I remember one moment where I broke down onstage with him and said, ‘I can’t do this,’ because it’s so difficult and soul-destroying to be with Phil in a room and try and do something in front of a man who can clearly do everything that I want to do better than me no matter how hard I try. So, frankly, it was like being judged by someone who had the right to judge you, being a part of the team he’s on, and not wanting to let him down.“