Coming from humble roots in London, England, Tom Hardy has risen to the ranks of the world’s biggest movie stars, without compromising his taste for intense performances.
He’s also done a pretty good job keeping his private life out of the spotlight, so there may be a lot about Tom Hardy that you don’t know; the following 40 facts, for instance…
40. Hardy was once arrested for gun possession
Today, he successfully channels his rage into his movie and TV roles as a litany of misunderstood bad guys and complex violent men. In his youth, though, things were different for Tom Hardy, as he struggled to find an outlet. As a teen growing up in London, England, Hardy turned to crime, getting himself into trouble at school before finding it on the streets.
He was expelled from school twice: once for theft, the second time for persistent bad behaviour. Then came a more serious incident as Hardy, aged 15, found himself arrested for joyriding. It was after speeding around in that same stolen Mercedes that he was also collared for possession of a weapon: a handgun that he had taken along for the ride.
39. Drug addiction nearly killed him
These days, Hardy keeps well away from drugs and alcohol – but only because he’s all too aware of how damaging they can be. Now sober for more than a decade at this point, he struggled with alcohol and crack cocaine addiction as a younger man. He has described himself as a “petite little bourgeois boy from London” – that was a private school he was expelled from – but privilege didn’t stop him from falling through the cracks.
Before he checked himself into rehab in 2003, things got so bad that he has said “I would have sold my mother for a rock of crack”. He’s 15 years off drugs now, but he claims his addictions almost killed him at one point. “I am f**king lucky to be here”, he now says about his recovery from his addictions. He calls that time a “near-death experience”.
38. He started his career on a TV modelling contest
In what seems like every performance, Hardy has endeavoured to obscure his features with facial hair, masks and prosthetics. Roles in The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road, Dunkirk, Legend and the upcoming Fonzo have all sought to hide Hardy’s face. When he was just starting out, however, he used his matinee idol looks to his advantage, evens scoring a lucrative modelling contract.
This didn’t happen behind closed doors either: his first public exposure came through his performance on a modelling reality show. This was a show within a show called Find Me a Supermodel, part of the UK’s Channel 4 morning programme The Big Breakfast. He beat out his rivals to win the ultimate prize in front of the nation.
37. He once got into a fistfight with Shia LaBeouf…and lost
With his imposing physique, Tom Hardy doesn’t look like a man to be trifled with. Still, this didn’t stop Hardy’s Lawless co-star Shia LaBeouf (perhaps the only actor in Hollywood who could lay claim to being even more intense than Tom Hardy) from squaring up to him.
On the set of Lawless, LaBeouf was predictably unpredictable, drinking real moonshine and scaring love interest Mia Wasikowska to the point where she almost walked off the film. Then there was the moment where LaBeouf came to blows with Hardy and, in Hardy’s own words, “knocked me out sparko. Out cold. He’s a bad, bad boy.”
36. Charlize Theron broke his nose in a fight on the set of Mad Max: Fury Road
It’s been widely documented that Hardy did not have an easy working relationship with co-star Charlize Theron on the set of Mad Max: Fury Road. All this tension culminated in Theron eventually breaking Hardy’s nose during a fight – though unlike the tussle Hardy had on Lawless with LaBeouf, this one was just an accident.
To play the one-armed Furiosa, Theron had to wear a green sleeve on her left arm through the shoot (with the arm to be digitally ‘removed’ in post-production). It was this disguised arm that Hardy missed during the fake fight and that accidentally hit him in the face, breaking his nose.
35. The little finger on his right hand is permanently bent
Tom Hardy has long been prone to injury, and one such incident from when he was a younger man has left him with a prominent deformity. Eagle-eyed viewers may have spotted his curled pinky in his movies whenever he closes his right hand.
The finger looks like that because of a kitchen mishap, where he accidentally cut through the little finger on his right hand with a knife and severed a tendon. The injury required three operations just to allow him to make a fist, but the finger itself now remains permanently bent.
34. He has Leonardo DiCaprio’s name tattooed on his arm
Tom Hardy has a lot of tattoos. One of the more recent and amusing additions to his extensive collection of body art is the text ‘Leo Knows All’ on his right arm, a reference to his Oscar-winning The Revenant co-star Leonardo DiCaprio. The tattoo was the result of a boyish wager between the two actors.
DiCaprio was so confident that Hardy would get an Oscar nomination for The Revenant that he made the sceptical Hardy a bet: the loser gets a tattoo of the other’s choosing. As Hardy did indeed land a Best Supporting Actor nomination, he got the tattoo that DiCaprio demanded. Unfortunately Hardy was beaten to the Oscar by Mark Rylance for Bridge of Spies.
33. He has his own rap album
Like so many actors before him, Tom Hardy hasn’t been afraid to also dip his toe into other creative fields. Back in 1999, a few years before he had even tasted stardom, he recorded his own rap album under the name Tommy No 1 (along with Eddie ‘Too Tall’ Tracy). The album is a mixtape of samples with Hardy spitting lyrics over the top.
The album was never actually released, until DJ Tracy made it available late last year under the title Falling On Your Arse In 1999. Hardy told the BBC in 2011, “I started out rapping when I was 14 or 15. Because I come from a nice middle-class neighbourhood it was a very hard sell. And I wasn’t very good!”
32. ‘Tom Hardy’ isn’t his real name
It’s not unusual for actors to adopt a new name for when they enter the world of showbiz. Just as Michael Caine was once Maurice Micklewhite and Bruce Willis was formerly known as Walter, Tom Hardy has his own secret real-world moniker: Edward Thomas Hardy.
Named after his father, the writer Edward ‘Chips’ Hardy, he later took Tom as his stage name. It’s not just a professional name, however, as he is also known as Tom in his private life.
31. He was a guest at Prince Harry’s wedding
Tom Hardy isn’t someone known for having many celebrity pals, but one very notable exception is Prince Harry. Among the celebrities in attendance at the wedding of Harry and Meghan Markle were Idris Elba, George Clooney and Hardy, who attended with his wife Charlotte Riley.
As it turns out, Hardy and Harry have been friends since Hardy became an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust in 2010. Hardy in characteristic fashion would on the day only tell reporters that his relationship with the Prince was “deeply private” – though admitted he thinks “Harry is a f***ing legend”.
30. He reads bedtime stories on children’s TV
On-screen, he’s earned a reputation as a hard man, but in real life Tom Hardy might be a bigger softy than we all think. Since 2016, he has joined the likes of James McAvoy and Chris Evans in regularly appearing on CBeebies Bedtime Story. Part of the BBC’s TV output for children, Bedtime Story features guest stars reading kids’ books to camera.
The BBC quickly picked up on the fact that maybe children are less interested in his readings than mums. One year, two of Hardy’s episodes ran on Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, with mothers taking to social media to confess their tuning into Bedtime Story even though the kids were asleep.
29. He based his Bane accent on a bareknuckle boxer nicknamed ‘King of the Gypsies’
The iconic Bane voice used by Tom Hardy in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises (2012), much-imitated and much-parodied, was inspired by an unlikely source. Hardy based the voice on that of a British bareknuckle ‘gypsy’ fighter named Bartley Gorman, nicknamed King of the Gypsies.
Hardy has said he found inspiration in Gorman because of Bane’s latin roots in the comics: “I wanted to underpin the Latin, but a Romani Latin opposed to Latino”. Gorman’s underground brawler style also undoubtedly inspired Hardy, who called Bane’s fighting “nasty… heavy-handed, heavy-footed.”
28. He once chased down a moped thief – then helped him out afterwards
Hardy has his heroic moments off-camera as well as on. In 2017, it was reported that he had got himself into a real-life chase sequence with a real-life bad guy – and emerged the victor. Apparently, he saw a young thief stealing a moped near his London home – and promptly gave chase.
It was reported that Hardy caught the thief by the neck before declaring “I caught the c***.” Hardy has disputed this version of events, telling Esquire the pursuit “wasn’t much of a chase” and added that his intention wasn’t just to punish the kid, but to help him turn his life around – which he later did. “He’s got issues, and he’s in a bad way. Do we just give up on a 16-year-old?”
27. He rehearses his lines with dogs instead of humans
Tom Hardy is renowned for his love of dogs, saying he prefers their company to people. He says that he even rehearses with his dogs because the pets are just more honest about how good his acting is, telling Vanity Fair, “You can never fool the dog into thinking that you’re somebody else, so they’re great bulls*** monitors.”
Hardy explains, “if you think you can transform, just try and pull off your transformation in front of your dog and I guarantee he’ll see right through your greatest transformation, which is quite humbling”. It’s been working out well for him so far, though he admits that “it’s very soul-destroying. They’re very harsh critics, dogs. And they’re very rarely impressed.”
26. He made his professional acting debut in TV miniseries Band of Brothers
Name any of today’s stars of screens big and small, and chances are good that they appeared on Steven Spielberg’s 2001 miniseries Band of Brothers. The small screen WWII epic features early appearances from numerous future stars including James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Simon Pegg and Jimmy Fallon.
Also making an appearance, for just the one episode, is British actor Tom Hardy, playing a greenhorn paratrooper. Band of Brothers was Hardy’s very first gig out of acting school; later that in the same year, he had his movie debut in another war drama with a large cast, Black Hawk Down.
25. He went to school with Michael Fassbender
Tom Hardy wasn’t the only one to make his big break out of acting school in Band of Brothers. Another was Michael Fassbender, who was in fact a fellow student of Hardy’s at Drama Centre London in the late 1990s. Hardy says Fassbender was “the s***… I’ve got mad respect for him.”
According to Hardy, Fassbender would remain in character off-stage, even when playing a wheelchair-bound WWI veteran: “‘Mikey, man, just stand the f**k up and order your lunch so we can go back to school, so we don’t get thrown out at the end of the week.’ And he’d be like, ‘F**k you!’ It was awesome.”
24. His childhood dog was named Mad Max
Perhaps the most beloved of all Hardy’s dogs was Max, a Staffie-Labrador mix he kept from his mid-teens until he passed some two decades later. Incredibly, Max was named after ‘Mad’ Max Rockatansky – the name of the character Hardy would go on to play in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road.
Even more incredibly, Max would pass away on the Fury Road set. Hardy had taken Max to many sets, and even managed to get him a co-star role in 2007’s Stuart: A Life Backwards. Even while studying at drama school, Hardy says he “wouldn’t go to class unless Max was allowed in.”
23. He once cut an interview short to help an injured woman
Interviews with Hardy are often eventful, but one for Esquire in 2018 got particularly dramatic. Whilst strolling around his home town, Hardy and journalist Eric Sullivan came across a badly injured woman covered in blood. It turned out the woman – who had fallen while walking her dog – was the mother of a childhood best friend of Hardy’s.
Pausing the interview, Hardy called his friend telling him to arrive on the scene ASAP and get his mother to hospital. The Esquire profile ultimately ends with Hardy taking Sullivan along to hospital to pay a visit to the recovery woman. He probably preferred it to talking any further about his private life.
22. He speaks French
As a handful of international interviews have demonstrated, English is only Tom Hardy’s first language. When he was younger, holidaying with family meant many summers spent in the south of France. It was during these excursions that he learned French.
In a 2012 interview on a French-language chat show, Hardy was asked whether it was true he spoke “a little French”. His response? “Yes, I speak a little French, but not very good” – in perfect French. Hardy denies he’s a fluent French speaker, but the evidence suggests otherwise.
21. He bases his characters on Come Dine with Me contestants
British readers may be familiar with Come Dine With Me, a reality TV show in which groups of strangers come together to rank one another’s home cooking and hosting skills. Hardy says he watches the show “religiously,” and believe it or not he draws inspiration from it as an actor.
Hardy explains that the series, and other reality TV shows, are “great people-watching. I’ll steal characters from Come Dine With Me because they’re real people. I take something from everybody.”
20. He piled on 42 pounds in five weeks to play Bronson
Now known as an actor given to extreme physical transformation, Hardy first made his reputation as a shapeshifter in 2008’s Bronson. A madcap biopic of notorious British prisoner Charles Bronson, Hardy’s breakout movie saw the British actor Tom Hardy play havoc with his then-wiry frame.
For the film, he amazingly gained three stone in muscle and fat in just five weeks to play the brawler jailbird. Alarmingly, Hardy took the role the year after Stuart: A Life Backwards, for which he had lost 30 pounds. Several years later he piled on the weight once more, gaining 30 pounds of muscle to play Bane in The Dark Knight Rises.
19. Shrek makes him cry
He may be Oscar-nominated now, but there’s one crucial bit of acting that Tom Hardy still hasn’t mastered. Talking about his 2011 MMA drama Warrior, he confessed to struggling with some of the more emotionally naked scenes. “I find crying difficult,” he told ShortList. “It takes a long time for me to go.”
If there’s one thing that does turn the waterworks on for him, though, that’s children’s animation. Of the films that can break him, he lists family drama Mr Holland’s Opus, Bambi and, perhaps surprisingly, Shrek. “I won’t know what will send me,” he says. “I’m quite sentimental. If my son tells me he loves me, that will make me cry.”
18. Pal Gary Oldman was his acting hero as a kid
Fassbender may have impressed him at acting school, but for Tom Hardy, one actor above all others defined him. He’s said, “Gary Oldman is my hero. That’s it.” At drama school, along with all his other classmates, he used to idolise Brit acting legend Oldman. He would regularly quote the Leon star’s films in a bid to prove he was the biggest Oldman fan in school.
Since then, he has become quite the companion of Oldman’s, having gone on to star with him in four films, first appearing as Oldman’s co-star in 2011’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, followed by Child 44, Lawless and The Dark Knight Rises. Modestly, Hardy puts his success down to having “stolen everything” from Oldman in the first place.
17. He based his Venom character on Conor McGregor and Woody Allen
Tom Hardy isn’t afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to building his characters. (For one, he based his brutal gangster in Lawless on a Looney Tunes character.) For Venom, however, he went even more out-there than normal in gathering up his influences. Eddie Brock, Venom’s human ‘host’, was according to Hardy based on the famously neurotic Woody Allen.
Brock’s symbiote, meanwhile, was based on a range of real people, including Conor McGregor, James Brown and the rapper Redman. Hardy took the voice from Brown, “the taste and capability for uber-violence” from McGregor and the ‘lack of control’ from Redman. He never told producers what he was aiming for, though: “You don’t say s*** like that to the studio”.
16. He had to wear 3-inch shoe-lifts to play Bane
At 5’9″, Hardy was perhaps not the most appropriate casting choice for the colossal Bane. To make the actor appear larger and more intimidating on-screen, the Dark Knight Rises team gave him some help. On-set, he wore shoes with three-inch lifts so Bane could equal the size of or tower over his cast mates.
This wasn’t the only help he got from the production to transform into the super-villain. He was caked in makeup each day on the TDKR set, to conceal the many tattoos that cover his body. Some production stills still bear evidence of the dense foundation that went into making Bane appear tat-free.
15. He’s Hugh Jackman’s choice for replacing him as Wolverine
He may have moved on from X-Men now, but Hugh Jackman retains a keen interest in the superhero franchise. Jackman has let it be known he has opinions on who should next play Wolverine, and it’s an actor known both for his physique and his interest in comic book movies. With The Dark Knight Rises and Venom already under his belt, it’s Hardy who has been handpicked by Jackman to replace him in his iconic role.
Pressed on who should take the part, in 2015 Jackman told MTV News, “I think Tom Hardy would be a great Wolverine.” Whether Hardy will have the time to take on another leading superhero role now he has Venom is another matter. Hardy is also a bookies favourite to take on the mantle of James Bond now that Daniel Craig has vacated the role.
14. He physically fought the director of The Revenant
Shia LaBeouf and Charlize Theron were just the tip of the iceberg: Tom Hardy has been in a fair share of on-set scrapes in his time. Another occurred on The Revenant, the 2015 survival Western that earned Hardy his first Oscar nomination. A famously troublesome shoot, The Revenant saw perfectionist director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu stretching production out over 10 freezing cold months.
Naturally, there were tensions, not least between Hardy and Inarritu, who at one point ended up wrestling. Hardy recalls the brief brawl ended “with both of us falling down in the snow. I think that’s a good thing… I’d rather be the naughty boy and release that tension.” There was no bad blood – Hardy even had t-shirts made of him choking Inarritu on the set of the film.
13. His father is a children’s TV writer
Outside of 2012 rom-com This Means War, Tom Hardy hasn’t done much comedy. However, his father Edward ‘Chips’ Hardy has almost exclusively worked in lighter fare – at least prior to teaming up with his son. Nowadays, he’s best known as a writer and producer on his son’s show, the grim British colonial drama Taboo.
In the 80s and 90s, however, Chips was a writer on comedy and children’s TV shows for British television. These included Helping Henry and About Face, while Chips also won a British Comedy Award writing material for legendary comedian Dave Allen.
12. His wife is also his Peaky Blinders co-star
Hardy surprised some by taking a co-starring role in cult TV crime drama Peaky Blinders in 2014. This may have had something to do with the involvement of Hardy’s wife Charlotte Riley, who also joined the series in 2014. It’s third of four professional collaborations to date between the couple.
Hardy and Riley first met on the set of Wuthering Heights in 2009, then followed that series up with The Take the same year and a pilot for a comedy series called Sticky in 2017. Riley also came close to appearing in The Dark Knight Rises, auditioned for Catwoman but ultimately losing out to Anne Hathaway.
11. He broke four different bones making Warrior
Mad Max: Fury Road wasn’t the first set on which Hardy broke bones for his art. For 2011’s Warrior, Gavin O’Connor’s sports drama about two MMA fighter brothers, Hardy’s body was put through the wringer. Fighting for real along with co-star Joel Edgerton, Hardy broke a toe, ribs and a finger in their fight scenes.
In training for the film, Hardy shed 15% of his body fat. He also learned boxing, Muay Thai, kickboxing and Jiu-Jitsu from scratch for the part. Still, Still, despite his breaks Hardy didn’t suffer quite as badly as Edgerton, who at one point tore his medial collateral ligament, shutting production down for six weeks.
10. He’s hinted he may retire early
He’s at the top of his game, and still only in his 40s, but Tom Hardy has intimated that he might have already had enough of the actor’s life. In a 2018 interview with Esquire, Hardy reflected, “You’ve summited Everest…Do you want to go all the way back and do it again? Or do you want to get off the mountain and go f***ing find a beach?”
“What is it that draws you to the craft? At this age, I don’t know anymore. I’ve kind of had enough. If I’m being brutally honest, I want to go on with my life.” Even so, in the years since this interview was published, Hardy has continued to work as an actor, and there has been little to indicate he’s slowing down yet.
9. He’s a ballet fan
By now it should be obvious that Tom Hardy’s reputation as a terrifying ‘hard man’ doesn’t hold much water. Hardy’s evident sensitivity doesn’t end at his love of dogs, reading bedtime stories to kids and Shrek, however. The actor is also, believe it or not, a great fan – and former student – of ballet.
“I have to say I love it… It is a secret passion of mine if truth be told,” Hardy told The Mirror in 2012. Back in drama school, Hardy even practised the art himself, but “never took to it”. Nowadays, he’s content to watch The Nutcracker every year: “It’s big and scary and I enjoy watching it with my mum.”
8. He wanted to play Mr Darcy in Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice
When British director Joe Wright’s adapted Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice to the big screen in 2005, Hardy auditioned for the coveted role of male lead Mr. Darcy. Sadly for Hardy, this was not to be: a studio executive is said to have told the actor, “Every woman in the world has an impression of who Darcy is and you’re just not it.”
“That hurt, that really hurt,” Hardy confessed to The Telegraph back in 2009. “I’d worn a blue shirt and jeans and a blue blazer and been doing my best Hugh Grant impression.” Matthew Macfadyen would land the role instead, opposite Keira Knightley in the lead as Elizabeth (whose performance landed her a Best Actress Oscar nomination).
7. He got into acting because he’s a good liar and manipulator
Asked why he pursued acting, Hardy told Shortlist in 2011, “In the end there was nothing else I could do. I had a busy head and I didn’t really want to do things that I found boring. The only thing that kept my attention was to play and have fun and manipulate.”
“I’ve always been a liar, always been able to manipulate. I pretty much get whatever I want,” Hardy explained, and said of his craft, “Acting really is a mixture of bulls***ing and manipulating and the study of action-reaction… Acting channeled me into something. I found some self-esteem and thought, ‘I’m actually quite good at something.’”
6. He finds playing heroes ‘boring’
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter back in 2017, Hardy said: “I play a lot of scary blokes, and there are probably a few reasons why… Villains are much more interesting than hero leads, who are, for the most part, really boring.”
The actor went on to explain, “Another part of it is when I was younger I remember being frightened a lot,” explaining he was insecure about “being small and skinny and vulnerable and feeling that I could have been preyed upon easily. So, everything that I play is what scared me.”
5. He drew on personal experience when it came to shooting Warrior
Hardy got candid in a 2011 interview with ShortList when discussing Warrior, in which he plays the son of an alcoholic retired boxer, Paddy Conlon (Nick Nolte). Hardy admitted to drawing on personal experience, explaining “if you’ve been to those depths, experience allows you to think ‘this is right’ or ‘this is wrong’ and know how to react.”
He went on: “There’s only so much imagination you can use before you have to go out and live life again. You see these kid actors who work from 10 to 21 and then all of a sudden they disappear for a bit. They’ve got nothing to draw upon apart from a life of working, so you need to go out and catch up and then come back in again.”
4. He improvised the lobster tank scene in Venom
Even when starring in a major blockbuster, Hardy insists on bringing some of his personal quirkiness to the project. This happened in Venom, most notably in the scene where Hardy’s Eddie Brock immerse himself in a lobster tank and begins eating the live lobsters. Amazingly, this scene was improvised.
Director Ruben Fleischer told CinemaBlend in 2018 that this was “one of my favorite moments in the movie… That was something that we hadn’t planned. We went to rehearse the scene at the set, and the production designer had planned for a giant lobster tank in the middle of the restaurant. And Tom goes, ‘Well, I must get in that [if] there’s going to be a giant lobster tank. Of course I’m going to go in it!'”
3. He relapsed after Star Trek: Nemesis
As a young man, Hardy seriously struggled with substance abuse, but he managed to get his life back on track in the early 2000s. In 2002 Hardy was busing shooting for the sci fi movie Star Trek: Nemesis, and explained to Total Film that he was afraid of relapsing while working on the film, explaining he felt “genuinely out of my depth.”
Despite the nerves and pressure on set, Hardy says he “didn’t have a single drink when I did it – for three months.” However, Star Trek: Nemesis was a critical and commercial failure, the disappointment of which caused Hardy to relapse. He then checked himself into rehab in 2003 and has been sober ever since.
2. He replaced Michael Fassbender in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
Hardy dazzled in 2011 spy thriller film Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, starring opposite his role model Gary Oldman – but he almost didn’t have a part in the film at all. Initially, Hardy’s role of Ricki Tarr was meant to go to Hardy’s old classmate, Michael Fassbender, who had to drop out to play Magneto in X-Men: First Class.
This proved serendipitous, as Hardy wowed audiences with his engaging performance in the Cold War thriller. The film went on to earn $81.2 million at the box office and, moreover, was the highest-grossing film at the British box office for three consecutive weeks.
1. He’s besties with his stunt double
Back in 2013, stuntman Jacob Tomuri worked as Hardy’s stunt double in Mad Max: Fury Road. Since then, Tomuri has stood in as Hardy’s double on multiple occasions, including in Legend and The Revenant. Off-screen, the two are best buds and often pop up on each other’s social media profiles.
Tomuri has displayed exceptional attention to detail when it comes to filling in for Hardy. “I felt if we were to make this work we needed to take on the continuity… I wanted to replicate Tom’s characters as much as possible, from their posture to their mannerisms,” he explained in Viva in 2015.