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Tom Hardy Dazed & Confused September 2011

Tom Hardy Dazed & Confused September 2011

Tom Hardy has gone from being a butter-wouldn't-melt teenage heartthrob to waking up stoned next to a loaded gun. Now on the brink of megastardom for the second time, the "go-to guy for nutters" talks to Hannah Lack about pumping up and settling down.

"People sit up and take notice when you kick somebody in the head," Tom Hardy joked to Dazed back in 2007. He had just spent months inhabiting the persona of Britain's most violent prisoner, Charlie Bronson, putting on two-and-a-half stone to play the former bare-knuckle fighter who has seen the inside of 122 jails. The tenacious actor braved the grim corridors of Wakefield prison (aka "Monster Mansion") to meet Bronson, where he languishes in a cage alongside a cannibal and a handful of other lifers.

When Nicolas Winding Refn's visceral, Kenneth Anger-inspired Bronson was released, it caused a mini-thunderstorm in the tabloid press. Hardy's maniacal but undeniably charismatic portrayal was accused of glorifying violence, and the actor was called in to answer earnest questions on Richard & Judy. Meanwhile in Park City, Utah, the film triumphed at Sundance and Bronson became Tom Hardy's Clockwork Orange moment.

Since then, often unrecognizable from one role to the next, Hardy has been the "go-to guy for nutters", as he puts it. He's climbed into the minds of a kaleidoscopic criminal underworld of misfits, gangsters (there are rumors he is soon to play a young Al Capone) and psychopaths with chameleonic ease. In real life, happily, he's not half as psychotic as his onscreen personas. "Since Bronson I've had a lot of lumps to play," the 33-year-old says today. "I've ended up doing a lot of fighting, which is not really my thing at all! But I know what frightens me, and I use that."

Days away from shooting Christopher Nolan's third and final Batman installment, The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy is currently inflated up to superhero size. This being Nolan, the script is locked up as securely as Charlie Bronson, and the ending currently only exists in the director's mind. "Sorry, it wouldn't be worth my life," the ordinarily candid actor shrugs in response to questions about the film. Just one picture has been released of Hardy, rippled back to the camera, as Gotham City's venom-addicted 'Bane' - born and raised in prison, and famous in the DC comics for breaking Batman's back. Hardy has pumped-up with the help of his trainer "P-nut", the Bronx-born former Marine who has assisted the actor's extraordinary physical metamorphoses since Bronson. "We decide what I want to look like," Hardy explains, "and then he helps me get there. He's my nanny, my best friend, my 'manpanion'. And he also does a great rock ballad."

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