Tom Hardy is on the kind of roll actors live to experience. The 32-year-old Brit won international acclaim for his star turn in the 2009 drama Bronson, is part of the stellar cast of the current blockbuster Inception, has the MMA/family drama Warrior in the can, just this week signed to join Star Trek’s Chris Pine in This Means War, and is set to play Mad Max in reboot of that franchise entitled Fury Road. Hardy can also claim a Star Trek connection, as he menaced the Enterprise and her crew as Shinzon, the vengeful Picard clone, in Star Trek: Nemesis. StarTrek.com recently engaged Hardy in an exclusive conversation, and in addition to talking up Inception and Fury Road, he recounted his visit to the Star Trek universe.
Let’s start with Inception, in which you play Eames, the forger of all things. Did (writer-director) Chris Nolan call you first and discuss the story, or did you get the script and the process started from there?
I was in Pittsburgh at the time doing (Warrior). Actually, I was training and it was the week before we started filming. I got a call from my boys at my agency and they said, “Look, Chris Nolan would really love to meet you. They want to fly you out, if you can, for a chat.” So I went and met Chris and we had a chat, a full-disclosure conversation about life, gauging one another and talking about work. Then he said, “Look, I’ve got this film I hope you’ll be interested in, that I think you’d be great in, but I don’t know if your dates are going to work.” I said, “Well, can I get the script?” He said, “Not at the moment. But if the dates work out I’d love for you to read it.” Anyway, eventually the dates did work out, he sent me the script, and I read it. And I was absolutely staggered.
The film is a real mind-bender. How much of the overall story did you have to understand in order to play Eames?
The beginning of the movie, the initial download of information, is part of this gargantuan, genius masterpiece of plot construction and multilayered characters and human acts of devotion and love. There’s a love story, a heightened action story. There’s the concept of dreams and how they work and how you can break into the subconscious. Once all of that was initially downloaded – and that took a couple of reads and a fair amount of conversation with Chris – then we were off to the races and it became a very intimate, enjoyable set and shoot, and an easy character to play.
Nolan relied very little on special effects and did pretty much everything in camera. What was the most ridiculous practical stunt he asked you to do?
The craziest thing was finding myself on the side of a mountain learning to ski with my friend Peanut from the Bronx. Neither of us had any previous experience of extreme skiing or just going downhill on two pieces of wood with absolutely no ability to stop. So I had to learn to ski and I only had a few days to do that. Then, at the end of the shoot, I was alone with the team and with Chris to do a few more stunt scenes. We were back at the side of the mountain, with me skiing and dispatching the enemy and blowing stuff up and fighting. I enjoyed all that boys’ kind of stuff, and I had the set to myself for a week.
A lot of people are excited about you playing Mad Max. Everyone assumes that Fury Road is meant to launch a franchise, but are you looking at it that way or as a one-off?
I don’t have a mindset any further than I want to deliver the goods. I’m aware I’ll probably take some casualties. It’d be stupid not to think there aren’t Mel Gibson/Mad Max fans out there. I’d love to turn them, and if I can’t I respect entirely their love for Mel and the original Mad Max films. All I can say is I’m going to go in fresh, guns blazing. It’s an emotional story as well, a human story. It’s not just action. So I’ll concentrate on the day-to-day process (and not worry about the Gibson factor or the possibility of a franchise).
Going back to Star Trek: Nemesis, what did you take away from it?
It was brilliant because I learned so much doing a big studio movie on a big sound stage in America. It’s very different to how we work in England, because of the broad scope and ability to reach a vast populace. Also, the Star Trek franchise is so big and important to the fans. I learned a lot about working under duress, and in America, and working with famous people. It was so vital and essential that I had the experience coming into something like Inception.
Some fans genuinely like Nemesis and others do not. What was your opinion of the film?
I did like Nemesis. I enjoyed it immensely. I definitely thought it was worthy of being one of the Star Trek films. I’m very proud of it.
Do you still have a Shinzon action figure or two?
Of course. I have got a couple of left in a box, and every time my three-old son finds one he goes, “Daddy!” and wants to put it out. So I’m trying to salvage one so at least when he’s older he can have it and give one to his kids.
It seems that, right now, your career is taking off in the way many expected it would around the time of Nemesis. What’s it like for you to be in that position again?
I have, as you say, dealt with it before and I’ve learned that careers undulate. One can be doing well or not well. One can have too much exposure. There are so many different variables. But I have always, always worked, and what I know now is that the most important things to me are my family and my work.