As James Delaney, a man who returns to 1814 London from Africa with vengeance on his mind and tattoos cloaking his torso, Hardy’s feral gentility is intoxicating. This mélange of brawn and Britishness has become the actor’s trademark, from Bronson to Bane. And this nine-years-in-the-making project not only teams Hardy with his father, the writer Edward “Chips” Hardy,” but is produced by Ridley Scott, who helmed the actor’s film debut Black Hawk Down.
Hardy, at 39, has come a long way—and gained a whole lot of muscle—since his entrée into acting, portraying the oversexed Private John A. Janovec in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers. He is now considered one of the finest actors of his generation, able to make even 84 minutes trapped in a car wildly compelling (see: Locke).
The Daily Beast spoke to Hardy about his myriad projects.
What was it like to create a television series with your father, and was this show your way of honoring your father?
In the literal sense, the story doesn’t reflect me and my father, but working with my father is always something that I wanted to do. A period drama is a really brilliant medium of putting all those guys together—Steve Knight and Chips together—and work on a character that me and my father had discussed before. It was the most perfect vehicle as our first project.
Did you and your father ever butt heads during your hell-raising years? I remember when we discussed your upbringing around the time of Warrior, after you’d just gotten your ass kicked by a 4-foot-tall Thai masseuse in Budapest, you said you grew up more of a “mommy’s boy.”
Well I’m 40 years old now, so I’ve been a grown man for a long time since I was butting heads with my Dad, which was probably around the ages of 14 to 17. It was a very short space of time. Since I was 25 and I finished university and started working in film, Chips and my mum have been massively supportive of each other’s work, and so it was a natural progression for us to want to work together at some point—it was just a matter of finding an opportunity where we could. But we have a really strong father-son dynamic. We’re a small family, and really look out for each other, and have a short-handed rapport for getting things done as a family. Me and my father have a company together called Hardy Son & Baker, and he’s Hardy, I’m son, and Baker is Dean Baker, and it’s really lovely to have a family business now.
It’s been just over 15 years since your first big acting gig on the miniseries Band of Brothers. That cast had so many talented young actors: Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy, Simon Pegg, yourself...
Oh, it’s huge. A lot of serendipity. And at Ealing Studios, where we shot Taboo, my granddad was the old fire marshal there. So there’s a lot of connectivity throughout. And yeah, it seemed like everyone from the Band of Brothers camp was in Black Hawk Down as well! Band of Brothers was kind of this flipbook of a lot of the actors around now that are making a lot of noise.
Even Jimmy Fallon was on it.
I didn’t know that! Really? Oh, wow. They needed so many men, obviously. It was a year long and they had so many episodes. I was drawn out of drama school early because I think they were running out of bodies to use! It was a huge case and a fantastic show as well. Great series.
And Fassbender, in particular, was this guy you’d looked up to in acting school as an upperclassman at Drama Centre.
I was a teenager when I went to drama school with Michael Fassbender and he was two years above me, and for his year, he was the dude, you know what I mean? We all looked up to him. He was the shining light of the third-years, and the MVP in many ways. I’m not sure how pleased to see me he was! I’d still had a year left at drama school, so to see me arrive on his TV series—well, it wasn’t his, but you know what I mean—when he’d put in three whole years of university and me put in two, he was probably like, “Well, hang on a minute! I’ve been working much harder than you. What the fuck are you doing here?” Like I’d gotten one of those Willy Wonka golden tickets to the party. But Fassbender is awesome. I will always have massive respect for him and I love his work. It’s just great to see people who are familiar coming up, doing well, and representing. He’s carving out a really special position in the industry.
You know, when I interviewed Christopher Nolan he discussed his life-long desire to direct a Bond film. What about Chris directing you in a Bond film—maybe with your old drama school pal Michael Fassbender as the villain?
Oh, wow, Chris would be amazing! Wow, that would be cool. That would be so cool. Do you want to play Bond? I tend to see your name on a lot of these wish lists, although I’m sure they’re just sort of dreaming up any and all talented Brit actors who look the part.
You know, there’s a saying amongst us in the fraternity of acting, and in the fellowship of my peer group, that if you talk about it you’re automatically out of the race. So I can’t possibly comment on that one! If I mention it, it’s gone. But Chris Nolan, what a fantastic director for a Bond movie. Because Daniel [Craig] is so good, and what [Sam] Mendes and Barbara [Broccoli] have done has been so impressive, that it would be a very hard reimagination to follow after. I wonder what the next installment of that franchise would become, and I think when you mention someone like Christopher Nolan, that’s a very powerful figure to bring into that world who could bring something new and create something profound—again. I thought Mad Max: Fury Road was fucking brilliant. What’s the deal with the sequel? Are the wheels rolling on this one?
George Miller is a genius! The wheels were rolling from the beginning of Fury Road for three films, so I would assume it’s just crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s. There are other Mad Max vehicles and Furiosa vehicles that are out there—as far as the characters’ mythologies and stories—so it’s a little bit… I’m waiting for the call to get back in the leathers and get cracking on that. I really loved doing it and can’t wait for another outing. I’m hungry to go back out and do some more.
Have you and Charlize [Theron] buried the hatchet? I know you guys are both very intense actors and there were stories of you two butting heads on set.
Yeah, I mean, there are these myths that are usually asininely circulated about things that go on on set that aren’t nearly as dramatic as they’re made out to be. There was no hatchet to bury, for me. I’ve always though—and I still do think—that Charlize is one of the best actresses in the world and a mega-talent. I think she’s brilliant and I would love to work with her again. So there’s really no hatchet for me to bury at all in any way, shape or form.
Is the Al Capone film Fonzo actually happening, with you playing Capone?
Yeah. It’s not Cicero, the one I’d initially signed on to do. This is a completely different piece that I’m very excited by with Josh Trank set to direct. He’s written something that’s quite out of left-field and like nothing I’ve read before. I’ve spent quite a lot of time with Josh and he’s passionate and effusive about it, and I’m excited to get on with that. It’s not Al Capone as I expected him, which is what I really loved about it. When taking on an icon, you’re always looking for something inventive and compelling and has a new angle, and I think Josh has found that.
Are you going to have to pack on the pounds and prosthetics?
Well, Al Capone was forty-something when he passed away, so he wasn’t that far off my age anyway. And he’d lost a lot of weight before he passed because he was suffering from Syphilis and deteriorating. It’s not the classic Al Capone that you necessarily envision with the silhouette. I don’t want to give too much away about it, but there’s definitely a transformation with that role. I don’t know if it’s as drastic as Bane. I’ve probably damaged my body too much. I’m only little! If I keep putting on weight I’ll collapse like a house of cards under too much pressure. Did Warrior and playing Bane damage your body?
I think you pay the price with any drastic physical changes. It was alright when I was younger, to put myself under that kind of duress, but I think as you get into your 40s you have to be more mindful of the rapid training, packing on a lot of weight and getting physical, and then not having enough time to keep training because you’re busy filming, so your body is swimming in two different directions at the same time. And then after the film I’m tired, and you maybe have to change your shape again and go back to your normal size for the next film. To go from one extreme to another has a cost. I haven’t damaged my body, but I’m certainly a bit achier than I used to be! I kind of miss it. Compared to Christian Bale I’ve been by no means extreme in my body changes, but for what little I’ve done, yeah, I certainly have joints that click that probably shouldn’t click, you know what I mean? And I carrying my children is a little bit harder than it used to be—but don’t tell them!