Tom Hardy: Life to the Max

Tom Hardy: Life to the Max

by James Haydock


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Tom Hardy: Life to the Max by James Haydock

From playing a rogue agent in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, to taking on the role of villainous Bane in Batman: The Dark Knight Rises—an in-depth look the versatile and edgy actor


With his raw talent, edginess, and ability to utterly inhabit the characters he plays, Tom Hardy is well on his way to becoming the finest actor of his generation. With a host of critically acclaimed performances under his belt, Tom's star is undoubtedly in the ascendant. Born into an idyllic, middle-class, suburban life, by his teenage years Tom had grown restless and started to rebel. Bad behavior in the form of alcoholism, drug abuse, and criminal activity ensued and, after a brief stint working as a model, fate intervened and he found his way into an acting course at a local college. Having been plucked from drama school to appear in Band of Brothers, by 2003 his addictions had got the better of him and he collapsed in Soho. Rehabilitation followed, as did a rare second chance at hitting the big time. It was Hardy's stand-out performances as Stuart Shorter in BBC TV's Stuart, A Life Backwards and as Britain's most notorious prisoner in the film Bronson which really made audiences and critics sit up and take notice. Since then, he has earned himself a reputation as a shape-shifting actor with the skill to slip effortlessly in and out of contrasting characters such as Eames in the blockbuster Inception and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. This biography explores his wayward youth, his drama school years, his burnout, and his complex route to eventual success. With a host of major films in 2012 and beyond, he is clearly Hollywood's hottest property.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781782197560
Publisher: John Blake Publishing, Limited
Publication date: 12/01/2015
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 288
Sales rank: 822,716
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.70(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

James Haydock is a biographer.

Read an Excerpt

Tom Hardy

Rise of a Legend

By James Haydock

John Blake Publishing Ltd

Copyright © 2015 James Haydock
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-78418-841-2



At was the summer of 1977 and the mood was one of celebration. Throughout the land, red, white and blue bunting fluttered in the warm breeze as the people of Great Britain threw street parties to honour the Queen's silver jubilee. The joyous mood intensified when the country was presented with another, very different, reason to put the flags out: Virginia Wade clinched the Women's Singles title at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in a welcome display of British sporting achievement. The dying days of the Labour government and the winter of discontent were still some way off and, for now, the nation was on a high.

During these summer months, Edward and Elizabeth (née Barrett) Hardy were preparing for the birth of their first – and, in the event, only – child. Elizabeth, who goes by her middle name of Anne, had grown up in the north of England and was descended from a large Irish-Catholic family. Edward – or 'Chips', as he is better known – was born in Ealing, London.

A propensity for the creative arts was present in both parents: Anne is an artist and painter and Chips, having read English Literature at Downing College, Cambridge, from 1969 to 1972, became a successful advertising creative who, in his career, has notched up some award-winning campaigns. In 2006, for example, he was the creative director on the campaign for the health supplement Berocca, which won the Best Fashion, Beauty and Healthcare award in the Campaign Media Awards. Chips is also a successful author and playwright who specialises in comedy writing – he has collaborated on numerous comedy projects and even won a British Comedy Award for his work on The Dave Allen Show. His plays include There's Something in the Fridge That Wants to Kill Me, a black comedy that was staged both in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

The entertaining biography of Chips that appears on his literary agent's website gives some clues as to his family history: it declares that 'recent contributions to his gene pool include an Ealing Studio Fire-chief who rounded the horn aged 12'. Delving further back in time, it states that his ancestors apparently include 'river men, pirates, horse-breeders in England and France ...'

On 15 September 1977, Chips and Anne's son, Edward Thomas Hardy, made his entrance into the world. Like his mother, he goes by his middle name – and perhaps by doing so has avoided the confusion that can occur when a father and son share a first name. Though born in Hammersmith, West London, it was in the idyllic surroundings of East Sheen, a quiet and leafy suburb of the city, where Tom grew up. It's an area where schools are good, crime rates are low and there is an abundance of green open space – the perfect place to bring up a child.

The cosy atmosphere of SW14 was something against which Hardy would rail in his adolescence, but in more recent years he has chosen to move back to its comforting surroundings. 'People walk around in chunky sweaters, wearing bright smiles. I did leave once, but I soon came back – it's a state of grace,' he commented when asked about his neighbourhood. 'It feels like such a special and calm place amid the sprawling metropolis of London – a bit like an imaginary village where you'd expect to see Postman Pat.'

Although East Sheen is a far cry from areas of London that you would more readily associate with celebrities, such as affluent Hampstead or funky Primrose Hill, Tom isn't the only star who has chosen to hang his hat there. Back in the nineties, East Sheen was buzzing with excitement at the news that Tom Cruise and former wife Nicole Kidman were to purchase an ivy-clad mansion in the area. (The mansion had, in fact, also once been the home of ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev).

These days, should you choose to sit and sip a latté in one of the local coffee shops, you might encounter 007 himself, Daniel Craig, veteran newscaster Sir Trevor McDonald or the BBC's political bloodhound Andrew Marr, all of whom are residents. 'It's heaven for the middle classes,' adds Tom, 'the duvet of the south west. It's not trendy and cool, but it's still a great place to live.'

Tom's start in life was secure and privileged and he admits that he had, 'all the signs of a middle-class upbringing, where every opportunity was provided for me to do well'. His parents were intelligent, creative folk who recognised the value of a good education and were fortunate enough to have the means to choose private schooling for their son. Rather than a state-funded primary school, Tom attended local prep school, Tower House. Situated close to Richmond Park, Tower House was founded in 1932. It is a small independent boys' school that supports pupils in all areas of their development and places equal importance on both academic and social growth. Like so many private preparatory schools, it prides itself on providing a foundation for pupils whose parents want them to progress to reputable secondary schools via the 13+ exam. Notable fellow Tower House alumni include actor Rory Kinnear and Jamie Rix, successful author and son of actor/producer Brian Rix. More recently, the school has attracted attention thanks to one former pupil in particular: before gaining an unhealthy vampiric pallor and a hordes of teenage fans, Robert Pattinson quietly went about his primary education at Tower House.

From here, Tom progressed through the private education system to boarding school. Reeds School is in the pretty Surrey town of Cobham and boasts every educational facility a pupil could wish for. Its academic standards are amongst the highest in the land and it also prides itself on its sports and drama facilities. High achievers who have passed through its gates include former tennis champion Tim Henman and skier Louise Thomas.

Tom has described his younger self as 'boring', but he maintains he was a child with a vivid imagination and one who loved stories. His lively mind was not always engaged in positive activity, though, and he has confessed that he learned the art of manipulation early on in life. His grandfather apparently recalls that he was a bit of a 'Walter Mitty' character, meaning that he spent much of his time escaping the mundane reality of his own existence by inhabiting a world of fantasy – something Hardy would later indulge in through the medium of acting. Apparently he also developed a keen sense of humour early on, a trait surely inherited from his comedy-writing father.

It didn't take long for the enquiring and imaginative boy to want to shake the foundations of the charmed life he had been born into. 'From a very young age, I was flagrantly disobedient,' he told the Evening Standard in 2006. 'I got involved in anything that was naughty. I wanted to explore all the dark corners of the world, partly to see if I could control it.' He was also not averse to a bit of scrapping and can remember '... being kicked in the balls at school when I was about nine. That was a miserable outcome.'

One upshot of his involvement in all things 'naughty' was his expulsion from Reeds for stealing sports kit. And although he left under a cloud, the school now seems proud to count Tom Hardy as one of its old boys, heralding him as one of their 'former pupils who now excel on the stage and screen'. The expulsion didn't signal the end of Tom's school career, though. He went on to attend another exclusive educational establishment in the shape of the independent sixth-form college Duff Miller in South Kensington, London.

Private schools invariably channel pupils towards going on to further, traditional academic pursuits, but this was something clearly not on Tom's agenda. He has admitted that he 'couldn't really get to grips with school work' and left school without any clear idea of what he could do next. His antics and irrepressible nature were far from conformist and he didn't quite fit the mould of student that private schools are so good at churning out.

Like many adolescents, Tom struggled to feel comfortable in his own skin. The agonising quest for identity is something every teenager goes through but how this angst manifests itself depends on the circumstances and personality of the individual. Tom's discomfort was twofold: he was uneasy with both his own susceptibilities and his surroundings. In an effort to disguise the former, he did what so many teenagers do and changed his appearance. While some might dye their hair or alter their clothes in an effort either to stand out or to blend in, Tom's actions were more extreme and he began what would become a lifelong obsession with tattoos. At 15 he acquired his first, which was of a leprechaun by way of a tribute to his mother's Irish roots. In an interview with Canada's The Globe and Mail, he remembered his mother's dismay upon the discovery of his first piece of body art: 'She kept saying "my beautiful boy, my beautiful boy ...".'

He also explained the psychology behind his desire to decorate his body to the Guardian newspaper: 'When I was a kid, people thought I was a girl, but I wanted to be strong, to be a man. My vulnerabilities were permanently on show when I was young, I had no skin as a kid. Now I'm covered in tattoos.'

Here was an angry young man who was deeply frustrated with his lot: nice, well-educated, middle-class Tom from the suburbs was simply not what he wanted to be. He needed to experience danger, to knock the edges off his comfortable existence. The tattoos and minor transgressions, therefore, soon developed into more destructive behaviour such as drinking, drug-taking, getting into fights, robbery and even carrying weapons. He also started to keep less-than-desirable company and hung around with, as he puts it, 'lads that looked like the guys who were on trial for the murder of Stephen Lawrence'.

Tom has also referenced his father when speaking of what drove him towards seeking out the more dangerous side of life in his youth. According to Tom, Chips is not the kind of man to resolve a problem by getting into a physical fight about it. He was a highly intelligent man and this was simply not his way. So Tom felt obliged to try and create a persona that was the exact opposite. 'The point is, my father's not really into throwing his fists. He's got lightning wit, backchat and repartee to get himself out of a scrap – and nothing else ... so I had to go further afield and I brought all sorts of unscrupulous oiks back home – earless, toothless vagabonds – to teach me the arts of the old bagarre,' he revealed to the Mail & Guardian in 2011.

In his teenage years, Tom was no stranger to a police cell, though surprisingly he was never actually charged with an offence. Speaking to the the Observer about what drove him to such acts of rebellion he commented, 'It's the suburbs. The life is so privileged and peaceful and so bloody dull, it gives you the instinctive feral desire to fuck everything up.'

And, for quite some time, that's exactly what he did. When he was 15 years old, he was arrested for joyriding in a stolen Mercedes and being in possession of a gun. The consequences of this could have been disastrous but, mercifully for Tom, he happened to be in the company of a diplomat's son, so the problem was made to disappear. According to Hardy, he was prepared to do the time but in the end was able to walk away from the incident without further repercussions.

The drinking, the drugs and the criminal behaviour were apparently all symptomatic of a person filled with 'self-hatred'. Speaking to Attitude magazine in 2008, Tom reflected on his wild, wayward years with his trademark self-awareness: 'I was an obnoxious, trouble-making lunatic. Not comfortable in my own skin and displacing that into the world. A complete twat. A knobhead. Mostly because I'm a middle-class white boy from suburbia. Growing up I was deeply ashamed, I was like "I'm not street and I'm not rich". A classic case of suburban kid ...'

The anomaly of tearing it up on the streets of slumbering East Sheen is something that Tom has been asked to explain on more than one occasion. How could a teenager really live life on the edge and put himself in harm's way in a place that seems so safe, so normal? Scratch the surface of respectability and you might be surprised at what you find lurking beneath. 'Behind those Laura Ashley curtains there are a lot of demons. East Sheen is a middle-class area, Trumpton or Sesame Street, but there's trouble if you want it.' And he certainly did.

Through his late teens and into his early twenties, Tom continued to have brushes with the law – 'I was looking at 14 years when I was 17, I was looking at five years when I was 21 for something else' – and what started as casual drinking and recreational drug use eventually developed into more serious alcohol and substance abuse. In the midst of all this chaos, Tom achieved something typically bizarre and incongruous: he entered – and won – a modelling competition.

That Tom's looks are exceptional is in no doubt. He has been blessed with the kind of face and physique that makes people sit up and take notice. The raw ingredients of a cover boy are all present: smouldering eyes, fine bone structure and, of course, those lips. His lips have, in fact, been the subject of much media scrutiny and have been described as both 'pillowy' and 'bruised-looking'. The alluring looks are just part of the attraction, though. He has something else that makes him stand out from the rest: his looks have an edge, a hint of menace, something that both modelling scouts and casting directors have been quick to pick up on when seeking a certain kind of brooding, dangerous look for either a campaign or a role.

Whatever his motivation – most likely to fulfil that need for attention he so often refers to – in 1998, he entered The Big Breakfast's 'Find Me a Model' competition. At the time, The Big Breakfast was a hugely popular, energetic early morning television programme aimed predominantly at the youth market. It had launched in 1992 and enjoyed huge success under the guardianship of presenters Chris Evans and Gaby Roslin. When they left the show, so did a number of viewers and ratings dropped. The producers finally found a winning formula in Johnny Vaughan and Denise van Outen, who co-hosted successfully from 1997 for a number of years.

'Find Me a Model' appealed for gorgeous young hopefuls from all over the country aged between 16 and 24 to enter a series of regional heats for the chance to win a modelling contract with major international agency Models One. There were two contracts up for grabs, one for a female model and one for a male model. Back then, Tom sported long hair and a skinnier frame than the one we are familiar with now, but his unique brand of looks appealed to the judges and he scooped the top spot. His female counterpart was pretty blonde Kirsty Richards. Speaking to Arena Homme in November 2010 about the competition, Tom recalled unhappily: 'I stood there with this hair, this really big quiff the hairdresser had done and this ridiculous jumper while they went on about me not liking football but liking Steven Berkoff.'

With a contract in the bag, Tom set about his fledgling career as a model and got some high-profile shoots under his belt, including Male Vogue and fashion shoots with photographer Gino Sprio. And never let it be forgotten that he was also once Mr July in Just Seventeen magazine.

It will come as little surprise that Tom was a fish out of water in the world of photo shoots and catwalks. He had a huge desire to be noticed and appreciated, but he was putting himself in front of the wrong type of camera – his heart was a million miles away from modelling. 'I tried to be a model when I was 19 and I was shit,' he told the Observer in 2007. 'I can only function when I become someone else.'

Tom had always been fascinated by acting and felt it was something at which he might succeed, but had never actively been pushed in that direction. He maintains that while he was at school, his aspirations as an actor were not encouraged – acting was not viewed as a profession, but rather as something to be pursued as a hobby. But to have acting merely as a part-time recreation was not an option for him.

'I didn't get any GCSEs or A-Levels,' he said in an interview with the indieLondon website. 'But everyone was like: "Please, will you do something?" And I was thinking: "Well, I kind of like the idea of joining the French Foreign Legion." But my mum said: "That's never going to happen because you can't even wash your own socks ..." Then some angel somewhere said: "Have you ever considered going to drama school?" And this sounded like the solution to all my problems.'

He initially tried and failed to win a place at Drama Centre (which he would later attend) and so remained in a quandary about how to turn his thespian dreams into reality. It was his good fortune that, at the same time as he was trying to figure out the best way forward, his mother was studying Art at Richmond Adult Community College. She happened to notice that the college ran a one-year drama school access course and encouraged her son to audition. Reluctantly he did so and, in what would prove to be one of the turning points in his life, Tom secured himself a place on the course.


Excerpted from Tom Hardy by James Haydock. Copyright © 2015 James Haydock. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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