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Film + TV

Tom Hardy’s Verdict on Venom

Words by Rob Chilton

Tom Hardy surprised us all when he announced that he would take on a Marvel supervillain role. He explains why he took the dark spidey franchise on

If you were to compile a list of actors you’d expect to sign up to star in a Marvel superhero movie, Tom Hardy would probably come in at about number 46 – just behind Daniel Day-Lewis. But this is Tom Hardy we’re talking about and Venom is no ordinary comic book hero.

“There’s that biting-off-heads issue, which is not what you would expect from, say, Captain America taking down a crook,” laughs the actor. Hardy describes the movie, out this month, as “dark, edgy and dangerous” which also serves as a pretty accurate description of how many movie fans see the actor.

Set in Francisco, Hardy plays Eddie Brock, a journalist investigating a story on the Life Foundation and its leader, Dr Carlton Drake, played by Riz Ahmed. Brock finds himself in a lab, where he becomes infected by an alien symbiote, which lives inside Brock as a parasite. “It’s a double act,” explains Hardy, 40. “I always saw Venom as sounding like a James Brown lounge lizard, and Eddie Brock is an everyday kind of guy but he’s inherited this massive ego, this beast.”

The character first appeared in Spider-Man comics in the early 1980s. Hardy was, in part, persuaded to accept the role by his elder son Louis who is a big fan of Venom.

As well as getting cool points from his son, Hardy signed on because he was drawn to the appearance of the jagged-toothed monster. “As far as Marvel characters, I have to say for me, Venom looks the coolest,” he says. “That sounds a bit shallow. But I appreciate that he has a kind of brazen swagger and a zero foxtrot attitude.

“There’s a tragic clown element, which I find funny. There’s something funny about the circumstances of having a gift but it’s a tragic gift. It’s a superpower you don’t really want, but at the same time, you love it. It makes you feel special. He’s a reluctant hero and an anti-hero.”

Director Ruben Fleischer agrees that Venom is not a typical comic book movie. “Usually a human gets imbued with powers or an alien comes from outer space and has to figure out how to live on Earth. But this is really about a relationship between two people who have to work together to create this hybrid symbiotic relationship.”

Venom’s producer Matthew Tolmach was impressed by Hardy’s work on set. “It’s like a masterclass watching him act every day. He’s such a risk taker. He believed in this character entirely and yet every day pushes it to a place that us mere mortals would never expect it to go.”

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Hardy, 40, is one of Hollywood’s most intriguing actors. Happy to star in blockbusters such as Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road and Dunkirk, he also relishes intense, awkward roles that might scare off other leading men. Take the magnificently gripping Locke, for example, a movie that takes place solely in a car and features Hardy talking to other characters on the phone.

Hardy’s next risky outing is 2019’s Fonzo in which he plays an aging Al Capone under heavy facial prosthetics. “It’s not the classic Al Capone,” hints Hardy. “I don’t want to give too much away about it, but there’s definitely a transformation with that role.”

Hardy also changed physically for Bronson, Warrior, and his double role in Legend, the story of notorious 1960s London gangsters the Kray twins, in which he played both brothers. For The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy trained four times a day to pack on 13kg of muscle.

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“I’ve probably damaged my body too much,” sighs Hardy, who has been Oscar nominated once for The Revenant. “I think you pay the price with any drastic physical changes. It was alright when I was younger, 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. I’m certainly a bit achier than I used to be. I have joints that click that probably shouldn’t click.”

After Fonzo, Hardy will revisit the post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max in Wasteland. After that, might he swap Max’s leather jacket for James Bond’s tuxedo? Pierce Brosnan thinks he could. Hardy has surprised us by playing a Marvel hero, but playing 007 might be the biggest shock of all.

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