Tom Hardy is an acting chameleon. The Oscar-nominated actor’s transformations have been so extreme in some cases, viewers wouldn’t even realize it’s him in certain film roles unless they read the film credits. The Dark Knight Rises and Venom actor had his first big industry breakthrough in Christopher Nolan’s Inception back in 2010. Since then, Hardy’s taken on characters of all types in roles both good, evil, and everything in between. Hardy can play a dashing leading man, a grotesque villain, a military pilot, a bootlegging outlaw, a Secret Service agent, or a violent gang leader with ease. Hardy is much like his former Batman co-star Christian Bale in that he’s willing to transform his body for any of his unique characters, and he’s comfortable taking on roles where he might have to speak in accents or perhaps barely have any dialogue at all.
Hardy is a physical actor, using gestures or facial expressions at an advanced level to get across the emotions he is trying to portray. Many of Hardy’s roles are cerebral ones, where he plays sometimes misunderstood people who can run the psychological gamut. Hardy’s not afraid to accept a spot in small independent films or big-budget Hollywood blockbusters either. It’s a testament to his hard work to leave everything on the screen and his strong work ethic to embody more challenging characters than most of his peers. Hardy’s even recently been rumored as a potential James Bond replacement. While this topic can be subjective to personal opinion and preference, here are Tom Hardy’s best movie transformations, ranked.
6 Mad Max: Fury Road
Alongside the one and only Charlize Theron (who’s no stranger to transformations of her own), Tom Hardy plays Max in the visually stunning Mad Max: Fury Road. The reboot of the 1980s Mel Gibson star-making film is very well done, but was somewhat overshadowed by the real-life feud between Hardy and Theron on set. In many ways, this is a film about human survival under the harsh conditions of the desert in a futuristic, chaotic world. Hardy looked the part of someone who was battling for his freedom the best he could, given the circumstances his character was in and, at that, he succeeded.
In the movie Bronson, Hardy plays Michael Gordon Peterson, a prisoner who’s considered Britain’s most violent criminal. His prison stories become infamous due to over a dozen instances of taking hostages while behind bars. He earns the nickname Charles Bronson (after the famous American actor) for his bare-knuckle fighting skills. Hardy goes completely bald here with a signature mustache. Based on a true story, the real Charles Bronson has heavily praised Hardy’s performance, stating; “nobody on the planet could play me as Tom did. He is more like me than I am.” For many actors, this may be seen as a career-defining role. However, for Tom Hardy, this is just another highlight on his ever-growing resume.
For Legend, Tom Hardy takes on two different characters here, twin brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray, who terrorized London during the 1950s and 1960s. The two engage in being a crucial part of a lucrative underground crime syndicate that involves gambling and running clubs. However, this also results in them sometimes murdering those who get in the way of their illegal business practices. Despite being twins (and playing both roles himself), Hardy is still able to give both brothers distinct looks and personalities, very convincingly passing as two different people.
While a big part of Hardy’s transformation here is CGI-based, his physical and emotional mannerisms also heavily change as he transforms from journalist Eddie Brock into the host of an alien symbiote, Venom. The fan-favorite comic book character was a hit with fans on the big screen, resulting in a 2021 sequel, as well as a third Venom movie already stated to be in pre-production, per Screen Rant. Hardy’s influence on the franchise even resulted in a writing credit for his work on the script in the 2nd film, Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
2 The Revenant
While a lot of the focus of The Revenant was understandably put upon Leonardo DiCaprio’s first-ever Academy Award-winning performance — after years of making high-quality movies, but always just coming up short on award night — arguably the most impressive performance and transformation was actually that of Tom Hardy’s. Hardy portrays John Fitzgerald, a member of the bear-trapping team that turns on DiCaprio’s character by killing his son. Hugh Glass (DiCaprio) must use his survival skills to make it out of the snowy wilderness alive and exact his revenge on John. Hardy clearly plays the villain here and is only second to a bear in opposition for DiCaprio. Hardy and the movie’s team do a great job of making him look like a disheveled 1800s bear trapper. The film reportedly pushed everyone to their breaking point, with Hardy getting into a scuffle with the film’s director Alejandro G. Inarritu during their shoot in the below-freezing temperatures needed to pull off the story. However, at least the end result made it worth the effort.
1 The Dark Knight Rises
For the third film in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy plays the villain Bane. Bane had a very difficult childhood that later turns him into a terrorist, which forces Batman out of retirement to stop him. The movie did huge numbers at the box office, with over $1 billion grossed, placing it among some of the highest-earning films of all time. Hardy put on 40 pounds for this role, speaks in an accent, and wears a face-covering throughout the entire movie, making him unrecognizable to fans. While this film had a lot to live up to following Heath Ledger’s outstanding performance in The Dark Knight, Hardy does a commendable job and the film trilogy ends the story on a satisfactory note. As one of the best directors of this generation, it’s a major compliment to Hardy that Nolan has chosen to cast him in large roles in multiple films he’s directed. While Hardy has admitted to being difficult to work with on certain occasions, it seems that his transformations into the characters he takes on make whatever obstacles there might be on set not a deal-breaker for Nolan because of the performances he’s able to get out of Hardy on screen.
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