Wed, Jul 07, 2010 - Page 14 News List

From misfit to Mad Max

In his personal life, he has battled alcoholism and crack addiction. In his work, he has specialized in misfits and criminals. Tom Hardy’s approach may not be conventional, but he is well on the way to becoming one of the UK’s great actors

By Alice Fisher  /  THE OBSERVER , LONDON

Boring is not the word most people would use for Hardy’s formative years. He’s the only child of Cambridge-educated writer Edward “Chips” Hardy and artist mother Anne, and grew up in East Sheen, London. He was expelled from Reeds public school (for stealing), arrested for joyriding in a stolen Mercedes while in possession of a gun when he was 15, and soon after became an alcoholic and drug addict. Rather incongruously, at 19 he entered and won a Find Me A Supermodel competition on TV and briefly had a contract with Models 1.

“I grew up in the desk,” he says. “The suburbs are not the action; they are the desk. I grew up around people carriers and cardigans and the deer in Richmond Park, but 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.”

He continued to find trouble when he studied at the Drama Center in central London — he was expelled from there, too, for being, he’s said, “a little shit” — and after early promise with those roles in Band of Brothers and Black Hawk Down, his drug addiction got the better of him. In 2003 he collapsed on Soho’s Old Compton Street after a crack binge and headed for rehab. “I was a very adrenal kid,” he says. “I ran on my feelings, and there was a lot of fear. When I found drinking at 13 — a bit of beer — I felt calm. I thought this must be how everyone else feels, and I wanted more of it. But then I became a drunk, a fucking drunk, man!”

He’s seven years sober now and loves it, growing his self-esteem and enjoying life. Doing things he’s never done before that everyone else has. “I didn’t start driving until I was 30. I thought I’d better be able to drive my ex [Rachael Speed, an assistant director] to hospital when she was having our son Louis. I couldn’t be trusted with a car when I was a youngster, so I got used to traveling by tube, using my ‘Rolls-Royster card.’ I have only been driving for two years and I love it because it’s new to me. I’ve got years of driving to catch up on.”

He says he doesn’t mind talking about his drug problem because it’s part of his story, and he’s sensible enough to be grateful for how his life has turned out. “People don’t know me yet, so I know they want to hear this stuff. They can hear it once, then let’s talk about something else. I’ll be done with it. When I’m 40 I’ll be cantankerous and badgery about it. When I’m 50 I’ll slap young interviewers and swear. When I’m 70 I’ll be incorrigible.”

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