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

Hardy’s right to plan that far into the future, because his next role is going to make him a superstar. Next month he sets out for the Australian outback to become Mad Max. The original 1979 film, which made US$100 million from A$400,000, held the record for the highest profit-to-cost-ratio film right up until last year, when Paranormal Activity nudged it off top spot. There’s great anticipation about the reboot of the much-loved franchise, particularly as original director George Miller will be at the helm. The shoot’s slated to last a whole year and it’s going to be a big, big production. Hardy says he’s surprisingly calm about the forthcoming attention.

“I’ve got this secure feeling in my tummy. Obviously there’ll be exposure, but disappearing from the public eye can be done. I’m trying not to buy into any of it. The amount of time away is daunting — I’m just getting settled as a responsible man — but if you split the elephant into little mouthfuls it will be fine. I can use the time in the desert to paint or meditate.”

He’s also got a lot of physical training to do. “If you look round Hollywood there’s no end of white smiles and six packs. Long lines of beautiful people lining up to be incredible on film. Lots of people who want this part. I have a responsibility to those who didn’t make it to the pitch.” So he’s going to build settlements and obstacle courses in the outback for two months, use them to train, and then dismantle them. “Max is a loner in a desolate landscape,” he explains. “I’ve got to create the body of someone broken who survives from meal to meal. I want the muscles of a manual laborer who builds camps then disbands them.” He doesn’t know what’s going to be inside Max yet, though. He’s waiting to find that out from George Miller, because Max is George’s man. “George will be the font of my wisdom because I’m not playing someone real — it’s not Adolf Hitler or [the television presenter] Graham Norton. I can practice being Graham Norton in my bedroom for hours; I’ve got nothing with Mad Max.”

There’s a moment’s pause. I’m trying to imagine him being Graham Norton in his bedroom, but his mind’s returned to sadder and more pressing issues. “My dog’s named after Mad Max — the people who gave him to me when I was 17 said he was Mad Max. I thought: ‘I don’t like that name — and he’s not mad, he’s a puppy.’ Poor Max — the vet says he’ll last a year, but I’m away for that year — being Mad Max. It’s weird, isn’t it?”

Hardy says it’s OK, though. It’s all good, shrugging off his sadness. “The sun’s out today and I’m in my shorts and I’m going to play Xbox 360 and drink lots of coffee and stop smoking.” He pauses again and then says apropos of nothing in particular: “My hair is awful at the moment, like Steven Seagal’s. I’ve got to grow it long for Mad Max, but unfortunately I dyed it for a role in a play I did in Chicago in May. Now I’ve got orange hair and brown roots and I look like a total social misfit. I don’t care. Well, part of me cares. But if I really cared I wouldn’t be able to do my job.” He’s chortling now, a throaty rumble: “I look like a knob, but that’s because I’m preparing ... probably preparing to make an absolute knob of myself.” Now he can’t stop laughing. “I’m making a knob of myself searching for humanity in the sacred cause of art.”

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