For those who’ve been waiting for Tom Hardy to become a movie star, this may be his year.
The British actor stars as a moonshine bootlegger in the Prohibition-era drama “Lawless,” which screened at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday, and plays the villain Bane in the much-anticipated Batman epic, “Dark Knight Rises,” this summer.
At the news conference following the screening on Saturday, Hardy – seated beside costar Jessica Chastain and director John Hillcoat – was asked about being compared to Marlon Brando.
“I haven’t even seen ‘The Godfather,’ I haven’t seen ‘On the Waterfront,’ I haven’t seen ‘Streetcar Named Desire,’” said the often monosyllabic Hardy, who has grown a beard.
The film tells the true story of the three Bondurant brothers, scraping out an existence in the backwoods of Appalachia during Prohibition. Shia LaBeouf plays the younger brother Jack, and Australian actor Jason Clarke plays middle brother Howard.
Chastain plays a woman who appears from Chicago and takes care of their saloon in a violent and unpredictable milieu.
Hardy said he was flattered, but only knew Brando from photos, and any similarity in acting style “is not conscious, but it’s very high praise.”
The two actors share a brooding demeanor and tendency to respond on screen with a grunt rather than a line. But the comparison is far from remote. In her review for TheWrap, Sasha Stone observes:
“Just know that Hardy can't help but steal every scene he's in. Bulked up for his Dark Knight role, Hardy seethes, grunts and stalks around – reminiscent of Brando. It is no wonder that Jessica Chastain throws herself at him when he won't make the first move.”
Meanwhile, Hardy was also asked about working with Gary Oldman, who plays a slick gangster in the film to Hardy’s country boy moonshine-runner, Forrest Bondurant. The two also worked together in last year’s “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” as well as in the Batman epic.
Hardy said when he works opposite Oldman he finds himself watching the veteran actor: “I think he’s basically God,” he said. “He’s one of my heroes, completely. I did nothing but glean from him."
Nick Cave, who wrote the screenplay and scored the film using such groups as the Velvet Underground, said that Hillcoat’s films are marked by violence that is “very brutal, very quick and leaves a huge mess behind.”
At the news conference, Hillcoat said the film’s Prohibition theme echoes the instability of contemporary times. “It was the birth of serious, organized crime, and it feeds into those things going on today… the economic crisis, the war on drugs.”