Tom Hardy Talks ‘Taboo': ‘One of the Most Tortured Characters I’ve Ever Played’

The British actor also speaks to TheWrap about “Dark Knight Rises” and the status of future “Mad Max” movies

Last Updated: January 10, 2017 @ 6:13 PM

In FX’s “Taboo,” Tom Hardy plays a tormented man returning to England following his father’s death after spending 10 years in Africa — and as it turns out, James Delaney is one of the “most tortured characters” Hardy has ever played.

“Delaney is probably one of the most tortured characters I’ve played because for me, he’s connected to everyone in the piece in a very personal way,” Hardy told TheWrap. “It wasn’t just about playing James Delaney but also about really immersing myself in everyone else.”

Set in 19th century London, “Taboo” co-stars Jonathan Pryce, Oona Chaplin, Leo Bill, David Hayman and Michael Kelly. Hardy created the series with his father, Edward “Chips” Hardy, and “Peaky Blinders” creator Steven Knight.

“We’re still on the edit on Episode 8,” Hardy explained. “It’s a slow burn in the way a novel would be. After Episode 3, it starts moving around like a chess piece. I don’t find it that dark — I just had fun playing in it.”

The actor also spoke to TheWrap about his stint as the villain in “The Dark Knight Rises,” saying that the now famous voice was based on that of English bare-knuckle fighter Bartley Gorman.

“I was speaking to Chris [Nolan] when we were doing screen tests and he asked what I thought I would like to do vocally, and I said, ‘there are two roads that it could go down at this moment in time, one is orthodox and however you want to build it.’ Instead, he showed him a video of Gorman, and the voice of Bane was born.

“Bane is not too far from the real person,” added Hardy.

See TheWrap’s Q&A with Hardy below.

TheWrap: From where did you draw inspiration for your character?
Tom Hardy: I drew inspiration from all sorts of places really, from all these historical parts I’ve always wanted to play. I’ve always loved period dramas and I’ve never been able to settle on a novel I wanted to play. My father is also into literature and we wanted to have a collage of all of these different elements that would make up a new story — familiar but traditional storytelling in new writing. It’s drawing on a lot of a old pieces and characters. There isn’t one in particular that it’s based on. There’s something interesting about playing with the concept of having complex, paradoxical characters that don’t quite fit right, that aren’t likable people but they can become quite compelling — you go on this journey with people. All the characters are pretty dislikable but once you get into the tone of the piece, the world becomes immersible and you slip into that world. And that’s what we wanted to do.”

Your character has this immense power over everyone he meets. Did the character have any impact on you personally?
Not really, I was working [executive producing] with Steve [Knight] and [my father] Chips, and acting was the last thing I had to do. I said, ‘Oh I have to go act now!’ Because I was so immersed in the character, I felt like I knew where I had to be. You don’t really know if he’s in control or not — he comes across like that now, but that can change. There are elements of torment — is he spooky or is that just something he sees and no one else does? Playing with that adds to the tone of the piece. Does he actually talk to the ghosts or is he just bonkers? There is something quite still and opportunistic about him. I don’t know if he’s entirely in control. The show kind of backtracks in the end. There is a lot going on — corruption, government greed, you know, not a lot of likeble stuff.

What drew you to the show? Is there anything you found unique?
What was unique was the wickedness in the subversion of playing with what is often the telling of classic stories. The period drama has been done to death and we really enjoy it in Britain, and we have lots of different ways to do it, so what was nice for us was when we asked, how would we do it if we had the opportunity? We got a lot of grime and we have some beautiful design elements and the art direction is really beautiful. We wanted to put a new level of filming on a storytelling narrative, in a period drama that you usually see on TV and see how that works, and that’s new for me.

Was Delaney one of the most difficult characters you’ve ever had to play?
Delaney is probably one of the most tortured characters I’ve played because for me, he’s connected to everyone in the piece in a very personal way. It wasn’t just about playing James Delaney but also about really immersing myself in everyone else. As an actor, I felt tortured because everyone in the piece is really important to me.

Do you think the show mirrors the political or economical climate of the world today?
We finished it before Brexit and Donald Trump’s election so it definitely had a different feeling after. We were like, ‘does this still make sense now?’ There are some things in there that are universal themes. For example, I do think the concept of corruption is a key factor, especially in the environment of brutality and power that comes with business. Just in the ethics of the people that are in power and the question of, what is power?

What are your thoughts on TV versus feature films? Is it hard going from one to the other?
Not really. With TV, you have so much more time to play with you character — it’s fun to work with. With film, you have a few months to get two and a half hours of footage to get to know your character. With TV, you get about eight to ten hours of footage. It’s fast-paced and relentless. That’s why its attractive. I think TV is such a good place to push the boat out a bit more.

Let’s talk about “The Dark Knight Rises.” What was the hardest part of playing Bane?
I had such a great time on that film! I don’t remember it being hard. It was more about paying respect to Heath Ledger because I was playing a villain in the third part of a trilogy and I was playing the villain in that final installment after he had done such a wonderful job on the previous film. I had to honor the franchise in a way that was quite specific. There was a pressure to be part of the world, to honor the villains and not f— it up for him. I have to give a shout out to Chris Nolan because he had fine ideas of what he wanted of his villains. If you’re playing someone in a big franchise where there is a lot of pressure, you want to be the best thing you can be. It was such a good, fun film.

What can you tell us about “Dunkirk”?
It’s a very profound story. What’s lovely about it is that it’s a classic film, it’s so epic in the storytelling, and Chris [Nolan] has gone back to an old school film from the 1940s, 1950s and retold it. Just being there, you can see the effort in this huge orchestration. I was just in my own play – I had limited exposure to cast and crew. And there was also a lot of pressure, in the same way. I grew up in the generation of their granddads talking about the war. Everyone was colored by that experience — Dunkirk was a big turning point in the war.

Any chance of another “Mad Max” movie?
Yeah, I believe so! I don’t know when that starts, but I believe that’s in the books. There’s a couple of those floating around. I’m waiting for the call to come. It was so good, man!

“Taboo” airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on FX.

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