Thanks to Charlidos for the scans and translation. You are truly the best, and we value your T-Hard archeology so very much!
This is an interview from the French edition of Premiere of May 2010. I’ve translated it myself, so please excuse any mistakes, they’re all mine. It’s a conversation between Vincent Cassel & Tom and it’s pretty brilliant.
Vincent Cassel welcomes the sensation from Bronson, who will soon appear in the new Mad Max films, for an interview which doesn’t hold anything back.
Vincent Cassel met Tom Hardy, who is English of Irish ancestry, while filming The Reckoning, which was directed by the Scotsman Paul McGuigan. “Tom had seen La Haine, it’s one of his favourite films, and that’s why he approached me.” Cassel recalls. The two men immediately bonded. Their futures confirmed that they’re on the same wavelength: when the French actor received a César for best actor for his portrayal of ‘public enemy no 1’ in Mesrine, Hardy exploded onto the scene with the title role in Bronson, a biopic about Britain’s most famous inmate. “When we did these two films at the same time, it was incredible”, Cassel confirms. “For me, there is no one equal to Tom among the actors of his age. His mouth is too big and he isn’t smooth enough to fit directly into the system, but it will happen in a way we can’t imagine yet. He’s a handsome man who isn’t afraid of making himself ugly, like a Brad Pitt who boxes. I’m convinced he’s going to be a superstar.”George Miller seems to agree, having offered him to star in Fury Road, the fourth chapter in the Mad Max saga, with Hardy filling the shoes of Mel Gibson. “If this film is a success”, Cassel exclaims, “there will be nothing that can stop him.”
VC: You haven’t been to Australia yet?
TH: It won’t be long now. The preparations start this month and the filming will keep me there until April.
VC: So I’m catching you just before the storm?
TH: Exactly. I’m just back from Chicago to spend some time with my family before I fly off to Australia.
VC: You’ll be brilliant in Mad Max. Mel Gibson can go to hell. (laughs) Are you allowed to talk about under which circumstances we met and how that anecdote involves Paul Bettany during the filming of The Recknoning?
TH: Go ahead! Don’t be afraid to incriminate me! It was my first part in a feature film, actually. Before, I’d only done the tv show Band of Brothers.
VC: So, would you advise someone who’s shooting their first movie, to take a swing at the lead actor because he’s saying bad things about you?
TH: I didn’t hit him, I slapped him. I didn’t want to leave a mark on his face.
VC: Good thinking. (laughs)
VC: Watching Bronson, some people could imagine that you’re a reformed thug doing movies, when you’re really quite the opposite, with years of classical training in theatre behind you. I’ve seen interviews where you talk about your job like you’re a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. You have all these different sides.
TH: I grew up in a good neighbourhood and learned Latin very young. Most of the people I went to school with have attended the big universities like Oxford and Cambridge. Not me. I went the other way. I could never concentrate, I was lazy… Basically, it didn’t interest me. My mother comes from the north of England, from a family of masons, while my dad’s family is from London. There’s a real divide between the north and south of England. When I went on vacation to Yorkshire in the north, I wasn’t considered cool enough, since my family had too much money for an area dominated by working class. The kids teased me because of the way I spoke and was taken for a rich kid. And when I was in London, I was too ordinary, since I liked football and because I talked slightly odd. I was a middle-class child who couldn’t find his place. It was when I was around 15 that I begun to hate the others. I got thrown out of every school they enrolled me in, I had trouble with the police… But I never really made a very good gangster. (laughs)
VC: We share this attraction to a certain type of characters. I think you like them a little crazy, brutal and slightly psychopathic.
TH: I love characters that people prefer to ignore, the ones who often are violent or aggressive. In other words, I love dysfunctional people. I was one myself, growing up.
VC: Twisted characters reflect real life better. Even if you’re not as badly off as them, we’re all a bit crazy and more complex than movies want us to believe.
TH: I don’t like it when it’s too neat, too obvious. I love examining what makes people do what other would prefer to ignore and repress. I don’t drink anymore, but I have had problems with alcohol in the past even though there was nothing that predisposed me for that. The reason why an individual becomes an addict are unpredictable. People prefer everything to be black and white, but it’s not. I haven’t always made the best decisions in my life, but today, I’m using my job to analyze what can make human beings behave in such a way. It’s cathartic for me.
VC: I remember when I found pictures of you taken while you were training for Bronson. You were in the middle of a mutation. The crazy thing is, I was going through a similar transformation for Mesrine. Not all actors are prepared to undergo such a thing, but I believe we both have that dream of, at least once in your career, metamorphose to that point for a part. Bronson opened a lot of doors for you in the US.
TH: The film created a real echo, even if it wasn’t very successful commercially. Either way, I did it for personal reasons and in close collaboration with my friend Kelly Marcel. We undertook a big part of the pre-production work, without being credited when it was finished, which led to a similar situation to the one with Paul Bettany: someone ended the shoot with a very sore head. (laughs)
VC: One could say the character had gotten under your skin…
TH: We filmed Bronson for five weeks, it was very intense. I put on the weight for the part over the course of four years. The first time, the project fell through and I had to drop the weight again. When the film was brought back I had to gain weight again in just five weeks. A lot of the people who worked on the film didn’t give a damn about Charles Bronson. It was me who went to see him in prison to explain the script to him and get his approval on the details. I regularly had to go ask him absurd things on behalf of individuals who were just relaxing behind a desk.
VC: They used you?
TH: I did all the work, I met with all of Bronson’s mates who were still quite active in that environment. Even if they love movies and going to premieres, they didn’t exactly work in an office. They took care of me and helped me a lot, but they might as well have decided, with having a comfortable middle-class actor among them, to lock me in the back of a van and ask my parents for ransom.
VC: Gangsters love actors. If they decided you had the right qualities to play on of their own on screen, it’s all good.
TH: I learned that eventually. To physically transform yourself, put on weight, have an accent, is one thing. To do this research and spend days and days meeting the right people is another. They have your phone number, invite you to parties, offer you things. It’s a good thing I don’t drink anymore. If I’d continued with the booze, the drugs and be abrasive, it would have ended badly. But I’m a dad now, I wear slippers and I’m much more relaxed.
VC: I have trouble believing that.
TH: What excites me today, is doing a good job. That’s what gets my adrenaline pumping.
VC: Have you found a project as stimulating since?
TH: I’ve just spent six months in Pittsburgh, doing ‘free fight’ in a cage. I was even more beefed up than I was for Bronson.
VC: In other words, after Mad Max, you’ll have to play a gentle prince who falls in love with a rabbit.
TH: (laughs) Exactly. You mentioned the Royal Shakespeare Company. Nothing would give me greater pleasure than doing the classics, but the establishment didn’t want anything to do with me. I couldn’t find any work before I started playing characters like Charles Bronson.
VC: It’s better to be the black sheep than just another sheep.
TH: I prefer that. In the end, I mostly want the respect of my peers, of the people admire. My work is a tribute to the actors who have influenced me as an artist. I’d love to finish my carreer having earned a seat at their table.