Tom Hardy: ‘It became our focus to sort out what was fact and what was fiction’
Tom Hardy rounds off a stellar year playing not one but two lead roles in crime drama Legend, based on The Kray Twins, the notorious British gangsters of the 1960s.
The British actor had already built his big-screen reputation, but this year has really secured well-deserved place among the Hollywood elite.
A regular fixture as the lead in independent films – such as Bronson and Locke – Hardy took on his biggest lead role to date in Mad Max: Fury Road. Taking over the title role from Mel Gibson, the film was a huge hit, critically and commercially.
Anticipation is high, then, for his latest project, Legend — in which fans old and new have been looking forward to twice as much of the star. Directed by Brian Helgeland, the ambitious project sees Hardy play both Reggie and Ronnie Kray, the real life gangland kings who ruled East London in the 1960s.
Were you aware of The Krays before signing up for the film?
Growing up, I was very aware of the infamy of The Krays. There were so many stories surrounding them, they were icons of sorts, and I certainly read about them growing up, in books and on TV. That world, the world they created in a sense, is so cloaked in rumours and hearsay that when we came to work on the film, it became our focus to sort out what was fact and what was fiction, as far as we could.
Did anything surprise you when researching the roles?
It didn’t surprise me but a lot of the stories were anecdotal. Over time, these myths spread that either weren’t true or had been distorted, and led back to sources that couldn’t be relied upon. Although we’re not making a documentary, it’s a dramatisation of real life events – it was important that [the film] didn’t wander off into fantasy.
Was there any trepidation about working with Brian Helgeland, an American, on the project?
No, not at all, because I knew from Brian’s previous work, and subsequently from meeting him, that he was someone who had the same intentions that I did. Neither of us wanted to glamorise the story or gloss over who these people were. It’s his approach to the source material that made me want to tell this story with him.
What made you want to play both of the twins?
I was attracted to the challenge of it. They’re both very interesting roles to play and I wanted to see if, as an actor, I could do something where I was playing two characters [in one film]. Brian wanted me to play Reggie, but I was more interested in playing Ron, and eventually we came to the conclusion that it would be interesting for me to play both. I was initially drawn to Ron because there’s so much to work with, because he’s a more volatile, unpredictable character, but as we worked on the film, both characters presented their own challenges that, in many ways, were equal to each other.
Was that difficult, moving between one role and the other?
Not really – it was something that became easier because of the process we put in place. Make up, certain changes we made to the appearance and voice, made switching an easier process. Working together with Brian, it turned out to be quite a fun thing to do, because we could make the “effect” work while also making the relationship between the brothers feel natural.
You also have two very different on-screen relationships with Emily Browning, who plays Reggie’s wife, Frances.
Emily was wonderful, to work with and in her performance. She’s an innocent brought into this world, caught between two men – one of whom she loves – and sees the disorder and danger that surrounds them at all times. Without that perspective you don’t get the same emotional investment, so her performance is so important to the whole story.
It’s been an incredible year for you as an actor, how do you build on that success?
I want to be involved in opportunities that stretch me as an actor. It’s brilliant that people respond to this or other films in a positive way, it vindicates the choices we all made. But it’s about each individual experience, so I focus on the next thing and not how it all fits together.
• Legend is in cinemas now
Updated: October 7, 2015 04:00 AM