Many fans view Tom Hardy as a heartthrob. They aren’t wrong, but he’s more than that. Many claim he’s one of the biggest male stars working today. Again, that’s true, but even this doesnt tell the full story.

Tom Hardy is, first and foremost, a superb character actor, equally at home in theater (2010’s “The Long Red Road”) mainstream blockbusters (“The Dark Knight Rises”), smaller arthouse films (“Locke”), and television (“Peaky Blinders”). Hardy transforms himself in nearly every role; quite often he’s almost unrecognizable.

Regardless of disguise, costume or make-up, he is arguably the most exciting and electric screen actor working today, emitting the powerful charisma of a Bogart, Gabin, Newman or Brando. When he’s in the frame, you look only at him.

He would be the first to tell you that he is not what he often seems to be on screen. Far from the macho tough guys he’s often played, Hardy has the curiosity and sensitivity of the true artist. Like most great actors, he’s instinctively an observer, picking up the tics, inflections and mannerisms he spots in other people.

His gift is truly remarkable, but he almost lost it before it had the chance to develop.

Tom Hardy was born in London in 1977. He was an only child, the son of Edward “Chips” Hardy, a writer, and Anne, a painter. Growing up, he underperformed in academics, and reportedly caught the acting bug early on. The stage became a liberating outlet for this restless young man, and it was clear he had an affinity for it.

Then clouds set in once Tom hit his late teens and discovered alcohol and drugs. Even as his natural talent won him spots in prestigious acting classes, he struggled with substance abuse. At his lowest ebb, he was addicted to crack cocaine.

While still battling these demons, he won a supermodel contract in 1998 which earned him money and visibility. That same year, he won a coveted spot at London’s Drama Centre, where he first met fellow student Michael Fassbender.

At the age of 23, he left school after winning a part in the miniseries “Band of Brothers”(2001), after which he was cast in “Black Hawk Down” (2001). Yet it was only after his role in “Star Trek: Nemesis” (2002) that he finally went into treatment.

It’s astonishing that he’d been able to go as far as he did up to that point. By his own admission, he skirted very close to the edge: “I went entirely off the rails and I'm lucky I didn't have some terrible accident or end up in prison or dead, because that's where I was going.”

Returning to work directly after rehab in 2003, he wanted to get back in fighting trim fast, so he appeared in two plays on London’s West End and promptly won the Evening Standard Most Promising Newcomer Award. About working in the theater, he pithily observed: “You don’t step on stage to eat, you go there to be eaten.”

Though this course correction happened too late to save his first marriage to producer Sarah Ward, Hardy was now clean and sober. In 2008, he became a father to son Louis with companion Rachael Speed. By this time, Hardy’s career was in overdrive, as he won raves and recognition for playing the title role in “Bronson” (2008), a hair raising film about one of Britain’s most notorious criminals. (Hardy shaved his head and bulked up considerably for the role).

The following year, he would star on television in “The Take” and an adaptation of “Wuthering Heights.” In real life, Heathcliff would end up with his Cathy, as Hardy and co-star Charlotte Riley started a romance and married a few years later. They now have a young daughter.

On becoming a parent, Hardy commented: “I wouldn’t say having children saved my life, but it definitely changed my life. That was when the penny dropped that there was no longer very much time for me to think about myself anymore… because there is somebody now on the planet who really needs me to get my act together and focus on something that is more important than me.”

Hardy has lived up to his words, and his more recent filmography proves it: “Inception” (2010), “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (2011, the first of four collaborations with his hero, Gary Oldman), “Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015), “The Revenant” (2015, which resulted in his first Oscar nod), and most recently, “Dunkirk” (2017).

Hardy has used his fame to help the homeless and underprivileged youth in Britain. He was awarded a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) just this year, and no one doubts he’s earned it.

Luckily for us, Hardy is barely forty and just hitting his stride. There is so much more to come, and we can hardly wait to experience it.

Getting at the heart of why he pursues his chosen profession, he once said: “I love people. People are lovely creatures. I’m one myself so I love to see people happy.”

Tom Hardy, watching you, we’re happy!

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