Tom Hardy has been to some dark places in his life, which is why he’s well placed to take on the role of Venom, the Marvel comic character who has a Jekyll and Hyde split personality. In person, he’s a lively character with an engaging edge, but his charm is offset by him confessing to self-destructive urges, AKA the ‘400lb orangutang running amok’ in his head. As a former addict he has fought many internal battles, experiences that fuelled his portrayal of Marvel’s edgiest leading character to date, as he exclusively reveals to RSNG, ahead of the movie’s release on October 5th…
RSNG You’ve said before that you used your own experience of mental health issues and addiction to get into the head of the Eddie Brock/ Venom double act – can you describe how?
TOM HARDY, ACTOR ‘Because I’m a survivor. The fact is I’m lucky to be alive. I’m constantly fighting the 400lb orangutang that is running amok in my brain and trying to kill me. It’s the self-sabotage side of me that I have to keep fighting. It’s part of my addictive personality and something I will probably always have to be on guard against. But it feeds my work and I confine it to that space instead of letting it ruin my life.’
‘Having to deal with that makes you stronger – it makes you want to be better. So, as you can probably imagine, it’s very easy to transfer that way of thinking into any character.’
‘I'm very suspicious of people who present themselves as noble and virtuous’
RSNG Venom is clearly saying something about the duality of man, and the space between our instincts and our actions – do you think that’s part of people’s fascination with the character?
TH ‘Probably. I think the important thing for me, at the start, was really to understand where the character was coming from, and not obsess over what we knew he was going to morph into. And by that I mean he doesn’t go out to be a superhero, instead this is something that happens to him, and you see how he deals with that. He has to find a balance with someone living rent-free within his body!’
‘But this really worked for me because in my film choices I have a weakness for the darker side of things. I hate that kind of sanctimonious posturing and those kinds of people are often putting on a mask to hide.’
‘I also believe that the protagonist needs to be a more paradoxical figure filled with contradictions and ambiguities, even though his underlying strength is his nobility. That's what makes truly great characters, and Venom is one of those.’
RSNG In terms of filming the action sequences, did you need to learn any new skills or moves?
TH ‘The action sequences weren’t a problem; I could deal with those. Yes it was physical but nothing new. Instead, what really made this a challenge was the mental side of things and the need for everything to fit together like some sort of Tetris puzzle – very geeky stuff, but I really enjoyed it.’
‘And by that I mean representing two different characters in one shoot. It’s something I’ve done before, with Legend, and I must say that this time around it was a challenge I was looking forward to, probably more than last time because at least on this occasion the characters were so different. Playing Reggie Kray and Ronnie Kray became really confusing in terms of separating the two, but this time it’s Jekyll and Hyde – two very different people within the same body.’
‘As long as I had the guideline in my ear I was okay. It looks weird from the outside if you don’t hear what I’m hearing – it just looks like a man talking to himself, which is kind of Eddie Brock’s problem really for a lot of the transference of the symbiote.’
‘In a way that’s what makes it quite funny, really. We see this poor guy talking to himself and that’s what the crew saw for four or five months... this poor guy struggling with himself!’
RSNG What’s it like facing the expectations of Marvel’s fanbase when you’re taking on an established character but giving it your own unique interpretation, in order to bring it to life on screen?
TH ‘I knew I had Venom and could do it justice – I’ve never doubted that. It is another step up the ladder but it’s such a deep, intricate character, and although he’s helped along by special effects, that will only ever get you so far. I knew I could take care of the rest.’
‘Having the responsibility over such a brilliant Marvel character is a nice responsibility and I’ve thrived off that. The people who love this genre are so passionate, so knowledgeable and so supportive, and it was really easy to take that and really push the whole thing forward with the support of those folks. That has been a great feeling.’
RSNG Did you feel yourself getting lost in Venom at any point? Do you ever get lost in a character?
TH ‘Never. It’s all articulated, and carefully worked out, so all you need is inspiration and some alchemy. Nothing is left to chance, for me – I just focus. You may have lost someone very dear to you, or you may have the worst hangover in the world, but when you get on the set, you have to concentrate on just one thing, and that’s your work.’
‘Remember, you don’t have to be in a trauma to act a trauma. It’s called ‘acting’. Making movies is all an illusion, isn’t it? Something that is created on the day – you build up an emotion, and switch it on when it’s needed – white hot anger, whatever is required.’
‘Our main battle in life will always be with ourselves – in whatever form you want to make it’
RSNG What’s the last thing you failed at and what did you learn from it?
TH ‘My hardest battle has always been with my ego – and keeping it in check. I’m still working at that one. I mean, our main battle in life will always be with ourselves, in whatever form you want to make it.’
‘I’m just glad these days my ego isn’t influenced by alcohol – that’s in the past. [Co-star] Nick [Nolte] went through his own problems with drink not so long ago, and we did talk a bit about our experiences – but not that much. If we’d wanted to really discuss things, we would both have attended an AA meeting together! But yes, we felt comfortable reflecting about our past, and that was all part of the preparation.’
‘I have absolutely no time whatsoever for people who are not prepared on a film set, or in the theatre, who just seem to think that they can turn up and get on with it. Preparation is everything, and it is only when you have everything ready that you can flick the ‘on’ switch, not before.’
RSNG When was the last time you were made speechless?
TH ‘I can’t tell you what but it will be something to do with my kids. Parenthood has made me see my time growing up with my Dad in a completely different way. It's opened up my eyes and things have become much clearer.’
‘When you start raising your own kids, you learn very quickly how fucking hard it is, haha! There are no guidebooks that are going to tell you how to be the perfect parent and it can be really tough. But it's also the most awesome and rewarding experience of your life.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch the trailer for Tom Hardy’s Venom…