Are we entering a new golden age for the British character actor? It certainly feels that way. There’s a new British invasion with homegrown thesps infiltrating all facets of American film and TV culture. It can only be applauded.
What’s more, the vanguard is being spearheaded not by middle-aged veterans but by fresh-faced boys such as Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch and Tom Hardy. It is Hardy who is the dark horse. And it is Hardy who may yet eclipse his contemporaries via a string of high-profile movies set to explode onto screens in the next two years.
Rumbling noisily into cinemas in 2015 is Mad Max: Fury Road with Hardy donning Mel Gibson’s tattered leathers as the road warrior of the post-apocalyptic Australian wastes.
He’s also signed to play Elton John in Rocketman, a new biopic of the volatile entertainer with the big voice.
But perhaps the most exciting news is that the 36-year-old Londoner is being lined up to play the Kray twins in a drama about their rise to power in the London underworld of the 1960s.
Yes, you read that correctly: Hardy is to tackle both Reggie and his psychotic brother, Ronnie, in a film that will pick apart their violent reign as the capital’s crime kingpins.
Cue fast cars, flash suits, nightclubs, dollybirds, famous pals (Judy Garland, Barbara Windsor), the murders of Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie and George Cornell, and dogged coppers such as Nipper Read.
It’s an outlandish concept but if any of the current crop of British actors can handle the double-whammy of the killer Krays, it’s Tom Hardy.
Unlike Hiddleston with his comic book fame and Cumberbatch, who skips nimbly from period fare to fast-talking TV detectives and interstellar villains, Hardy has yet to emerge as a marquee name in his own right – at least in Hollywood terms.
Yet in everything from Band of Brothers and Black Hawk Down to Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Lawless he has made an impact. And the likelihood is that he may well outlast his fellows.
If Hiddleston and Cumberbatch enjoy a touch of the debonair English stars of the past then Hardy is like Trevor Howard – reliable and quietly intimidating.
In Child 44, a combination of serial killer thriller and detective drama set in the USSR at the time of Stalin, Hardy joins an impressive cast that includes Gary Oldman, Noomi Rapace, Vincent Cassel, Dev Patel, Paddy Considine and new RoboCop Joel Kinnaman. It’s what he’s good at – joining an ensemble only to steal scenes, divert attention from the leads and otherwise stand out. He may find that hard to do with Oldman, his Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy co-star, but doubtless he’ll find a way.
The Kray picture is being written by Brian Helgeland, the scribe behind Mystic River and LA Confidential. It’s an audacious concept to use one actor for both brothers but given the gimmickry of Peter Medak’s 1990 version – with twin brothers Gary and Martin Kemp as Ronnie and Reggie – Hardy and Helgeland are already onto a winner.