Tom Hardy just released his new BBC/FX co-production Taboo. Hardy plays an unsavory character set in the early 1800s. In an interview with Vulture, Tom Hardy spoke about why he likes playing characters who are not heroic and what he learns from drawing pictures of his characters.
So why does Tom Hardy enjoy playing villains? He said, “The appeal for me in playing villains or baddies, or however you want to put it, is that there’s often a lot more in the way of the subtleties and complexities and paradoxes of the human condition to play with than there is in a straight lead.”
Hardy also adds that playing a villain is more active in the scene. “Things happen to them; they don’t make things happen. There’s a laziness in storytelling whereby you present the character as a blank canvas and then you throw a lot of stimulus at the character and you just follow this blank canvas through various rooms where we meet the actually interesting people. But if you have your protagonist fully faceted in ambiguity and hypocrisy and the paradox of true heinous wrongness, combined with innate nobility, well, that’s more interesting to watch.”
But, Tom Hardy explains that he also enjoys drawing pictures of his characters. He explains, “One has to have a silhouette, you know? Say I’m playing Elton John. You know what he looks like. Playing Al Capone. You know what he looks like. But what about characters we’re making up from scratch, who you don’t know what they look like? You have to create a memorable silhouette for them, too.”
Tom Hardy added, “When I was at school I was told, “Tom, when you play the prince or the king, I want to fucking see a king walk onstage before you even open your mouth. What does that look like?” Do you do it literally, with a costume, or through physicality? How do you immediately see the king? Crown? Robes? I have to find an identifier, a silhouette which immediately radiates something for me. Remember, you won’t necessarily know by their clothes that they’re the king. You can walk on in a disheveled homeless man’s outfit, but there’s something about them that radiates a nobility, something that makes you go, “This person’s a king.””