DOU­BLE PER­SONA

Tom Hardy breaks new ground in Venom

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Tom Hardy may have been born to play a half-man, half-alien in Marvel Comics’ Venom

Tom Hardy could play the hero, though what we like best is when he plays the vil­lain. Or at a more in­ter­est­ing cross-sec­tion be­tween the two: the anti-hero.

In The Dark Knight Rises, he’s Bane, a sadis­tic mega­lo­ma­niac who wants to teach hu­mankind a les­son. In Law­less, he’s a rough-hewn boot­leg­ger in the De­pres­sion Era. In The Revenant, he’s a ruth­less, amoral traitor, a worse en­emy to Leonardo DiCaprio’s char­ac­ter than that rav­en­ous griz­zly bear. In Child 44, he’s a “sen­ti­men­tal brute”, as one critic de­scribes his char­ac­ter, a mil­i­tary in­ves­ti­ga­tor prob­ing child killings. In Mad Max:

Fury Road, he’s Max, the mad­man of the fu­tur­is­tic desert who ends up fight­ing along­side a bunch of fe­male war­riors. And in his big break in 2008, he plays a vi­o­lent con­vict in Bron­son, an in­de­pen­dent film that ex­plores the ex­u­ber­ance and down­sides of machismo.

All things con­sid­ered, the big, burly Brit is per­fect to play Venom.

In the new comic book adap­ta­tion, which opened in cin­e­mas on Thurs­day, Hardy plays an in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ist whose body is in­vaded by an alien with vi­o­lent in­stincts who feeds on a diet of hu­man flesh. Thus those toothy fangs and a long, pink, vul­gar tongue.

It is a darker tale from the Marvel Comics su­per­hero uni­verse than what au­di­ences have seen in re­cent films.

“His ver­sion of do­ing good is just eat­ing,” Hardy said of Venom. “The world is an all-you-can-eat buf­fet, and hu­man be­ings are on the menu, so that’s not great for hu­man­ity as your hero.”

The story is a Jekyll-and-Hyde tale where Hardy’s jour­nal­ist char­ac­ter, Ed­die Brock, tries to keep Venom’s bad be­hav­iour un­der con­trol. Venom is be­ing re­leased by Sony Pic­tures, which owns rights to sev­eral Marvel char­ac­ters that are not owned by Dis­ney.

Hardy said Venom has sim­i­lar­i­ties to sev­eral clas­sic mon­ster movies.

“There’s an el­e­ment of orig­i­nal Ghost­busters, a slightly

80s retro vibe to it, which I en­joyed, and a bit of Teen Wolf and Amer­i­can Were­wolf In Lon­don vibe to it,” Hardy said.

Venom is a spin-off from the Spi­der-Man fran­chise. The char­ac­ter was first glimpsed in Spi­der-Man 3, and Sony de­cided to de­velop it into a full movie.

Venom co-stars fel­low Bri­tish ac­tor Riz Ahmed as vil­lain­ous cor­po­ra­tion owner Carl­ton Drake and Michelle Wil­liams as Brock’s for­mer girl­friend.

Venom is one of the most pop­u­lar char­ac­ters in Marvel history be­cause he’s dan­ger­ous, scary and un­pre­dictable, his dark wit is matched only by his predilec­tion for vi­o­lence, and it’s all wrapped up into a pack­age with huge, white eyes, and a mouth full of ra­zor-sharp teeth.

At the cen­tre of Venom is not one but two anti-he­roes in one body: Ed­die, the ego-driven, ob­ses­sive re­porter driven to ex­pose the pow­er­ful and cor­rupt — and Venom, the chill­ing alien sym­biote with superpowers. To­gether, they are ca­pa­ble of any­thing — a ter­ri­fy­ing propo­si­tion as Venom is fu­elled by rage.

When di­rec­tor Ruben Fleis­cher — a Sony Pic­tures suc­cess story with his cult hit Zom­bieland — took the helm as Venom’s di­rec­tor, the pro­duc­ers knew they had some­one with a full grip on how Marvel’s most badass char­ac­ter could make for a rip-roar­ing movie un­like any other. But the Venom film­mak­ers also re­alised that it would take a tal­ented ac­tor to strad­dle both the per­son­al­i­ties of Venom and Ed­die Brock.

They got more than they hoped for when crit­i­cally ac­claimed Hardy — the man be­hind some of the most com­pli­cated char­ac­ters in mod­ern film — signed on to star.

Fleis­cher sees Hardy as a man of the mo­ment, an ac­tor of his time. “Tom is one of the all-time great ac­tors, just so in­her­ently tal­ented and cap­ti­vat­ing on film. He’s a real movie star, and he is in his prime right now, fir­ing on all cylin­ders, and brings so 10 much to ev­ery look, ev­ery mo­ment, ev­ery de­tail, ev­ery word,” said the di­rec­tor.

“He’s just re­ally in­spir­ing. And I think ev­ery­body on the crew is just fully in­vested in how he’s cho­sen to re­alise Ed­die Brock. And on top of all that, Tom is hilarious, and that was ex­actly what we needed to bring Venom to life for movie­go­ers.”

Hardy says that the idea of sym­bio­sis — need­ing each other to sur­vive — is built into the char­ac­ters of Ed­die and Venom. “There was a lot of range to play within the psy­cho­log­i­cal dy­nam­ics of this su­per­hero movie,” he says. “And I found that to be ex­cit­ing be­cause it is multi-per­son­al­ity; one is a hu­man char­ac­ter and the other is an alien. I get to play op­po­site a 7ft-tall crea­ture. And Ed­die Brock has to han­dle that liv­ing in­side him. The two of them have a union in one. ‘We are Venom’, is their mantra.

“There’s a tragic clown el­e­ment, which I find funny and is har­mo­nious with some of the work that I like to do,” Hardy said in an in­ter­view. “There’s some­thing funny about the cir­cum­stances of hav­ing a gift but it’s a tragic gift. It’s a su­per­power you don’t re­ally want, but at the same time, you love it. It makes you feel spe­cial. He’s a reluc­tant hero and an anti-hero.”

And per­haps there’s a much sim­pler rea­son the ac­tor is ex­cited about the role: “Venom is cool, man. He’s a badass!”

The star, who made his name in Lon­don theatre be­fore gain­ing at­ten­tion in his film role as a vi­o­lent con­vict in Bron­son, said he also re­ceived in­put from his 10-year-old son on how to play the role.

“My son’s a mas­sive fan of Marvel and Venom, and he was very clear about what I can and can’t do,” Hardy said, adding “It’s very odd be­ing told what to do by your son who’s 10 and him be­ing right.”

The world is an all-you­can-eat buf­fet, and hu­man be­ings are on the menu

A scene from Venom.

Michelle Wil­liams, left, and Tom Hardy in a scene from Venom.

Tom Hardy in a scene from Mad Max: Fury Road.

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