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Bud­ding bro­mance: Tom with Bill Nighy, above, Ralph Fi­ennes, right, and Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch, far right Things quickly got star­rier as Tom’s act­ing ca­reer took off. In 1996 he formed a close bond with Ralph Fi­ennes after they met back­stage at the Almeida The­atre, North Lon­don. Ralph re­ports he was im­me­di­ately won over by Tom’s ef­fu­sive wit, claim­ing, ‘When peo­ple meet Tom for the first time, he quickly turns on the charm. He can have a room in stitches.’ Two years later, Liam Nee­son be­came a good friend after they ap­peared on stage in (at the time, one re­viewer claimed Tom was ‘too sexy for his size’).

Tom con­tin­ues to at­tract an ad­mir­ing cir­cle of A-lis­ters, in­clud­ing Bill Nighy (they’ve starred in five films to­gether, with Bill claim­ing Tom’s work is ‘so so­phis­ti­cated that you can’t see the act­ing’) and Bene­dict Cum­ber­batch after they per­formed at lit­er­ary event last Novem­ber. So­cial as­cent started early thanks to a pri­vate ed­u­ca­tion at Abing­don school along­side the mem­bers of Ra­dio­head, who Tom drafted in for a char­ity event in 2004. At Cam­bridge Univer­sity, he formed a close friend­ship with the fu­ture James Bond di­rec­tor Sam Men­des, who cast him in sev­eral plays along­side so­cial an­thro­pol­ogy stu­dent Nick Clegg. Tom and the for­mer deputy PM starred to­gether in Sam’s 1988 ver­sion of and re­main friends (they even share a god­child).

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