Tom Hardy is known for somewhat disappearing into the roles he plays. And like many actors before him, he’s willing to go the extra mile to put in a good performance. Losing weight, gaining weight, wearing a mask for an entire movie – Hardy has done it all. Now, though, photos have emerged of the star in character as legendary gangster Al Capone for the upcoming movie Fonzo – and it may just be his most astounding transformation yet.
Hardy is noted for being very good at playing villains and criminals – particularly real-life ones. Indeed, his breakout performance was in the 2008 film Bronson, where he plays the titular prisoner. And Hardy was seemingly committed enough to the role to gain 35 pounds in just five weeks; in the process, the star also took on an eerie resemblance to the infamous jailbird. “Tom looks more like me than I look like me,” the real Bronson would write in his diary that year.
After that, Hardy took on what would become arguably his most iconic role: Bane in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises. Once again, he pushed his body to the limit by gaining 42 pounds and becoming intensely muscled. But while the actor’s physique may have been the envy of men everywhere, the bulking-up took a toll on his body and left him to decide that he would probably never try something so drastic again.
Then, as Hardy became a bona fide A-lister, another high-profile criminal role was offered to him – and this time it was two for the price of one. That’s because he played both Reggie and Ronnie Kray – the famous twin gangsters of London – in the 2015 flick Legend. And the unusual move of portraying not one but two characters on screen seems to have paid off, as Hardy subsequently walked away with the Best Actor honor at the 2015 British Independent Film Awards.
In short, then, Hardy’s acting résumé basically shows him to have appeared as many misfits, murderers and crooks. It must be noted, though, that’s he played tormented antiheroes too, such as Heathcliff in the 2009 adaption of Wuthering Heights or Max Rockatansky in 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. Hardy specializes, it seems, in playing ignoble but all too sympathetic characters.
But perhaps there’s a reason why Hardy has gravitated towards depicting generally more unsavory individuals. You see, although Hardy was never a gangster – or, indeed, a supervillain – he did find himself on the wrong side of the law as a teenager. At the age of just 13, he was addicted to hallucinogens, and he spiraled down from there. By 17 he had been expelled from school; at that age he was also caught in possession of a stolen car and a gun and only narrowly avoided going to prison.
“I went entirely off the rails, and I’m lucky I didn’t have some terrible accident or end up in prison or dead – because that’s where I was going,” Hardy told The Guardian in 2009. “Now I know my beast, and I know how to manage it. It’s like living with a 400 lb orangutan that wants to kill me.”
Obviously, though, Hardy has since turned his life around. Now he’s an award-winning actor, a father of one and a strong supporter of a charity that helps young people escape addiction and crime. So if his portrayals of lawbreakers and villains seem particularly compelling, it’s because he’s lived some of that life himself.
But apart from his circle around the drain of serious crime, Hardy doesn’t actually have that much in common with Al Capone. After all, Capone was a ruthless man who is thought to have murdered or arranged the murders of at least 33 people. And then there’s the fact that Hardy doesn’t really resemble the legendary crime boss physically, either.
But these facts didn’t stop director Josh Trank from casting Hardy as Capone in Fonzo, a film depicting the man in his later years. At this stage of Capone’s life, the gangster is suffering from dementia and looking back on his violent past. He was 48 when he died, his mind and body destroyed from the effects of late-stage syphilis, a stroke and pneumonia.
And Hardy spoke about the role to The Daily Beast in 2017. “Al Capone was 40-something when he passed away, so he wasn’t that far off my age anyway,” he said. “And he’d lost a lot of weight before he passed because he was suffering from syphilis and deteriorating. It’s not the classic Al Capone that you necessarily envision with the silhouette.”
“I don’t want to give too much away about it, but there’s definitely a transformation with that role,” Hardy added. And indeed, when pictures were released of him in the role of Capone, the actor looked staggeringly similar to the real man. In fact, the mugshot of Hardy-as-Capone could have very easily been mistaken for the real Capone’s mugshot, such was the transformation. But how had it been achieved?
Firstly, Hardy had shaved off his hair. That’s not an uncommon thing for him to do; he went completely bald to play Bane, after all. Unfortunately, filming of Fonzo just happened to coincide with the social event of the year: the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. And when Hardy showed up to the ceremony with his bald head, the internet took notice.
Indeed, jokes were quickly fired off about Hardy having arrived to the wedding as Bane. “Tom Hardy being at the Royal Wedding makes me hope he is only speaking in his Bane voice the entire time,” came one. But no – as hilarious as that would’ve been, it was all down to the Fonzo filming schedule. And Hardy had more to come.
Capone’s nickname, of course, was “Scarface” – a moniker he despised, but one the press loved. And as that sobriquet suggests, the mobster had several scars across his face; to portray Capone effectively, then, Hardy needed to be similarly marked. So, understandably, the star is seen bearing prosthetic scars in the pictures chronicling the making of the movie that Hardy shared to his Instagram.
What’s more, the media reaction to the images of Hardy as Capone was positive. Indeed, a number of outlets described Hardy as being “unrecognizable” in the shots; clearly, Fonzo had an excellent make-up team on board. And the supporting cast looked good too, including as it does Linda Cardellini, Kyle McLachlan and Hardy’s Dunkirk co-star Jack Lowden.
However, there were also some doubts about the film. Why? Well, it’s the first movie that Josh Trank had been given to direct since 2015’s Fantastic Four – and that particular superhero flick had been an utter disaster on several fronts. Not only had it received terrible reviews, but Trank also caused controversy by blaming the studio for recutting the film.
And while Fonzo could ultimately be a comeback for Trank, not everyone is optimistic that will be the case. “Whether Trank can really find his way out of directorial purgatory will mostly remain up in the air until the movie’s release, which is not an ideal place to be in the hype-driven film industry of today,” website Film School Rejects wrote after news of the director’s hiring had emerged.
But if there’s anyone in Hollywood who knows the importance of second chances, it’s Hardy. And he’s been very careful to control his addiction issues when faced with the pressures of Hollywood. “I love what I do, but it’s driven by a fear of not being able to do it,” the star said during a charity interview with the Daily Mirror in 2014. “I have to watch that drive. It doesn’t matter how well I am doing, I’m only that far away from f**king it all up.”
Still, Hardy’s past is very much behind him now, meaning he can look forward to the future. In addition to Fonzo, he has many films coming up: the Spider-Man spinoff Venom and a Don McCullin biopic among others. Furthermore, his portrayal of Capone will likely meet with acclaim if the first pictures are anything to go by.