By Emme Hall , CNN Written by
It has been nearly a decade since British actor Tom Hardy appeared in a new movie, but he will appear in ’71 (in theaters September 21), an action thriller based on fact.
Adapted from a 2007 novel by Guy de Maupassant, the film follows Tommy Cooper’s real-life role as an English soldier in Belfast in the early 1960s and shows the horrifying nature of life as a prison guard.
Actor Tom Hardy has been called a new generation’s version of Tony Soprano and he tells CNN’s Matt Frei he’s “that bloke from the first trilogy.”
Tom Hardy’s character is a prison guard. Credit: Matt Elias/Universal Pictures
Far from an amateur actor, it was de Maupassant’s novel that introduced Hardy to director Yann Demange and the project was developed with Hardy’s help, convinced of the need to stay true to the source material.
It’s been a long journey from the hotel elevator where Hardy met Demange in 2002, until last year when ’71 won the audience award at the Cannes Film Festival.
“I’ve been on the other side of the camera a lot in my life, ‘Harry Brown’ and ‘Taboo’, but I’ve only had the chance to be involved in something like this now with a director I completely trust,” Hardy said at a press conference in the aftermath of the awards ceremony.
“I’m aware the film has been years in the making, but this last year has been more than just creating an incredible story, I’m making an incredible film for what it is.”
Hardy said he still struggles to believe his dramatic transformation into Cooper.
“I couldn’t be more happy with the performance that I’ve given to date,” Hardy said. “Tom Hardy is one of those actors who you think ‘oh I could see him playing a prison guard’ and he slips from man to man and it’s shocking. I suppose I’m used to seeing him in work shoes doing comedy, but I can’t help but be a bit shocked on a day-to-day basis.”
While his new film character was a tricky act to pull off, the ‘Dark Knight Rises’ actor insisted he “wasn’t faking it.”
“I’m a person who has a very strong work ethic and a lot of faith in my skills and even though it was one of the hardest things I’ve done, I believed that there was something in there that would work,” Hardy said.
Ireland, who is a qualified tour guide, was named Miss Golden Globe 2014 and was on hand at the historic Caledonian Hotel in Edinburgh to help promote the film.
Once she’d made sure she had her passport and sat down, de Maupassant’s 1935 novella — which details Cooper’s wacky day-to-day existence inside H-Blocks in Belfast — was read by Freeman.
“She (Ireland) said she had never read it,” Hardy recalled. “So this is something that we’re already cutting but it was a real watershed moment.”
Demange meanwhile explained that Ireland had quite a lot to do.
“She did go through quite a lot of the book which was fascinating,” he said. “She’s done some pretty deep research, so I’ve taken quite a bit of guidance from her and then she’s done a brilliant job with the picture.”
Demange says the film was shot over a number of days around Europe, but spends the bulk of the time inside H-Blocks with Hardy.
Tom Hardy with Tom Hardy. Credit: Matt Elias/Universal Pictures
“Tom did five weeks full time (of shooting) and I gave Tom longer breaks between scenes, but we made sure we would do a scene every morning and I kind of had to run the film on my own at times, without any help from the actors.”
Hardy who’s been working constantly since his 2009 breakthrough in movies like “The Dark Knight” (which attracted a fervent fanbase and “Minority Report” a year later) has made a career out of finding both the comedy and drama and he’s always appeared to need a challenge.
“Every character has its own narrative. Even though the film has a real narrative, Tom and I were constantly making changes, and it’s a sort of hybrid of my world and Guy de Maupassant’s work,” Hardy said.
Demange and Hardy both believe Hardy’s success on screen is tied directly to his ability to tap into his true self and, in spite of his outsized style, Demange believes he is an actor in search of a subject.
“He started off telling jokes and playing around with accents but now he wants to delve deeper into characters that