This past week saw the release of the Al Capone biopic Capone, but those looking for a grim, gritty story of how the notorious gangster rose to power in Chicago may be sorely disappointed — the film instead depicts an aging Capone who luxuriates in his Florida estate and has all but lost his memory (as well as control of his bowels).
At the center of this story, hiding behind several layers of prostheses and makeup, is one of the biggest movie stars in the world: Tom Hardy.
Hardy’s been recognized by critics and awards bodies as one of the brightest leading men of his generation, but despite a series of acclaimed performances, his often strange vocal choices have become a running internet joke.
Between his nearly indiscernible mumbling as Batman nemesis Bane to his much parodied Brooklyn accent in Venom, Hardy’s strange accents often dominate the conversation around his films. Right after Capone’s trailer was dropped online, fans were eager to voice their enthusiasm and skepticism about the actor’s latest silly voice.
Capone is the most recent in a series of idiosyncratic character roles in which Hardy is largely unintelligible. Whether his face is covered with a mask, he’s trying a new peculiar accent or he’s mumbling under his breath, it’s always clear Hardy is saying something with conviction — it’s just that most of the time we have no idea what that is.
It’s quite impressive that one of today’s greatest living actors seems to be swinging for the fences with each performance, and Hardy’s been the star of some of the best films of the past couple decades. So if you’re looking to pop in a Tom Hardy movie but are wondering whether or not you should turn on the subtitles, we’ve conveniently ranked the weirdest Hardy performances by how hard it is to understand what he’s saying.
We’ll start with one of the easiest performances to understand: Locke requires Hardy to be coherent, because he’s talking the entire time. This 2013 chamber piece takes place entirely within the interior of a car and follows Hardy as the titular Ivan Locke, a construction foreman who attempts to save his job and marriage over the course of a series of phone calls on his commute from Birmingham to London. Despite a somewhat shaky Welsh accent, this is arguably the Hardy performance with the least vocal gymnastics.
The weirdest line: “Do it for the piece of sky we are stealing with our building. You do it for the air that will be displaced, and most of all, you do it for the fucking concrete. Because it is delicate as blood.”
9. Black Hawk Down
Hardy’s first film role was as one of the many ensemble players in Ridley Scott’s war epic Black Hawk Down. It has an ensemble cast with Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremmer, Tom Sizemore, Hugh Dancy, Ioan Gruffudd, Jason Isaacs, Sam Shepard, Eric Bana, William Fichtner, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Ty Burrell, and Jeremy Piven, and it’s easy to lose track of Hardy within the sea of white dudes. This is the rare performance where it’s hard NOT to listen to Hardy; after an explosion causes Ewen Bremmer’s character Nelson, the partner of Hardy’s Twombly, to lose his hearing, Hardy proceeds to shout his dialogue for the rest of the film.
The weirdest line: “Oh, he's deaf. My fault.”
Just one year before he broke Batman’s back in The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy got jacked to star in the instant sports classic Warrior. The film follows two estranged brothers, played by Hardy and Joel Edgerton, who rise through the ranks of an intense mixed martial arts competition and find themselves squaring off. It’s fairly easy to understand what Hardy’s saying, but you may find yourself reaching for the rewind button because his character spends more time brooding than he does speaking, save for a few intimate conversations with his father, played by Nick Nolte.
The weirdest line: “Here's a cup, why don't you go buy some more of your shitty tapes, and you go back to the room, and you listen to some more fish stories that no one gives a shit about.”
7. The Revenant
After years of being snubbed, Hardy received his first and only Oscar nomination for his villainous turn as John Fitzgerald in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s masterpiece The Revenant. Paired once again with his Inception co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, Hardy plays the cowardly bear trapper who kills Leo’s son and leaves him for dead, prompting the 150-minute odyssey of revenge. Hardy’s vaguely Philly-sounding, slightly Southern and thoroughly sinister accent was reportedly based on Tom Berenger in Platoon. It’s fairly easy to discern any of Fitzgerald’s villainous taunts, but when he launches into a monologue about how his father’s experience as a Texas Ranger shaped his understanding of religion, you may want to find a PDF of the screenplay to keep up.
The weirdest line: “And it turns out that God ... he's a squirrel. Yeah. A big, old meaty one. 'I found God,' he used to say. 'And while sitting there and basking in the glory and sublimity of mercy... I shot and ate that son of a bitch.'”
This Prohibition Era crime drama sees Hardy, Shia Labeouf and Jason Clarke as a group of brothers who operate a bootlegging business, which attracts the attention of a particularly sadistic local law enforcement officer (Guy Pearce). Hardy, a London native, somewhat struggles to deliver a passable Virginia accent, but he’s mostly understandable here, up until the point his character has his throat slashed halfway through the story, transforming his voice into a raspy whisper.
The weirdest line: “So you wanna get into this racket ... but I see you sitting there looking like somebody's punching bag. So I ask you, what do you intend to do now?”
In Dunkirk, Hardy’s penchant for obscuring his own face rose to new heights (literally, as he stars as the Spitfire pilot Farrier during the fateful World War II battle). This was Hardy’s third collaboration with writer/director Christopher Nolan, whose constant experimentation with sound mixing and dubbing has inspired both praise and derision throughout the course of his career. Hardy has about 10 lines over the course of the entire film, and most of them are unintelligible thanks to the muffling of his flight mask and the overbearing aerial battle that surrounds him.
The weirdest line: “I’m on him.” (Not particularly weird, but there were slim pickings for this one)
4. Star Trek: Nemesis
By the early 21st century, the Star Trek film franchise had petered out with a series of box office disappointments, as the cast of The Next Generation failed to generate the same fanfare as the films starring original cast members William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. The last film to star Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Picard was memorable to say the very least, because Star Trek: Nemesis is absolutely bonkers. Hardy, then an unknown, plays the film’s main antagonist Sinzon, a young clone of Picard who intends to replace him and lead the Reman alien race to overthrow the Federation. Compared with the earlier Trek films, which attempted to incorporate actual scientific principles and clever storytelling into the series, Nemesis is pretty much nonstop action and includes a sequence in which Shinzon uses his psychic powers to invade the mind of the U.S.S. Enterprise’s Deanna Troi. Hardy’s sniveling vocal performance isn’t hard to understand, but due to the nonsensical sci-fi mumbo jumbo of the script, you’d be hard pressed to know what he’s actually talking about.
The weirdest line: “Come to dinner, tomorrow on Romulus. Just the two of us. Or should I say ... just the one of us?”
3. Mad Max: Fury Road
Commonly cited as the “Citizen Kane of action movies,” Mad Max: Fury Road picked up 30 years after 1985’s Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome and replaced Mel Gibson with Hardy (a swap that we’d take for pretty much anything). Ironically, though Hardy is the title character, he plays second banana to Charlize Theron’s scene-stealing Imperator Furiosa, the fearless warlord who rescues a group of young women from the evil Immortan Joe and transports them to safety. Those familiar with the Mad Max franchise will know that Max Rockatansky isn’t the most verbose character, and that tradition continues with Fury Road. Hardy’s dialogue mostly consists of grunts and groans.
The weirdest line: “You know, hope is a mistake. If you can't fix what's broken, you'll, uh... you'll go insane.
The 2015 gangster epic Legend ranks high on our list because it features not just one, but two completely wacky Hardy performances. Hardy stars as the identical Kray Twins, Ronald and Reginald, two celebrity mobsters who ruled the East London scene in the 1960s. The performances fall on opposite sides of the spectrum: Reggie is a smooth operator and complete charmer who first appears wooing Emily Browning in a sequence that could’ve been lifted from Say Anything, and Ronald is a one-man mob who brawls through countless British character actors and even sings impromptu karaoke at one point. A sequence when the two brothers square off and shout obscure British slang terms at each other may rank among the most confusing fight scenes in cinematic history.
The weirdest line (as Reggie): “I'm a club owner. You know what I mean? I can pick a nice model, all right, in a nice color, but I'm not very good at anything else. I'm not a mechanic, am I? I'm more of a... a gangster.”
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The weirdest line (as Ronald): “...It's a fucking rolling pin. What are you, Fanny Craddock? What are you doing with that? Gonna bake me a cake? Sing me a song whilst I blow out me fucking candles? I come here for a fucking shootout. A proper shootout, with some proper men. Like Colonel Custer and Geronimo. You ever heard of them? No, cause you're too busy in your pinny baking fucking fairy cakes, weren't ya?”
1. The Dark Knight Rises
Hardy was facing an uphill battle with The Dark Knight Rises. Not only was he co-starring as the main antagonist in the follow-up to the phenomenon that was The Dark Knight, but he had to deliver a performance worthy of Heath Ledger’s iconic turn as the Joker. Compared to the Joker, who terrorized Gotham City with his psychological mind games, Hardy’s Bane was a villain of brute force who breaks Batman’s back and takes charge of the city’s criminal population. Bane’s elaborate plan involves hiding secret nuclear devices throughout the city, leaving Bruce Wayne to die in a prison halfway across the world, revealing Harvey Dent’s crimes to the city population via megaphone, and blowing up a football field right after a young boy sings the national anthem (in case you didn’t recognize the symbolism).
Hardy’s performance is absolutely ridiculous in the most satisfying way. Between crashing the Gotham stock exchange to stealing Bruce Wayne’s fingerprints, Bane delivers a series of incredible monologues that combine the philosophies of the Occupy Wall Street movement, Charles Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities and Looney Tunes’s Daffy Duck. Bane is his own hype man, but it’s also almost impossible to discern one philosophical tirade from another thanks to the strange mixing of the voice. The strange muffling was so incomprehensible that at one point, the film’s audio was remixed after negative reactions to a preview screening of the prologue.
Either way, it’s certainly one of Hardy’s most iconic performances and perhaps the film that sealed the deal on the type of uncompromising actor that he would become. He’s unafraid to take chances, and as Bane says, “Theatricality and deception are powerful agents to the uninitiated ... but we are initiated!”
The weirdest line: “You think darkness is your ally? But you merely adopted the dark — I was born in it! Molded by it! I didn't see the light until I was already a man, by then it was nothing to me but blinding!”