Filming on producer Lawrence Bender’s Al Capone biopic Fonzo is now underway, but it’s not the first time that rising star Tom Hardy has taken on the role of a tough guy who breaks the law for a living. When Lawrence Bender and director Josh Trank cast Hardy in the role, they relied on his long history in the blood-and-bullets genre to bring the notorious mobster to life, in a story about the gangster’s final days before death.
That seems like a good reason to take a look back on Hardy’s criminal history playing lawbreakers, both real and imagined:
LAYER CAKE 
It’s early in Tom Hardy’s filmography, so he has only a small part in this Matthew Vaughn crime thriller, as a Cambridge University college graduate who now cooks narcotics for a living. Daniel Craig, soon to be James Bond, plays a protagonist never named in the film (the script lists him as “XXXX”), and the movie never explains why it’s called “Layer Cake”, or why the press materials leetspeak it as “L4YER CAK3”, when it’s got nothing to do with hacking or computers. Nevertheless, a fine start to Tom Hardy’s crime career.
Madonna’s husband Guy Richie, himself no stranger to street crime sagas, directs an all-star cast that includes U.K. knockaround guys like Tom Wilkinson, Gerard Butler and Idris Elba, with a roster of characters featuring names like Mumbles, Cookie, One-Two and Johnny Quid. Hardy plays a crook named Handsome Bob in a gang called “The Wild Bunch” — both aptly monikered, if we must say so. Coincidentally, Wilkinson and Hardy both did tours as Batman adversaries in separate Christopher Nolan movies, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises (see below), respectively.
Hardy’s first headlining role as a crook, Bronson spins the semi-fictional tale of one of the United Kingdom’s most dangerous killers, who began life as part of a respectable middle-class family before becoming a bare-knuckle prizefighter and eventually an underworld terror. So fearsome was his brutality that he spent most of his adult life in solitary confinement, and Hardy himself is nearly unrecognizable in the part, flashing a skinned head and handlebar mustache like some twisted version of a circus strongman.
Amid the sci-fi thrills of Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending dream theater Inception, it’s easy to forget that at its heart the story is about a gang of criminals-for-hire who steal memories for a living. Hardy plays Eames, a “forger” who specializes in impersonating important figures in a target’s dreams. Led by the star power of Hollywood luminary Leonardo DiCaprio in the film’s lead role of Cobb, the movie became Hardy’s first real over-the-top blockbuster hit, grossing more than $828 million worldwide, making dozens of film critic year-end Top-10 lists and earning eight Academy Award nominations — including Best Picture — along with four Oscar wins. Its success catapulted Hardy into the stratosphere of the movie industry’s hot “go to” actors.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES 
Ah yes, that voice. With key parts of his face hidden behind a mask, Tom Hardy’s portrayal of Bane, a 1990s latecomer to the Batman rogue’s gallery of supervillains, put his signature stamp on a character who in the comics is little more than a drug-engorged muscleman. It’s actually the second filmed portrayal of Bane, after the Joel Schumacher-helmed catastrophe Batman And Robin; and the fact that nobody even recalls stuntman and wrestler Robert “Jeep” Swenson’s silent portrayal of the villain — who famously snapped Batman’s spine in the celebrated comic book storyline Knightfall — demonstrates how distinctly Hardy’s sneering vocal performance is now remembered.
The name sort of gives it away, doesn’t it? This western — written by Australian “gothfather” rocker Nick Cave, with music by Cave and comic book uber-scribe Grant Morrison — screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and received a nomination for the fest’s prestigious Palm D’Or (best picture) award. Hardy plays one of three bootlegging brothers, along with Zero Dark Thirty‘s Jason Clarke and Shia LaBeouf of Transformers fame, whose Prohibition-era moonshine business runs afoul of a corrupt deputy, played by Emmy Award-winning Guy Pearce. Rounding out the stellar cast is Clarke’s Zero Dark Thirty co-star Jessica Chastain, twice nominated for Oscars for her work in that film (as lead actress) and The Help (for her supporting role).
Thought simply playing one gangster per movie wasn’t enough? Thanks to the magical special effects wizardry of tinseltown, Tom Hardy in Legend plays two: Famed mobster twins Ronnie and Reggie Kray, known as “The Kray Brothers”, whose gruesome careers as top dogs in the London criminal underground led to a pile of murder victims and life sentences for both twins. Directed by Brian Helgeland of Mystic River and L.A. Confidential fame (for which he won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay), this film is actually not the movie industry’s first stab at portraying the pair: the eponymously titled The Krays — played by real-life brothers (though not twins) Martin and Gary Kemp of the new romantics band Spandau Ballet — earned equally positive notices back in 1990, including several award accolades, both nominations and wins, to its credit.
FONZO [in production]
And, finally, we come to Lawrence Bender’s Fonzo, the Alphonse “Fonzo” Capone biopic that chronicles not the gangster’s Chicago boss heyday, nor his eight-year tax evasion prison stretch, but rather his slide into syphilitic dementia after his release from custody on humanitarian grounds shortly before his death at age 48. When Lawrence Bender offered Hardy the part, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse: not only would he be playing the most notorious mob boss of all, but Bender had built an entire career producing celebrated gangster films with his partner in crime, director Quentin Tarantino, including such oeuvre-defining entries as the Academy Award-nominated Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown, and the celebrated cult hit Reservoir Dogs. Fonzo is slated for a late-2018 release.
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