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More than a decade ago, there was a crisis on the set of Bronson, the crime drama starring a then-unknown Tom Hardy. An actor had dropped out at the last minute, leaving Hardy without a scene partner for a now-signature moment in the 2008 film.
The Bronson team scrambled to find a solution, and settled on a hail mary of an idea: what if Hardy just played both roles at the same time?
“He got those pages five to ten minutes before he shot that scene, and it’s all one take,” recalls Kelly Marcel, who worked as a script editor on Bronson. “I was like, ‘Oh my God. This is my favorite actor in the world. You can write anything for him and he can do it.”
Years later, Hardy continues to juggle multiple roles as both Eddie Brock and Venom in Venom: Let There Be Carnage (Oct. 1). The film also sees him officially add a new role to his repertoire. For the first time on a feature film, Hardy has received a story by credit, sharing it with Marcel, who penned the script and produced alongside the leading man.
Let There Be Carnage comes three years after the first Venom introduced audiences to struggling journalist Eddie Brock and the alien symbiote Venom. Critics didn’t particularly like the film, but audiences connected with Hardy’s all-in performance and Venom‘s subversive humor. Venom overperformed with a massive $856 million globally and launched the Sony Pictures Universe of Marvel Characters, which will soon include Jared Leto’s Morbius (Jan. 28) as well.
At the 2018 Venom premiere, Hardy and Marcel approached Sony executives with an idea for a sequel, and they got the go-ahead to hash out a story together. They looked at the complaints from critics and examined what audiences liked about the first one, too.
“A lot of the work then is done for you as an actor, because you are living with the character as my partner is writing it,” Hardy says of the process. “I’m just there figuring out solutions with her.”
Next, they went into formally pitch the studio executives, with Hardy partially acting it out.
“He can do Eddie talking to Venom live,” notes Marcel. “He can switch voice to voice and character to character that fast, as if we are having a conversation. It is quite mind-blowing.”
When it came time to find a director, Hardy reached out to filmmaker Andy Serkis, whom he’d spoken to about the first film when it seemed that motion capture technology might be utilized to bring Venom to life. (Venom ultimately did not go the mocap route). Serkis was intrigued, and recognized in Hardy an actor as immersed in a character as Serkis had become with roles such as Caesar in the Planet of the Apes trilogy and Gollum in the Lord of the Rings films.
“My job was then to catch that gold that he was basically throwing out all over the place,” says Serkis.
On the set, Hardy would record his lines as Venom just before a scene, and then wear an earpiece so he could act opposite himself as Eddie Brock. If needed, Marcel would tweak lines on the fly and shout them out, giving the big-budget film a nimble feel to it.
“He has an agility that I’ve just never seen,” notes producer Hutch Parker, also known for Logan and a number of X-Men films. “The first time I saw him do it, I remember turning to Kelly. ‘I can’t believe what I’ve witnessed. I’ve never seen anything even remotely like this.’ It breathes energy and dynamism into the filmmaking that you don’t generally get on really big films.”
Hardy is the latest A-lister to take a hands-on approach when it comes to the direction of their franchises. Paul Rudd was among the screenwriters of Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) while Ryan Reynolds co-wrote Deadpool 2 and is known to do uncredited work on other films, taking a pass on his latest hit Free Guy with scribe Matthew Lieberman.
“I’m deeply invested in this particular franchise,” says Hardy. “If it’s successful, there is another one to do.”
Woody Harrelson joins the sequel as serial killer Cletus Kasady, who gains his own symbiote to become the villain Carnage. He recalls Hardy being around for night shoots even when he wasn’t on the call sheet.
“He’s not even acting in it, and he’s there the entire night,” says Harrelson. “He really cared and he really put his heart into it.”
Even before getting a story by credit on Let There Be Carnage, Hardy was known to be hands-on with story on projects such as Mad Max: Fury Road (2015). In the first Venom, one of the more celebrated scenes was a last-minute Hardy pitch. It saw Eddie Brock jump into a restaurant’s lobster tank and chow down. This time around, Hardy and Marcel were able to plan those ideas earlier.
“The lobster tank conversation was prior to us even getting on the floor filming this time,” says Hardy. “We maxed out on as many opportunities to enjoy the set and the sandbox that was laid down as a team.”
As for Marcel, she’s still finding new ways to utilize Hardy’s particular set of skills.
“The lobster day was utter, utter chaos,” says Marcel. “You’ll find four or five of those in this movie. The movie clings to that feeling of joy and fun and madness.”
—Tiffany Taylor contributed reporting.
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