We're not hearing a lot from Tom Hardy these days.
As Tommy Conlon in 2011's Warrior, he was a man of more punches than words. In extended clips released from the much-anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy, as the villain Bane, speaks through a mouth-muzzling mask.
In the Prohibition-era drama Lawless, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival, Hardy takes on strong, silent bootlegger Forrest Bondurant.
"These characters are difficult to play because I have a very busy head," Hardy says. "I have inside voices that I have learned to contain."
Fortunately for Hardy, 34, there are many others eager to speak for him. At the Cannes news conference after the movie, Hardy earned comparisons to Marlon Brando because of his ability to lose himself in his characters.
"I hate to use the word 'Brando,' but he has more excitement on-screen than any new actors in the last 10 years," says Guy Pearce, who faces off against Hardy as a corrupt special agent in Lawless. "There's this body and weight of a boxer, and yet the sensitivity of a butterfly surgeon. It's incredible to watch."
In Lawless, Hardy plays one of three brothers (alongside Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke) in a Franklin County, Va., bootlegging gang. The movie is based on the historical novel The Wettest County in the World. Hardy — who was bulking up to play Bane when he shot the movie — was much larger than the book's Bondurant, a survivor of the Spanish flu.
But he captured Bondurant's measured silence ("he'll speak when he must," Hardy says), his explosive violence and the subtle emotional whirlwind that takes place when the beautiful Maggie (Jessica Chastain) enters his world.
"He's genuinely the 45-year-old virgin who then has these affections," Hardy says. "It throws his entire life in disarray."
For Hardy, things couldn't be more sorted out professionally. Besides Lawless (opening in September in the USA) and The Dark Knight Rises (July 20), he's about to begin work as Max in Mad Max: Fury Road.
That explains the extensive beard he strokes as he's talking.
"There are not a lot of razors out there in that world," he says. "I'm at least going to show up on set with a beard and say (to director George Miller), 'Do you want me to shave this?' I've been in the post-apocalyptic thinking for the past six months."
He also has a slate of future projects, including an Al Capone biopic.
"It's an incredible harvest of work," he says. "I'm incredibly lucky."
The upswing has its downsides. Hardy does not love the PR game. "I hate publicists and publicity," he scoffs. "But I love the people." And he would much rather be working than walking a glitzy red carpet.
"I like to be other people, not me," he says. "And when you're on the red carpet, it's like, 'Here's Tom Hardy.' I don't want to be me. That's why I play other people."
But at the Lawless world premiere in Cannes, with his parents and fiancée Charlotte Riley at his side, Hardy had a revelation.
"It hit me. This is what movie stars do — what Shia and these guys do. I felt like a guilty perpetrator because I realized I am also here. So it made me think I must be an actor being celebrated for a hot minute. But it will be gone tomorrow.
"Anyway, moving on," he adds. "I'll get on with the work."