Snubbed For: “Bronson,” “Warrior,” “Locke”
There’s no point to dress things up here, the fact that Tom Hardy does not have an Oscar nomination to date is baffling, if not just flat out insane. He’s been around since the early 2000s, but in the last seven years he has turned in many great performances in blockbusters and indies alike. That’s seven years of nominees where one of them is not Tom Hardy, and looking back at his work, that just doesn’t seem right.
Hardy got his start in Hollywood in a couple of big profile war projects. The first was in a couple of episodes of HBO’s “Band of Brothers.” The second was Ridley Scott’s “Black Hawk Down” along with practically every other actor between the ages of 20 and 35. He had a chance to break out in 2002 with the villain role in “Star Trek: Nemesis,” but that was in “Star Trek’s” waning period before the J.J. Abrams reboot.
The first truly great Tom Hardy performance came in 2008. In what would serve as the symbolic starting point for the Hollywood careers of both Hardy and director Nicolas Winding Refn. The duo set critics abuzz with “Bronson.” Hardy was mesmerizing as the career prisoner with a unique penchant for violence. Hardy ended up winning Best Actor from the British Independent Film Awards, but his only success across the pond came in the form of a nomination from the Village Voice.
That’s more than he got however for his performance in “Warrior.” Gavin O’Connor’s ultimate fighting/family drama is an underrated film and, as previously covered in this column, the love for the acting was underrated as well, save for the great Nick Nolte. Maybe it’s because Hardy’s Tommy Conlon is such a hard person to crack that this searing and powerful performance got overlooked, but it is one that gets better each time you watch it.
In between “Bronson” and “Warrior” Hardy proved that he can add tremendous value to big budget blockbusters as well. As one of the thieves in Leonardo DiCaprio’s crew in “Inception,” Hardy is endearingly charming and delivers some of the best lines in the film. Christopher Nolan liked him enough to cast him as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Hardy’s voice in that film is the part that went on in infamy, but it’s not a bad performance overall. Hardy hasn’t quite proven himself as the leading man in a blockbuster yet, but that could soon change – more on that in a minute.
First, we have to talk about Hardy’s biggest snub to date, “Locke.” Tom Hardy driving alone in his car rolling calls. That’s the entirety of the movie. “Locke” has practically no right to be as good as it is, but writer/director Steven Knight crafted a strong film and made the perfect casting choice in Hardy to bring Ivan Locke to life. In another crowded field of Best Actor’s last year, Hardy managed to snag some major critic prizes for Best Actor, including the Los Angeles Film Critics. He could not, however, snag an Oscar nomination, joining a list too long of deserved also rans in 2014.
2015 is set to be Hardy’s biggest year yet. He already starred in Daniel Espinosa’s “Child 44,” and while the film quietly disappeared in April, nearly no one faulted Hardy as he gave another solid performance. Hardy simply will dust himself off and still getting top billing in a likely successful summer blockbuster, as he leads the new “Mad Max: Fury Road,” which is getting great reviews (you can read Awards Circuit’s review here) and should make a nice sum of money.
Top that with two chances to impress the academy again, first as British criminal twins Ronald and Reginald Cray in Brian Helgeland’s “Legend” and then as the target of DiCaprio’s vengeful trapper in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s “The Revenant.” Hardy’s wait for an Oscar nomination could just be half a year away from being over.
If it does persist, however, we all should still be confident that the academy will wise up sooner rather than later. Hardy has proven himself time and time again and continues to make brave choices. It’s a winning combination that should have no other conclusion than an Oscar nomination, probably even an Oscar win one day.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” is set to open everywhere this Friday.