Will the Real Tom Hardy Please Stand Up?
"Why does Tom Hardy have an Australian accent?" someone whispered behind me at a showing of Suicide Squad when Jai Courtney, the Hardy lookalike who plays Aussie superhero Boomerang, hit the screen. For a minute, I wondered the same thing. Then I caught myself, remembering that Hardy had exited the production in January 2015, reportedly due to his uncanny ability to spot a critical flop a mile off.
For the role of a superhero whose weapon is never the squad's first choice, Courtney had a swole Hardy build, some convincing muttonchops and a grunt to match Hardy's signature verbal tics. Was Jai Courtney effectively cast to fill a gaping, Hardy-shaped hole?
I'd had this feeling before. Earlier this year, when watching Logan Marshall-Green brood and mumble through Karyn Kusama's low-key thriller The Invitation; then again, watching Charlie Hunnam plod through last year's Crimson Peak. Not to mention the groundswell of Tom Hardys lying in wait: the young Brits Jack O'Connell and Dan Stevens are edging to swipe roles from Hardy. (To a lesser degree, actors like The Drop's Matthias Schoenaerts and Warrior's Joel Edgerton have all been compared to their formidable co-star.) Tom Hardy imposters have begun popping up everywhere, begging the question: Will the real Tom Hardy please stand up?
"THIS RECENT TOM HARDY DOPPELGÄNGER ROLLOUT IS A VEILED MARKETING PLOY TO CASH IN ON HIS RUGGED, BUT CLEARLY DUPLICABLE, APPEARANCE."
This recent Tom Hardy doppelgänger rollout is a veiled marketing ploy to cash in on his rugged, but clearly duplicable, appearance. Yet he is peerless. The man's played his own damn twin in Legend, made time for award-winning British TV series Peaky Blinders, and starred in two of the most acclaimed films of 2015 (see: The Revenant, Mad Max: Fury Road). He's one of Hollywood's hottest properties. It makes sense for big studios and directors to pull at him from all sides—but there's only so much Hardy to go around.
Enter: lookalikes. Charlie Hunnam and Tom Hardy were both up for the role of Tarzan in Disney's toothless remake, a role that eventually went to Alexander Skarsgård (AKA Nordic Hardy). In a Reddit thread asking for answers about why the film-going proletariat "hates" Jai Courtney, the top comment read: "Assuming 'everyone' hates Jai Courtney, I would say it isn't because he's awful, but just because he's filler. It's easy to look at a movie and say, 'Man, Tom Hardy would have been much better than Jai Courtney here.'"
So as to get Tom Hardy without draining the budget, directors have to rely on Hardy clones to bring that unmistakable rawness to a role. They can't just, um, grunt the grunt—they have to walk the walk. "If a role was written with Tom Hardy in mind, certainly the director is going to want an actor who can bring the character to life in the way it was envisioned," says former casting director Alysa Wishingrad, who cast Larry Clark's Kids. "They might fulfill the visual ideal, but I don't think a director worth their salt would try to get another actor's performance out of someone."
Hardy prides himself on his ability to transform into other characters. His takeaway from acting school was that it's imperative to hit the stage with a minimum of seven distinct characteristics that will mask your identity, be it a crick in the neck or a pair of glasses. The Samuel L. Jackson method of playing yourself in every movie is one that doesn't appeal to him. "If you want to be you, then that's cool, and it's Tom Hardy in another movie," he told AV Club.
And it's his job everybody wants. Sure, Logan Marshall-Green may have grown out his hair and gotten pensive for his character in The Invitation and Courtney may have been tatted-up forSuicide Squad, but it's not fair to peg these great actors as Hardy wannabes. "I think to call them copycats is to do them a disservice," continues Wishingrad, explaining that this quasi-phenomenon of carbon copies is nothing new. "Tastes change, and every generation has its ideal leading actor/actress—scripts are written and pitched for that new ideal. Once upon a time, Tom Cruise was considered the ideal, and you could argue our screens (TV and movie) got filled up with low rent versions of Tom Cruise (think Scott Baio). Eric Stoltz was the original idea for Marty McFly; you could argue Michael J. Fox looked like him, or you could just say he fit the physical description in a different way."
In fact, this doppelgänger dilemma happens more frequently than you think. A composite photo of the male cast members on American Horror Story: Hotel was put together last year to point out the similarities between Matt Bomer, Finn Wittrock, Wes Bentley, Max Greenfield, and Cheyenne Jackson. It went viral. Even the crew got them confused. Jackson told Vulture, "I remember my second day on set, one of the [assistant directors] was like, 'Here, can you sign out here, Finn?' And I'm like, 'Oh, I'm not Finn.' And he's like, 'Oh, I'm sorry, Matt.' And I'm like, 'Nope. It's Cheyenne, actually.'"
See, the hoodwinks in Hollywood want to keep you guessing whether or not it's really Hardy you paid to see. For all of the hallmarks of Hardy's style that are easily parroted, there's only one Tom Hardy. What puts him at the head of the pack is the story he brings along with him. "He's very much who he is, not out to be like anyone else, and also not trying to hide who he is or where he's come from," says Wishingrad. "He's authentic, and in a time where popular culture (certain segments notwithstanding) is embracing authenticity, he is an ideal personification."
As for the others… Well, imitation, they say, is the sincerest form of flattery.
Originally published on Esquire