Tom Hardy plays bad-guy John Fitzgerald in “The Revenant,” a role that’s earning him Oscar buzz in the best supporting actor race. As part of this week’s cover story on the $135 million epic by director Alejandro G. Inarritu, Hardy spoke with Variety about making the film, addressed production challenges that led to him dropping out of “Suicide Squad” and revealed his fear of horses.
Was it Leo’s idea for you to take this role?
Yeah. He called me up and said, “Dude, I know you’re about to do something where you’re jumping out of helicopters and shooting guns and shit. But before you do that, I need you to take a look at this script. It’s f—ing awesome.” That’s how it started—“It’s going to be f—ing awesome.” Then I had a meeting with Alejandro, talking through the character. I ended up getting the job.
So was it awesome?
Yeah, it was completely awesome. It had all the right amount of logistical difficulties you might expect. AGI found locations quite off the beaten track. Certainly, there were weather issues. Initially, the whole idea was to shoot the entire film in one shot like “Birdman.” That became one thing that had to be adapted to the environment. It was a hugely ambitious pitch.
What made the shoot hard?
It was just long. Every single day was about endurance, and things changing at the last minute because of weather or location. It’s quite a big epic to wrangle. It was six to eight hours of rehearsal a day, and then we’d shoot for an hour and a half to get this particular piece of movement. If we didn’t get it, we’d have to come back the next day. It was an interesting procedure.
How did you prepare?
I was shooting “Legend” right up to two weeks before we started. I had time to grow a beard, get on a plane and get out there, and listen to Alejandro on what he wanted. There was a man who steered me on the use of props and bags and muskets — fur trappers’ boot camp. I hung out and looked at the accoutrements I’d be using. I didn’t feel like I needed to immerse myself in some sort of methodological approach. I led by instincts. Not that I can’t work that way. I didn’t felt like I needed to in this case.
Had you ridden a horse before?
I don’t like horses. They scare me. There’s not a call for it in London — not since the 1800s. We are used to getting on the bus or the tube. I prefer dogs; they are a bit more manageable. I think horses are beautiful, but I didn’t know any growing up. It’s quite alien. They are so big and muscular. If they sat on me or kicked me, that would be it — wouldn’t it? You always hear about people walking around the back of a horse and getting kicked. I always think if anyone is going to get kicked by a horse walking around the back of it, it’s most likely going to be me.
But you are on horses in this movie.
Yeah, I get on a horse. And now I’m doing a TV series that I’m riding a horse quite a lot. It’s just the way it is. I wouldn’t tell you I ride horses. It’s something I’ve got to learn.
Was it cold shooting in the winter in Canada?
Not really. If you do something in that weather, you look after your fingers and toes and face and extremities and people look after each other. You wore thermals and whatever to stay warm, of course. I was quite toasty for a lot of it. Some days were colder than others. Sometimes it was warm and you wanted it to be cold and there was no snow on the ground.
As a result of the lack of snow, production had to stop in Calgary and resume months later in Argentina. Because of the delays, you had to drop out of “Suicide Squad.”
It punched right into that, yeah. That got derailed for me. Was I bummed? Of course I was. I hate fucking losing work. I kept bemoaning that they were losing me significant money on a daily basis. Actually, it was good for my character.
Did Alejandro ever try to take your character in a direction that led to a disagreement?
No. He offers a smorgasbord of ideas. You can take a character in so many directions, but I would never disagree with him on something. It was very harmonious and there was a lot of silliness. I had a very playful and fun relationship. He doesn’t take himself that seriously. That’s the Alejandro that I know and love, and I take a piss out of him and he takes the piss out of me.
There’s a story going around that you punched Alejandro during the shoot. Did that happen?
No. If you hit somebody, you’d know about it. That didn’t happen. That’s just nonsense.