You don't have to be a Hollywood insider to know that Tom Hardy is widely considered to be one of the most talented actors of his generation … or that he has a reputation for not always being willing to play by Hollywood’s rules.

Since making his onscreen debut in 2001, the London native has gone on to collaborate with some of the world’s most talented filmmakers, including Ridley Scott, George Miller, Alejandro González Iñárritu, Sofia Coppola, and Christopher Nolan. He also created, produced, and starred in the FX series Taboo and earned an Oscar nomination for his role in The Revenant—and all of this before hitting the big 4-0.

Now, nearly a decade after making his mark in the comic book movie world playing Batman's nemesis Bane in The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Hardy will be returning to play journalist-alien hybrid Venom a second time in Venom: Let There Be Carnage, which arrives in theaters in September 2021. Which gives you plenty of time to read up on Hardy's past life as a model, his struggles with addiction, and why he thinks heroes are "boring."

1. Tom Hardy won a television modeling contest.

Technically, Tom Hardy’s onscreen debut came in 1998, when he took part in a modeling contest on the British morning show The Big Breakfast. Among the facts we learned about the then-21-year-old: He was a drama student who idolized Gary Oldman, liked Eddie Izzard, wanted to write and direct his own short films, and didn’t like football. And yes, he won.

2. Tom Hardy made his onscreen debut in Band Of Brothers.

In September of 1998, shortly after he began attending the Drama Centre London, Hardy dropped out when he was offered a role in the Steven Spielberg-produced WWII miniseries Band of Brothers (2001). When asked about the experience by IGN in 2002, Hardy said that, “Band of Brothers was my first job so I was virtually out of the frying pan and into the fire, really. I'd not had previous experience with working in front of the camera, so there was dealing with that. Also, I had the research material—not that I'd need it. I mean, I was in two episodes and had 12 lines. That was the sum total of work [I] had to do.”

Hardy made his big-screen debut in 2001 as well, playing Twombly in Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. “I was the Ranger who got left behind,” he told IGN. “He was sort of, if you could call it, comic relief to [a] very precarious situation.”

3. Tom Hardy was briefly a rapper.

Falling on Your Arse In 1999 is a mixtape Hardy recorded with his friend Edward Tracy under the name Tommy No. 1 and Eddie Too Tall—Eddie provided lo-fi beats and movie samples while Tommy No. 1 rapped on top in an occasionally wandering accent. While Hardy all but disowned the project—it was never released, and he later described his rapping as “not very good”—it’s really not bad. No less an authority than Vice described it as “actually kind of fire.”

4. Tom Hardy went to school with Michael Fassbender.

While attending the Drama Centre London, Hardy looked up to a fellow student who was two years older than him: Michael Fassbender. “He was a really serious Method actor and we used to watch him and think, ‘F**k, man! He’s the sh*t!,’” Hardy told the Daily Beast. “He was in an Irish play about this guy who came back from the First World War who was a great athlete but ended up in a wheelchair, but at lunchtime he wouldn’t come out of character and was always in his wheelchair and we’d be like, ‘Dude! Just order your lunch and come along! We’ve got an hour before we have to go back to class! But he was the best actor in the school.” (Fassbender, too, landed a role in Band of Brothers.)

5. Tom Hardy replaced Michael Fassbender in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

Tom Hardy with Gary Oldman in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011).Jack English, Focus Features

Though their careers have taken different paths, Hardy and Fassbender overlapped a bit in 2010, when Hardy replaced Fassbender as British operative “Tricky” Ricky Tarr in Tomas Alfredson’s 2011 adaptation of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, a Cold War thriller based on the John le Carré novel.

6. Tom Hardy idolizes Gary Oldman.

That aforementioned modeling contest wouldn’t be the only time Hardy expressed his admiration of Gary Oldman. In 2011, he told ShortList that, “Gary Oldman is my absolute complete and utter hero. He’s the f**king man. I look at him and I want to be like that for my generation—I want to have that same quality. He’s incredible.”

That same year, Hardy got the chance to star alongside Oldman in the Oscar-nominated Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. “There is a definite ‘hang on a minute’ [moment], but I’ve got past the star-struck part now,” Hardy said of getting the chance to act opposite Oldman. They have since worked together on several other films, including Lawless (2012) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012).

7. Tom Hardy battled drug and alcohol addiction at an early age.

Tom Hardy attends the premiere of Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002.Robert Mora/Getty Images

With his star on the rise, Hardy was forced to confront an issue he had been dealing with since his teens: a serious alcohol and crack addiction. After shooting Star Trek: Nemesis (2002), Hardy checked himself into rehab. “I didn’t want anyone to know I was out of control, but I couldn’t hide it,” Hardy said in 2014. “I went in thinking I’d do it for a little bit until I can go out and drink and people forgive me. But I did my 28 days, and after listening to people who had been through similar circumstances I realized I did have a problem.” Hardy has been sober since 2003.

8. Tom Hardy has dug into his past for certain roles.

When discussing his role in 2011’s Warrior, in which he plays the son of an alcoholic former boxer played by Nick Nolte, Hardy told ShortList that, “In the [alcohol abuse] scenes with Nick Nolte, if you’ve been to those depths, experience allows you to think ‘this is right’ or ‘this is wrong’ and know how to react. There’s only so much imagination you can use before you have to go out and live life again. You see these kid actors who work from 10 to 21 and then all of a sudden they disappear for a bit. They’ve got nothing to draw upon apart from a life of working, so you need to go out and catch up and then come back in again.”

9. Tom Hardy almost played Mr. Darcy in Joe Wright’s Pride & Prejudice.

Hardy auditioned to play Mr. Darcy in Joe Wright’s 2005 adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, starring Keira Knightley. The role ultimately went to Matthew Macfadyen, while a studio head told Hardy that, “Babe, every woman in the world has an impression of who Darcy is and you’re just not it.”

“That hurt, that really hurt,” Hardy told The Telegraph in 2009. “I’d worn a blue shirt and jeans and a blue blazer and been doing my best Hugh Grant impression. But now I was back to playing the wonky skewiff-teeth kid with the bow legs.”

10. Tom Hardy gained more than 40 pounds for Bronson … by eating chocolate and pizza.

Magnolia Pictures

Hardy first gained international attention for playing the title role in Nicolas Winding Refn’s Bronson (2008), an in-your-face biopic about Michael Gordon Peterson, who has been called both the “most violent prisoner in Britain” and “Britain's most notorious prisoner.” He gained 42 pounds to play the role.

“I was a mess after Bronson,” he told ShortList. “I got really fat. I was a real road crash ... By the time I went to Pittsburgh to film Warrior I had two hours of boxing, two hours of Muay Thai, two hours of Jiu-Jitsu, two hours of choreography, and two hours of weightlifting a day, every day for eight weeks. I don’t know how people do that every day. Bronson was fun. For Bronson I just ate chocolate and pizza, lifted [my friend] Pnut up and down the stairs, played Xbox, shaved my head and grew a mustache."

11. Tom Hardy attributes his acting talent to being a good liar.

When asked about how he ended up pursuing a career in acting, Hardy said that, “In the end there was nothing else I could do. I had a busy head and I didn’t really want to do things that I found boring. The only thing that kept my attention was to play and have fun and manipulate. I’ve always been a liar, always been able to manipulate. I pretty much get whatever I want.”

“Acting really is a mixture of bullsh*tting and manipulating and the study of action-reaction,” he added. “And camouflage—hiding yourself in other languages, bodies, and shapes. Acting channeled me into something. I found some self-esteem and thought, ‘I’m actually quite good at something.’”

12. Tom Hardy is a dog man.

Tom Hardy and Zora, his canine co-star in The Drop (2004), attend the movie's New York City premiere.Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Hardy is a nut for the hounds, and starred in a pro-adoption ad campaign for PETA along with his rescue dog Woodstock “Woody” Yamaduki. Woodstock is sadly no longer with us, and Hardy penned an emotional tribute to the pup when he passed away in 2017, calling him “a shining example of man’s best friend”. He currently has a French bulldog. His fondness for his furry friends is so strong that, in 2015, Vanity Fair compiled an oral history of all the times he had professed how much he loved them. Hardy once said “dog” 62 times in one interview, and an Instagram account dedicated to pictures of Hardy with dogs has more than 100,000 followers.

13. Mad Max was in Tom Hardy’s life long before Fury Road.

When Hardy was 17, he acquired a dog with the prophetic name Mad Max. A friend of Hardy’s had a dog that he really liked, Cass, so Hardy made him promise that if she ever had puppies, he could have one. He told Details: “I went to visit his mom, see how she was and say hello. And she said, ‘Oh, we've got something for you here.’ And I open up the door, and there was Mad Max. And I was like, ‘I don't like that name.' He's not mad, he's just misunderstood.” Twenty years later, Hardy played Mad Max in Mad Max: Fury Road.

14. Tom Hardy didn’t get along with Fury Road director George Miller.

Tom Hardy stars in Mad Max: Fury Road (2015).Jasin Boland/Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

Filming Mad Max in the Australian desert, with dozens of vehicles aflame at any given point, was a tall order, and Hardy didn’t always understand what director George Miller was trying to do. After the film premiered at Cannes, Hardy publicly apologized to Miller in a room full of journalists for getting frustrated on set, adding, “I knew [Miller] was brilliant, but I didn’t know how brilliant until I saw it.”

15. Tom Hardy is aware that he has a reputation for being challenging.

Over the years, Hardy has developed a reputation for being an intense collaborator—and not always in a good way. Hardy knows what people think of him, but he doesn’t know that it’s well deserved. “There's this myth, which is quite asinine, that circulates about me—usually by those who haven't worked with me,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “There's only one thing worse than being talked about and that's not being talked about in this game so I'd rather it be that, I guess. But there are other people who I work with consistently who know that's not the case—who just wouldn't risk having somebody like that in their midst because there's too much at stake. Obviously you're going to rub people the wrong way … and I've been a dick. But then, who hasn't?”

16. It’s hard for Tom Hardy to cry on cue … but Mr. Holland’s Opus makes him weepy.

Matt Winkelmeyer, Getty Images

For an actor with a reputation for being a tough guy, it’s probably not surprising that Hardy can’t cry on cue. “I find crying difficult,” he told ShortList. “It takes a long time for me to go. And I won’t know what will send me. I’m quite sentimental. If my son tells me he loves me, that will make me cry. Mr. Holland’s Opus, unbelievably, broke me. A random anomaly. Bambi would probably do me. Or Shrek."

17. Tom Hardy prefers playing villains, because heroes are “boring.”

When discussing his penchant for playing villains, Hardy told The Hollywood Reporter, “I play a lot of scary blokes, and there are probably a few reasons why. First, villains are much more interesting than hero leads, who are, for the most part, really boring. The thought of going into work day in and day out to play someone who is just mind-numbingly boring fills me with dread, so I don't bother. Another part of it is when I was younger I remember being frightened a lot—of being small and skinny and vulnerable and feeling that I could have been preyed upon easily. So, everything that I play is what scared me.”

18. Tom Hardy is no stranger to kids’ TV.

Hardy has made multiple appearances on UK preschool channel CBeebies, inhabiting the ‘Bedtime Stories’ slot and reading a different children’s book every time. After his first appearance in 2016, the BBC received more than a million requests to get him to appear again.

19. Hugh Jackman thinks Tom Hardy would make a great Wolverine.

With Hugh Jackman’s run as Wolverine winding down, MTV UK asked the actor who he thought might be able to fill his mutant shoes. Jackman did not hesitate to suggest Hardy for the part.

20. Tom Hardy thinks he’d make a great James Bond.

Tom Hardy and Idris Elba attend London's Global Triumph Bonneville launch in 2015.David M. Benett/Dave Benett / Getty Images for Triumph Motorcycles

When asked about the chances of returning for a fifth go at playing James Bond in 2015, current 007 Daniel Craig famously stated that he’d “rather … slash my wrists. No, not at the moment. Not at all. That’s fine. I’m over it at the moment. We’re done. All I want to do is move on.” Ever since, fans and the media have been discussing who could be the next James Bond. Tom Hiddleston, Idris Elba, and Henry Cavill have become a few of the most frequently talked about replacements. But when Hardy made it known that he’d be game to take over the role, if Christopher Nolan would direct, Hollywood took interest.

“You know, there’s a saying amongst us in the fraternity of acting, and in the fellowship of my peer group, that if you talk about it you’re automatically out of the race,” Hardy said when asked about the possibility of becoming Bond. “So I can’t possibly comment on that one! If I mention it, it’s gone. But Chris Nolan, what a fantastic director for a Bond movie. Because Daniel [Craig] is so good, and what [Sam] Mendes, and [producer] Barbara [Broccoli] have done has been so impressive, that it would be a very hard reimagination to follow after. I wonder what the next installment of that franchise would become, and I think when you mention someone like Christopher Nolan, that’s a very powerful figure to bring into that world who could bring something new and create something profound … again.”

When asked whether he’d be into reinventing another franchise, Nolan told Playboy “definitely … I’ve spoken to the producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson over the years. I deeply love the character, and I’m always excited to see what they do with it. Maybe one day that would work out. You’d have to be needed, if you know what I mean. It has to need reinvention; it has to need you. And they’re getting along very well.”

But fans will have to wait and see. In August 2017, Craig confirmed that he will be returning for No Time to Die, the 25 film in the Bond series. From there, who knows!

21. Tom Hardy’s commitment to accents occasionally causes problems.

Hardy has had a lot of accents on-screen—he’s played Welshmen, Cockneys, New Yorkers, Russians, Australians, you name it. Sometimes his insistence on pushing himself accent-wise ends up leaving people a bit, uh, confused. However, as vocal coach Erik Singer explained to The Hollywood Reporter, this comes from putting a lot of thought and effort in.

“Some [of Hardy’s accents] are dead-on, some are a little iffy accuracy-wise, and some can’t quite be judged that way, I think, because they seem like they’re deliberately hybrids or sort of bespoke, imaginatively designed constructs,” Singer said. “Even when his accents are off in some way—and some definitely are—there are two other essentials he’s consistently brilliant at. One of them is how deeply he sinks into the voice and accent of his characters. They are people who talk that way, who listen and live and breathe that way. The other is that his voice and accent choices aren’t random. They’re part of the overall story, theme and feel of the film.”

22. Tom Hardy’s arm was forever transformed whne he lost a bet with Leonardo DiCaprio.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy at the UK premiere of The Revenant (2015) in London.Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

While shooting The Revenant together, Leonardo DiCaprio predicted that Hardy would get an Oscar nomination for his work. Hardy disagreed, and a bet was struck: Whoever was right could place a tattoo of their choice on the loser. Hardy got the nomination. He later told Esquire: “He wrote, in this really shitty handwriting: 'Leo knows everything.' Ha! I was like, 'OK, I'll get it done, but you have to write it properly.'" By the time the day came to put needle to skin, it had changed to “Leo knows all.”

23. Tom Hardy once started a rumor that he got knocked out by Shia LeBeouf.

Hardy and Shia LeBeouf appeared in 2012’s Lawless together, and before that film came out, both actors told interviewers about an incident where LeBeouf launched himself at Hardy and knocked him unconscious. Hardy told Den of Geek: “He knocked me out sparko. Out cold. He’s a bad, bad boy. He is. He’s quite intimidating as well. He’s a scary dude. He just attacked me. He was drinking moonshine. I was wearing a cardigan, and er, went down. I woke up in [my personal trainer] Pnut’s arms.” The press were fascinated by this, given that at the time, Hardy had bulked up to play Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and was physically enormous. However, in 2019, LeBeouf revealed the truth on an appearance on Hot Ones: They’d had a bit of a silly wrestle and decided to have a bit of a laugh with it.

24. Tom Hardy co-created Taboo with his father.

Tom Hardy and his father, Edward, attend the London premiere of Taboo in 2016.David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images

Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight co-created the BBC/FX series Taboo with Hardy and Hardy's dad, ad man-turned-screenwriter Edward “Chips” Hardy. While Taboo is the elder Hardy's highest-profile work to date, he has worked on some interesting projects along the way. In the 1980s he co-created Helping Henry, an educational show in which a child explained how the world worked to an alien disguised as a chair. His latest novel, Seaton’s Orchid, is coming out in September.

25. Tom Hardy was nearly in Suicide Squad.

Hardy was the first choice to play Rick Flag, the character ultimately portrayed by Joel Kinnaman in 2015’s Suicide Squad. He had to pull out after a two-week break in shooting The Revenant ballooned into a six-week delay due to weather conditions. Things ended up working out for both of them: Hardy received an Oscar nomination for The Revenant and Kinnaman returned for the 2021 reboot/sequel The Suicide Squad. At one point, Hardy was also in the running to play Elton John in Rocketman.

26. Tom Hardy is very good friends with his stunt double.

Tom Hardy portrays twin brothers Ronnie and Reggie Kray—two of Britain's most notorious criminals—in Legend (2015).Universal Pictures

New Zealander Jacob Tomuri has doubled for Hardy on multiple projects, something that came in particularly handy on Legend, in which Hardy played identical twins. Tomuri, a former actor himself, tried to go above and beyond, even going so far as to naila Cockney accent knowing it would be dubbed over. “I wanted to make sure that I was on point with everything—with Tom and the other cast members—with what I was doing, so the audience couldn’t let go,” he said. “Not only was the accent important to nail, but I wanted to replicate Tom’s characters as much as possible, from their posture to their mannerisms.”

27. Tom Hardy will be busting out his martial arts skills soon.

In 2022, Netflix will release The Raid director Gareth Evans' new film Havoc, about "a drug deal gone wrong [and] a bruised detective [who] must fight his way through a criminal underworld to rescue a politician’s estranged son, while unraveling a deep web of corruption and conspiracy that ensnares his entire city," featuring Hardy. It should be a good match: The Raid films are wall-to-wall martial arts, mainly the Indonesian martial art pencak silat, and Hardy is a fan of Brazilian jiu-jitsu, MMA, and boxing. He’ll also be playing photographer Don McCullin in Unreasonable Behavior, a biopic directed by Angelina Jolie.

28. Tom Hardy was deleted from Star Wars (but is in Star Trek).

Hardy’s first big meaty Hollywood role was in 2002’s Star Trek: Nemesis, playing an evil clone of Jean-Luc Picard named Shinzon. Hardy auditioned for the role by tape—there was a scene he was supposed to do, but he got hold of the rest of the script and performed a different scene, in his underpants.

Fifteen years later, he filmed a cameo in Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, playing a helmeted stormtrooper who gives Finn (John Boyega) an encouraging smack on the backside, but the scene (which you can see above) was deleted from the theatrical release.

29. Tom Hardy’s Venom performance was inspired by Ren & Stimpy and coached by his son.

When preparing for Venom, in which Hardy plays both journalist Eddie Brock and an alien symbiote that fuses with him, Hardy was inspired by, of all things, the 1990s Nickelodeon carton Ren & Stimpy. He told Entertainment Weekly: "It’s a bit like Ren & Stimpy, you know? They have different sounds. I always saw Venom as sounding like a James Brown lounge lizard, and Eddie Brock is kind of … I don’t know, an everyday kind of guy. But he’s inherited this massive ego, this beast. There’s that biting-off-heads issue, which is not what you would expect from, say, Captain America taking down a crook.”

Hardy told Entertainment Tonight he was persuaded to take the role by his 10-year-old son Louis, who also acted as something of a consultant to his dad’s performance. "He told me what I was doing wrong,” said Hardy. “And I was doing more things wrong than I was doing right—children are deeply honest.”

30. Tom Hardy might—might—play Sam Fisher in a Splinter Cell movie one day.

A big-screen adaptation of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell games franchise has been in the works for 15 years, with Hardy’s name attached to it for 10 of those years. Protagonist Sam Fisher is in his sixties in the brunt of the games, so the years in development hell might end up working out.

A version of this story ran in 2018; it has been updated for 2021.