The Venom star credits his addiction and sobriety to much of his success.
“It doesn’t matter who you are. What matters is your plan.” — Tom Hardy
Iremember one of the very first times I heard the name Tom Hardy and was a bit intrigued with him as I heard of him playing both brothers in the 2015 movie, Legend, about the life of the real-life criminals that inspired the term, “That’s so Kray” — Ronnie and Reggie Kray.
Even though I couldn’t say I was the biggest fan of the movie, I was intrigued by how one actor could portray two totally different people so distinctively and so well.
It was only later that I learned that he was that he also played the mesmerizing character of Bane in the 2012 film, The Dark Knight Rises (not sure how I didn’t know that), and I was instantly impressed.
As time progressed, I stumbled upon more Tom Hardy characters and found myself liking him more and more until I ultimately decided to dub him my favorite actor due to his portrayal of Alfie in Peaky Blinders (probably the best show on television right now…BTW).
I could not quite put a finger on why I liked Tom so much until I stumbled upon the fact that he has been drug-free since 2003 and alcohol-free shortly afterward.
As I continued my personal journey on alcohol consciousness and researched his background more, I found his story inspiring for a number of reasons.
His addiction started when he was young
Hardy said he was introduced to the concept of drugs at the tender age of 11 when apparently a cop warned him about the dangers of sniffing glue and how it could lead to addiction.
He said this only made him think “I know where to find it now — bang,” and two years later he was hooked on hallucinogens.
This led to a number of run-ins with the law and eventually got him kicked of boarding school.
The only child of a Cambridge-educated father and artist mother, Tom remembered being a bit ashamed of growing up in the nicer area of London, known as East Sheen.
“I always had a sense of shame of being privileged, “ he said. “It’s taken me a long time to realize it’s OK to be from Sheen, it’s OK to be a public schoolboy. It’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at.”
Part of this shame could have been what led to the drugs, as he admitted having lots of anxiety when he was younger and used drinking to help him cope a bit.
“When I found drinking at 13 — a bit of beer — I felt calm. I thought this must be how everyone else feels, and I wanted more of it.”
Despite being what he calls a “bog-standard alcoholic” for much of his early career, he was still seeing growth on the big screen, as he was cast in a number of prominent parts.
It was not until 2003, after the flop of the film of one of his most prominent roles up to that point, Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis, that he hit rock bottom and woke up in a Soho hotel in his own blood and vomit that prompted a check-in to rehab.
His original thought was that he was going to go in and do his 28 days and come up and go back to drinking. However, he said that “after listening to people who had been through similar circumstances I realized I did have a problem.”
He needed to focus on something else to help him get and stay clean
From that point on, he recognized that he had to change his life’s direction or he could end up ruining everything he had worked so hard for up to that point.
“I had to lose something,” he says. “Sometimes you have to lose something that is worth more to you than drinking.”
At that time, that “something” was the marriage to his then-wife, Sarah Ward, and what he was afraid of losing in the future was his growing acting career that was still very promising.
He took to acting because he wanted his dad to be proud of him and now looks at it as something that he enjoys immensely and does not want alcohol or drugs to take away.
He uses it as his focus to prevent too much idle time that could lead to him going back to alcohol or drugs.
“If I stop working, they might take it away from me,” he admits. “People will say ‘Tommy you’re doing well’ and I say ‘Am I?’ I love what I do, but it’s driven by a fear of not being able to do it.”
This fear of relapsing and drive to do the next movie to stay focused on his success is part of what he uses to keep the thought of ever using again (something he says looms like a 400 lb orangutan) away.
He admits, “It’s much more powerful than me, doesn’t speak the same language and it runs around in the darkness of my soul.”
Other than working, he credits fatherhood as being one of the biggest reasons he has stayed on the straight and narrow.
He says it is easier for him to stay the course “because there is somebody now on the planet who really needs me to get my act together and focus on something that is more important than me.”
He doesn’t deny his past is part of who he is today
Tom is very vocal about his past and actually uses it to help others defeat their demons, as well as help him with various parts as an actor.
He is an ambassador of Princes Trust, an organization designed to help young people succeed in life, and hopes that his past can be a warning for others.
He also admits that his checkered past and daily fight to keep his 400 lb ape at bay is part of what has allowed him to tap into some of his more sadistic roles in the past.
His role as one of Britain’s most notorious prisoners, Charles Bronson, was even appreciated by Bronson himself, and Tom has said that his past experience with drugs and alcohol allows him to dig deep into his psyche to get in the right mindset.
In regards to one of his most recent characters of Venom and how there is a constant battle between the character doing good and wanted to eat other people to live, he said, “I can see the symbolism there, but I know as a grown-up and as a man, I can’t go out there and bite people’s heads off.”
He admits the battle to stay sober and drug-free is something that he fights every day and he doesn’t take for granted, even though he has been sober for over 10 years now.
He said in an interview in 2018, “If I had four pints of lager and half a bottle of vodka I could turn this room into an absolute f*cking nightmare in about three minutes.”
Lucky for us, he’s smart enough to not want either, and instead focus on continuing to build upon a great career and be an inspiration to others of what can be accomplished on the other side of addiction.