Tom Hardy says he based the Welsh accent in his new film on a “hotch-potch” of Richard Burton’s reading of Under Milk Wood and an ex-SAS soldier who’d protected him while touring war-torn Afghanistan.
In Locke, which opens in cinemas nationwide today, the 36-year-old Londoner plays Ivan Locke, a softly-spoken everyman who endures a dark night of the soul when a mistake from his past comes back to haunt him, throwing his well ordered existence into disarray.
And, despite the nationality of the character never being specified in the original script, the star admitted he knew straight away how he wanted to approach the role.
“Ivan just felt Welsh to me, to be honest,” says Hardy, who took time out from the film’s premiere in Birmingham last night to chat. “He’s this really down-to-earth guy who manages to exhibit a great deal of grace under pressure. So while all these crises are going on and people are losing their heads around him, he somehow manages to keep it together. As a result, I figured he needed to sound soothing and centred, so I listened a lot to Burton doing Dylan Thomas and attempted to emulate him. God, I wish I had a voice like Burton’s – but I don’t , sadly.”
Shot entirely within the confines of a BMW hurtling down a florescent-lit motorway to London, Hardy is the only actor seen on screen throughout the film’s 85 minute duration.
Its other players – such as Olivia Coleman and Sherlock’s Andrew Scott – materialise only as disembodied voices on the other end of Locke’s hands-free phone.
And, as his journey progresses, each new call that comes through only serves to heap on new problems, unearth personal skeletons and slowly form cracks in his steely composure.
“Outwardly he’s seems in control but there’s a lot going on behind the eyes,” says Hardy. “I was going for that same kind of stillness which Anthony Hopkins brings to many of his roles – I’m a massive fan of his too.”
The Batman actor – last seen playing the hulking, villainous Bane in The Dark Knight Rises – also admitted that he based much of Locke on an ex-SAS pal who chaperoned him when he went to Kabul to do research for an upcoming movie project about post-traumatic stress disorder in British troops returning from the Middle East.
“I went there with a chap called William Freear who runs a specialist risk management firm called Pilgrim’s Group –they look after the likes of CNN when they go reporting in global trouble hot spots like Libya,” says Hardy. “Bill’s a bloke who’s been to some pretty scary places in his lifetime and has been shot at a lot, and I was amazed at how calm and contained he was at all times. He’s a very tough guy, very intelligent and I just thought, ‘That’s Ivan, right there’. I wanted my character to be like a ship’s captain forced to weather this terrible storm – although, admittedly, one which is largely of his own making. Hence my decision to have a beard, chunky jumper and RNLI sticker on the car window, I suppose,” he laughs.
Rehearsed and filmed in less than two weeks, critics have so far fawned over Hardy’s work in the drama, describing as ‘a powerhouse performance’ and ‘extraordinary’.
The only sticking point? Hardy’s approximation of that rolling Valleys lilt which some have dubbed as a ‘cross between Ivor The Engine and Indian immigrant’.
“I have had a bit of ribbing about it, but that’s okay,” he said. “There’s always going to be banter – that’s just the nature of the beast. The Welsh accent is a really tricky one to get right and, while I admit mine may not be perfect, I did my best. I’m just really proud of this film and am really chuffed I was given the chance to play around with the character and do my own thing. It’s a low budget, experimental piece and we’re all over the moon with the amount of attention and praise it’s received. Fair play to everyone involved, it took a lot of balls to do.”