“Whatever character you play, remember they are always doing something. They are not just talking. They are alive; going through a drama in which they will go through some sort of dramatic human experience. Keywords: Alive and Experience. It is your job to make them become so. Anthing you do on stage or film has a direct relation to something you have experienced in one form or another in real life. Use your imagination to exaggerate or lessen that sensation. Then, disguise it in characterization and don’t forget to make lots and lots of mistakes, and look like a complete asshole. You’ll do fine.”
That is the final paragraph of Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure and I couldn’t agree more. Just kidding. I found that quote from actor Tom Hardy (he with the illustrious stage career) on his IMDB page and had to pull it because it seems to capture for me the energy and verve he brought to portraying Earnes in Inception from Moment One on the screen. I said before I thought the film was “humorless”, and perhaps that was too much of a blanket statement – there were moments of humor, I suppose, vestiges of wit – but the tone overall was such that they didn’t make an impression. But Earnes, from the get-go, has a humorous energy. He’s intense, but not unremittingly so. He’s a bit more casual about it. Earnes, pulled into the project after it has begun, is a man with connections, perhaps shady connections, a guy who seems to know things.
His first scene in the film is in a crowded noisy bar in Mombasa, where he meets with DiCaprio. He is cocky, funny, assured, and looks around the room, assessing it in a moment’s glance, recognizing the dangers, who to trust, who not to trust. He doesn’t have much time to establish his character, you never do – you must appear as if fully-formed, especially if you have a smaller role – and Tom Hardy does that. Watch his behavior in that first scene. We have no idea who this guy is, but he’s wearing a sort of dandyish outfit, like a Catholic schoolboy gone horribly wrong, and his hair is slicked over to the side, and he’s not fazed by anything. He listens, he talks, he lolls back in his chair, his eyes flitting around the room at odd moments … He’s like a giant lion sleeping under a tree after a big meal: he seems relaxed, he seems satiated even – this is a man who enjoys life, he probably over-indulges on occasion, there’s a ruddiness in his face that suggests that- but at the same time, like that lion, there is a tension in him, an alertness, telegraphed to the audience subtly (it’s all behavioral).
It’s an electric first appearance. Tom Hardy lands. He also makes it look easy. He has been sitting in that upstairs bar for hours, maybe even days. I had no doubt of that. He does what is so difficult to do with these side-parts: convince the audience that he is who he says he is, he belongs there, and his life has gone on before the camera started rolling and will continue long afterwards. It’s all in his posture, the way his eyes roam the room, but how he never forgets to take in DiCaprio across the way, sometimes squinting his eyes at him in a calculating and assessing way.
I have not seen him before. But I will remember him.
His quote about acting that starts this post is very interesting, and also evidence that he is actually doing what he says he should be doing. He is always thinking, reacting, finding obstacles, reacting again. He is never “just talking”.
The second he appeared, my friend whispered intensely, “Who is that?”
Guy is a star. Mark my words.