TOM HARDY SAVES THE DAY (NO, REALLY)

One of the most intense actors of our time agreed to take us on a motorcycle tour of his hometown—and then the day spun way off-script.

Written by: Eric Sullivan

Photo by: Greg Williams

We’re at the first stop on Tom Hardy’s literal tour down memory lane, and he’s already causing trouble. The caretaker of St. Leonard’s Court, an apartment building in the leafy London suburb of East Sheen, comes out to the driveway to say that a tenant has lodged a noise complaint. Hardy leans back in the saddle of the offending source, a Triumph Thruxton fitted with a not-so-subtle 1200cc engine. “Must be hard for someone who’s home at 3:00 p.m. on a Tuesday doing fuck-all, innit?” he says to the caretaker, who’s already in retreat. Then, overriding his knee-jerk snark: “It won’t happen again.”

“I’m the youngest person to own a flat on this block,” Hardy, forty, tells me, sounding both proud and bemused. He bought the place fifteen years ago, moved out six years later, and now uses it as a crash pad for out-of-town guests. He didn’t choose the location for its social scene, if the few geriatric residents shuffling by are any indication. Rather, he was the prodigal son returned: He grew up in the upper-middle-class community, the only child of Chips, an adman and writer, and Ann, an artist. His parents still live nearby.

“Ready for the five-dollar tour?” he asks. Our plan is to trace the path from what he calls his “privileged bourgeois background” to the upper-upper-class town of Richmond, where he now lives with his wife, actor Charlotte Riley, and their child, his second. (He also has a ten-year-old son with assistant director Rachael Speed.) The journey is short in distance—a little more than two miles—but ultramarathon-long in life experience.

“Behind the Laura Ashley curtains, there was naughtiness and fuckeries!” he begins like an overenthused docent. I point out that’s a line he’s delivered many times to many writers. He shrugs. “It’s easier to say that than to go deep-sea diving into it.” To Hardy, a fiercely private man and a reluctant public figure, the canned story serves the useful purpose of making an unsuspecting person feel like they’re getting to know the real Tom. “Should we fuck off?” he asks as we pull on our gear. Except for the beat-up jeans, his five-foot-nine frame is covered in black, from his helmet to his motorcycle boots. We get on our bikes and fuck off.

Five minutes later, just past the prep school he attended as a boy, Hardy spots a commotion, and we pull over. A woman, blood covering her face, lies faceup, half on the sidewalk and half in the street. A few bystanders are crouched around. As Hardy approaches, he says, “I know her.”

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