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Tom Hardy, Nicolas Winding Refn

Total Film

August 2008

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Meet next year’s tabloid hot topic...

Michael Gordon Peterson – aka Charles Bronson – is still one of the UK’s most infamous jailbirds. Dubbed the most violent prisoner in Blighty by frenzied tabloids, Bronson has spent a hefty chunk of his time (an initial seven-year sentence for armed robbery has spiralled into 34) in solitary, thanks to periodic bouts of guard-bashing.

Now, Bronson’s getting the first hearing he’s had in ages: a film of his life. But it’s no fusty biopic: the filmmakers, including Nicolas Winding Refn (The Pusher trilogy), are ramping it up with a stylised, surreal take on the rogue’s life. Cue Buzz turning up on a cold spring day to a ’70s stately home with its own theatre, where Tom Hardy (in the lead role) stands in front of a crowd of dummies, spewing vitriol about the prison service before breaking into a rendition of ‘Bring On The Rock’n’Roll Star’. With his shaved head sprayed with black and glitter make-up, Hardy looks like the star of a glam-rock version of Cabaret rather than a pumped-up con. Sound bizarre? It is, but this approach is going to get Bronson noticed. “It’s An Evening With Charlie Bronson; like Cabaret meets The King Of Comedy,” says Hardy. “It’s fucked, but in the right way.”

“Tom’s a very good actor,” Refn wanders over to tell Buzz. “I rewrote everything we’re shooting today and he learned it all in an hour.” Playful and exuberant, Refn’s on-set catchphrase is, “Let’s fuck!”, which he drops before takes. Hardy confesses to having a love/hate relationship with his director: “He’s fucking brilliant but he’s an absolute nightmare,” he laughs. “He’s like a big child.” Refn is a tonic for flagging spirits (“Bob, you are the ninja of tracking!” he yells to his camera operator), keeping everyone pumped up to the task. Hardy admits he’s ready for the exhausting shoot to be over. “I just want to lie in a darkened room and play Xbox,” he sighs. Then the rallying cry comes – “Come on baby, let’s fuck!” – and Hardy leaps up on stage. Refn bellows to the playback operator, “Crank that fucking bitch right up!” Bring on the rock’n’roll star…

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