The day he watched Madonna jab a needle into Gerard Butlers bare ass, Tom Hardy realized the pop legend meant business. The 31-year-old British actor had been sitting on the side of the road in a Range Rover, preparing for a scene with Butler for Guy Ritchies new gangster tale, RocknRolla, when Madonna showed up to administer an injection of vitamin B12 to the 300 star, who was ill at the time. It was her basically saying, Gerard, I dont want you fucking up my husbands film, Hardy says, chuckling. There she is in the back of the car, slipping in from the roof, and appearing like the Terminator -- the fucking Madonna.
Despite her interruption (Madonna does not appear in the film), Hardy was able to pull himself together for the scene, a key moment in RocknRolla when his character, Handsome Bob, confesses to his close friend One Two (Butler) that he is in love with him. Its a rather awkward exchange. Though the rest of their crooked clan suspects Handsome Bob is gay, One Two is shocked. The tension between the two sticks around for the remainder of the film, a nice homoerotic touch from Ritchie, known for his violent, testosterone-fueled capers. According to Hardy, Handsome Bob is based on an actual gay gangster. But the real guy sounded a lot tougher than Handsome Bob, he explains. Bob is the getaway driver -- a lad, as opposed to a mobster or killer. Hes just one of the boys.
Hardy, whose wide-ranging performances have earned him comparisons to Ewan McGregor, can certainly relate to Handsome Bobs delinquent tendencies. The heavily tattooed former model and recovering drug addict says he was a profound reprobate from an early age. (As a teen he was pulled over in a stolen Mercedes with a firearm in his possession.) But Hardy -- who also had roles in Marie Antoinette and Black Hawk Down and starred as Capt. Jean-Luc Picards evil clone in 2002s Star Trek: Nemesis -- admits that men intimidate him. Masculine, butch groups of blokes together -- its never really been my cup of tea. Playing a gay man in a Guy Ritchie movie is a finger up to that whole attitude of men talking about men doing mens things, which is so fucking narrow-minded. Handsome Bob is what a man should be -- except for the part of him taking a crowbar to the back of someones head.
Yet it is RocknRollas men-behaving-very-badly scenarios that infuse the flick with a high dose of queerness. In Ritchies louche criminal underworld, Handsome Bob and One Two are chased by two teeth-gnashing Russian thugs, one of whom ends up shirtless, his chiseled abs covered in sweat and blood. Several scenes later, when the mobsters pay a surprise visit to One Twos house, sporting S/M-style leather gear to bind and gag him in his bedroom, its not clear whether they want to kill him or screw him.
Thats not to say the film -- a slick blend of sex, drugs, and rock n roll -- doesnt have its gentler moments. At one point One Two even finds himself embracing Handsome Bob, surrounded by a pack of swishy dancers at a salsa club. During our lessons these really gay dancers were trying to put it on Butler, says Hardy. They just made me want to snuggle Gerard a bit tighter, lick his top lip a bit.
RocknRolla is in theaters nationwide October 31.Send a letter to the editor about this article.