A Guide to Tom Hardy’s Many Strange Accents

Tom Hardy’s latest film, ‘The Bikeriders,’ finds the actor delivering another unique vocal performance. Here’s a look at the full spectrum of Hardy’s most memorable accent work.

DC/Warner Bros./Sony/Getty Images/Ringer illustration

For Austin Butler, the lead role in 2022’s Elvis became both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the Oscar-nominated performance announced him as one of the most exciting young stars in Hollywood; at the same time, embodying Elvis Presley appeared to come at the expense of his own voice. As was clear from several media appearances, Butler was still stuck channeling Elvis, and it got so bad that the actor hired a dialect coach to help cleanse himself of the voice before filming Masters of the Air.

Dialect coach be damned, Butler still sorta sounds like Elvis in Masters of the Air. (If you closed your eyes during some of the episodes, you’d think to yourself, “Why is Elvis dropping bombs over Nazi Germany?”) Really, it wasn’t until Butler’s performance in Dune: Part Two that he seemed to shake Elvis for good, and all it took was pulling off a Stellan Skarsgard impression. (Butler’s commitment to the bit extended to giving Skarsgard’s character an impromptu smooch.) This early body of work has given Butler an air of mystique: He’s a movie star willing to lose himself in pursuit of greatness. Now, heading into Butler’s latest film, The Bikeriders, there’s a sense of anticipation about what kind of voice he used to get in character. But there’s one factor that threatens to overshadow anything Butler does: His costar just so happens to be the Michael Jordan of weird fucking accents.

I hope your ears are ready, because Tom Hardy, the actor that Americans apparently find the most difficult to understand, is back to doing what he does best. In The Bikeriders, Hardy plays Johnny, the leader of the Vandals MC motorcycle gang in 1960s Chicago. In theory, Hardy is supposed to be doing an old-school Chicagoan accent; in practice, I can describe it as only “Marlon Brando bingeing Sons of Anarchy after a few Valiums.” But that’s part and parcel of the Hardy experience: He’s a chameleonic character actor trapped in a leading man’s body, and no one else is capable of changing their voice to such an absurd degree. Sometimes, the Hardy accent is the key to unlocking a great character; other times, it can be needlessly distracting; and on rare occasions, it becomes the basis for memes. No matter what voice Hardy goes for, though, the audience is guaranteed to remember it.

In that spirit, we’ve put together the Tom Hardy accent guide: an exploration of the actor’s [clears throat] unique affectations throughout his career, broken down into categories. The accents we’ve highlighted run the gamut from Cockney to American to whatever the hell you want to call Venom, but whether you love or hate him, there’s no denying that Hardy is one of a kind. Let’s dive in.


Prim Brit

We’ve yet to find out who will play the next James Bond, and while Hardy probably isn’t in the running, he’d make a damn fine 007. Regardless of Bond’s backstory—Daniel Craig’s 007 was raised in an orphanage and wears upscale attire with a hint of disdain—the character always sounds suave and proper, something that Hardy has pulled off across his filmography. In the 2012 romantic comedy This Means War, Hardy plays a CIA agent falling for the same woman (Reese Witherspoon) as his best friend (Chris Pine). It’s a terrible (and terribly predictable) movie, but Hardy is very convincing as an idealized version of a sexy spy from across the pond.

Meanwhile, in the 2011 adaptation of John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Hardy seamlessly slots into the crafty world of Cold War espionage, where double crosses and power plays are par for the course. In his role as the British field agent Ricki Tarr, the only thing flashy about Hardy is a killer coat game: The accent is unassuming and doesn’t call much attention to itself, which is exactly what makes the character good at his job. But Hardy’s finest informal Bond audition came courtesy of Christopher Nolan’s Inception, where, as the master forger Eames, the actor oozes sophistication and charm. Nolan has never shied away from how much the Bond series has influenced him, so Hardy’s eloquent manner of speaking fits into Inception like a glove. In fact, Hardy is responsible for the movie’s most memorable exchange. After Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Arthur starts firing a machine gun during their mission in the subconscious, Eames tells him, “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling,” before conjuring a massive grenade launcher.

How iconic was this moment? I shit you not, Eames’s quote was voted the official motto for my high school graduating class. Such is the power of prim Tom Hardy (and grenade launchers).

Cockney, Innit?

Sticking with British accents, Hardy appears most in his element playing a rugged character brought up on the streets. Unfortunately, this is also where it becomes much trickier to understand what on earth he’s saying. I’m one of those viewers who, as a matter of principle, never puts on subtitles for English-language films or TV shows, but even I’ve been tempted to break that rule watching Peaky Blinders. As the Jewish gangster Alfie Solomons, Hardy is an intriguing foil for Cillian Murphy’s Tommy Shelby, the brawns to his brain. At least, I’m pretty sure that’s the dynamic, since half of Hardy’s dialogue sounds like it was performed after he had a shot of novocaine.

In the 2015 biopic Legend, Hardy juggled two rough-and-tumble accents while inhabiting the twin gangsters Reggie and Ronald Kray. It’s to Hardy’s credit that the twins were so easy to differentiate: Reggie is the more polished of the two, which is reflected in a somewhat urbane, high-pitched vocal register, while Ronald is a blunt instrument of violence who slurs more than half his words. But Hardy’s finest work in the Cockney space arrived in another biopic, Bronson. Playing the infamous career criminal Charles Bronson, Hardy is a magisterial agent of chaos, commanding every inch of the screen throughout his many marble-mouthed monologues. But the strongest endorsement for Hardy’s performance came from Bronson himself, who gave the actor his seal of approval. Strange but true: Hardy has since been banned from visiting Bronson in prison, which seems like a bizarre overreaction. (What’s Hardy going to do, bust Bronson out after distracting the guards with a flawless imitation of him?)

Mumble Growling

As a performer, Hardy isn’t just a striking on-screen presence: He’s adept at saying a lot with very little. It’s been well documented that Hardy didn’t exactly enjoy his time filming Mad Max: Fury Road, and perhaps some of it came down to the fact that Max Rockatansky is a man of so few words. (As is tradition for the protagonists in George Miller’s franchise.) Instead, Hardy spends part of Fury Road with his face covered in the postapocalyptic version of the Hannibal Lecter mask, grunts his way through most of Max’s scant dialogue, and waits until the very end of the film just to tell Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) his name. Hand to God, I have no idea whether Hardy was meant to be doing an Australian accent; I could barely hear his mumble growling over all the roaring engines.

Hardy’s face is also obscured throughout Dunkirk, in which he plays the British Royal Air Force pilot Farrier, who helps protect the Allied troops evacuating France from his plane. But unlike practically every other Nolan movie, Dunkirk prioritizes action and movement more than thought-provoking dialogue. We don’t need to hear everything (or anything) that Farrier is saying—all that matters is that World War II–era dogfighting fucking rips. Last, let’s give a quick shout-out to Hardy’s work on the FX series Taboo, which he also cocreated. Portraying the English explorer James Keziah Delaney, Hardy gets plenty of scenery-chewing dialogue, but more importantly, his brooding protagonist grunts, like, all the time. One magnificent YouTuber even put together a Taboo grunting compilation: Hardy tops out at 72 grunts, which comes out to an average of nine grunts per episode.

[Grunts approvingly.]

Mother Russia

Considering Hardy’s long-standing obsession with trying out different accents, it’s genuinely surprising that he’s played a Russian only once in his career. That was in Child 44, which, if you haven’t heard of it, might be because the film was (A) a box office bomb, (B) critically reviled, and (C) directed by the dude responsible for Morbius. Hardy’s performance as Soviet agent Leo Demidov, which he prepared for by watching the Count on Sesame Street, wasn’t spared, either. One critic wrote that Hardy “barks and gulps like a demented sea lion,” and honestly? No lies detected.

Given Child 44’s less than stellar reputation, you can understand why Hardy may have reservations about trying another Russian accent, but this feels like an area of untapped potential for the actor. If Hardy isn’t going to be the next James Bond, I could totally see him playing a sinister villain of Soviet or eastern European origin in the franchise. After all, the problem with Child 44 isn’t necessarily Hardy’s accent: It’s not anywhere close to authentic, but the voice is amusingly hammy and could work like gangbusters in a movie that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Until then, however, everything associated with Child 44 belongs in a gulag.

Ey, I’m Walkin’ Here!

In the grand tradition of British actors doing American accents, Hardy has many such voices on his résumé. He’s particularly fond of throwing out his own, uh, unique spins on the classic New Yorker accent. Hardy’s most conventional voice within this category was in The Drop, the 2014 crime drama best known for being James Gandolfini’s final film role. Playing the Brooklyn bartender Bob Saginowski, Hardy occasionally stammers through his words, but otherwise the accent doesn’t call too much attention to itself. On the opposite end of the spectrum, for better or worse, is Hardy’s work in Capone. As the titular Italian American gangster at the end of his life, Hardy is straight-up croaking his way through every syllable. Since no audio recordings of Al Capone exist, Hardy basically had free rein to sound like an inebriated frog with peanut butter stuck to the roof of its mouth.

Of course, no discussion of Hardy’s New Yorker accents would be complete without mentioning Venom. The symbiote’s human host, Eddie Brock, might be doing his award-winning investigative journalism out of San Francisco, but he hails from the Big Apple. (You can tell because Brock mumbles his way through calling himself a re-pah-dur.) Frankly, Hardy’s voice is all over the place—he frequently slurs his words and is prone to squeaky outbursts—which is understandable for a guy with an extraterrestrial parasite riding shotgun inside his body. In any case, the lobster tank scene remains an all-timer.

Roughneck American

As with his British accents, Hardy seems especially energized when he gets to play an American with more of a roughneck sensibility. There’s the underrated performance in Warrior, in which Hardy plays the MMA fighter and Pittsburgh native Tommy Conlon, who’s battling both his demons and his estranged brother (Joel Edgerton) in the octagon. Hardy’s slack-jawed delivery fluctuates between punch-drunk and drunk-drunk, which feels appropriate given Tommy’s complicated relationship with his father, Paddy (Nick Nolte), a recovering alcoholic who’s training him. The strongest endorsement I can give to Hardy’s accent in Warrior is that it isn’t a needless distraction from the rest of the movie; if anything, it enhances it.

That wasn’t quite the case for Hardy’s other regional dialects. In Lawless, the actor speaks in a southern drawl that The New York Times’ A.O. Scott described, not inaccurately, as “Toby Keith choking on a Cheeto.” But Hardy’s finest work of sheer WTF-ery within this space actually earned him an Oscar nomination. In The Revenant, Hardy is John S. Fitzgerald, the contemptible fur trader who leaves Leonardo DiCaprio’s Hugh Glass for dead after killing his son. But if there’s anything more memorable than The Revenant’s infamous bear attack, it’s Hardy’s guttural, unintelligible monologues in an accent that’s impossible to place. (All I know is that this man really likes to say “yargh,” like he’s a distant cousin of Hot Fuzz’s Michael Armstrong.) Whatever Hardy’s doing in The Revenant, it’s completely mesmeric—and Oscar worthy.

Supervillains

We’ve saved the best for last. When most actors get cast in a superhero blockbuster, it can sometimes feel like a death sentence: Why waste the immeasurable talents of Florence Pugh in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when we’ve seen what she can do in movies like Midsommar? But for Hardy, superhero projects are where he can truly let his freak flag fly. We already addressed Hardy’s work as Venom’s flesh-and-blood protagonist, but it’s his voice as the eponymous symbiote that takes the film to another level. Basically, the Spider-Man villain exclusively speaks in the aural equivalent of the caps lock button. In Hardy’s own words, Venom is meant to be a mix of Busta Rhymes, Method Man, Redman, James Brown, and, if those weren’t random enough, seven-time Oscar nominee Richard Burton. Whatever the inspiration, it will never not be funny to hear Venom’s booming voice refer to his human host as a LOSER.

Finally, it’s time to bring up the big guy. From the moment he shows up in The Dark Knight Rises, Bane cuts an imposing figure, but what makes him a villain unlike any other is Hardy’s commitment to what may be the single weirdest voice in the history of mainstream cinema. Befitting his masked appearance, Bane sounds like what you’d get if someone forcibly attached Sean Connery to a sleep apnea machine. Even though Hardy’s performance was incomprehensible enough that Nolan had to clean up the audio, it’s a voice so iconic that you’ve probably spent years imitating it, while the Harley Quinn animated series continues milking it for humor with its own Bane. I don’t even think The Dark Knight Rises is a good movie, but I’ve watched it more times than I can count. Bane, I do it all … FOR YOU.

We all cared about who Tom Hardy was before he put on the mask, but Bane’s sinister dandy voice ensured that the actor will forever be hailed as supervillain royalty—just as he is Hollywood’s undisputed king of utterly bizarre accents.

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