Black Hawk Down & Band Of Brothers Were A Trial By Fire For Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy spent almost a decade working under the radar in Hollywood before he had a breakout blockbuster role in Christopher Nolan's "Inception" and his career took off. It wasn't his first high-profile role in a science fiction film; that would be "Star Trek: Nemesis," where a young Hardy played the villain Shinzon, a clone of legendary Starfleet captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart). However, "Nemesis" is the film that effectively killed any further movies featuring the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" cast, until they recently reemerged in the third season of "Star Trek: Picard." And before he ever went sci-fi or flew a Spitfire in "Dunkirk," for his first TV and film roles respectively, Hardy appeared back-to-back in the HBO World War II miniseries "Band of Brothers" and the Ridley Scott war movie "Black Hawk Down."

Hardy costars in two episodes of "Band of Brothers" as John Janovec, the real-life Easy Company private who died in a jeep accident in 1945, months before World War II ended. In a 2002 interview with IGN to promote "Nemesis," Hardy discussed the challenge of taking on his first TV role and playing a real U.S. soldier:

"”Band of Brothers' was my first job so I was virtually out of the frying pan and into the fire, really. I'd not had previous experience with working in front of the camera, so there was dealing with that. Also, I had the research material — not that I'd need it. I mean, I was in two episodes and had twelve lines. That was the sum total of work [I] had to do. But nonetheless, I would work just as hard trying to portray someone whose relatives are still around. Obviously, nobody wants to go out there and say, 'This is my big moment.' And I'm playing John Janovec, who is dead. He died for freedom."

The 'enormous pressure' of Hardy's first movie role

Like "Band of Brothers," "Black Hawk Down" features a rich ensemble cast, with stars like Josh Hartnett and Ewan MacGregor being joined by a long list of actors in minor roles who would later become more famous, such as Orlando Bloom, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, and Hugh Dancy. Set in Somalia in 1993 during the Battle of Mogadishu, "Black Hawk Down" was Tom Hardy's feature-film debut, and it came with even more pressure than "Band of Brothers," where there was a distance of 50-plus years separating Hardy from the man he was playing.

In "Black Hawk Down," Hardy's Army Ranger, Lance Twombly, was based on a soldier who was still living with "demons" when they were making the movie. The film shows Twombly getting separated from his unit with Shawn Nelson (Ewen Bremner), who loses his hearing after Twombly discharges his gun near his ears. In his comments to IGN, Hardy said he didn't get to meet the real Twombly until after making "Black Hawk Down," but he still felt a responsibility to do his story justice and not treat it as a big moment for his acting career, despite it giving him his movie break:

"There are these people who have fought and will fight and will die. It's a responsibility if you're going to go in there and play a character like that, and the pressure is enormous. But, you cannot think, 'This is my big moment' at all. And those were very much the key elements for both of those projects that struck me as an actor, and as a guy who desperately wanted to do the right work, at least attempted to do the right work."

"Band of Brothers" is currently streaming on HBO Max (soon to be relabeled Max), and "Black Hawk Down" is available to rent on most VOD platforms.