The Meathead // Tom Hardy
You may not realize this but Tom Hardy has been in this business for 10 years. His devilish stare, pouty lips, and British tongue have appeared in "Band of Brothers," Black Hawk Down, Star Trek: Nemesis, Layer Cake, Marie Antoinette, Sucker Punch, and RocknRolla. His breakout role was the title character of 2006's psychological prison drama Bronson. It was the first time he was on display, both physically and emotionally. The critics ate it up. His next project was Inception. He took a backseat to Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon Levitt, and Ellen Page, but by the trailer alone, audiences were already smitten with Hardy.
This year, he's built up incredible buzz for his family slash boxing slash war drama Warrior, opposite another breakout star Joel Edgerton. They were perfectly paired as brothers. They've managed to do what Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenneger only dreamed of doing: believably delivering a powerful and emotional performance even though they look like brawny meatheads. That's the most surprising aspect of Hardy's success. Because of the nature of his last few films, he's had to maintain this muscular build that's more customary for action films like heist and superhero films, not suspense thrillers and indie dramas. Audiences normally disregard such body-conscious actors as just part of the scenery, but I think Hardy's accent allows him to play both intellects and muscle. It allows him to melt into vulnerable characters, like the lovesick assassin in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Next year though Hardy will give himself over to commercialization, fighting over Reese Witherspoon in the action rom-com This Means War opposite Chris Pine, pairing up with Shia Labeouf in the crime drama The Wettest County, and then reteaming with Christopher Nolan in The Dark Knight Rises, the long-waited finale to the Batman saga, as Bane. He'll be under a mountain of scrutiny as he'll have to deliver a performance that's either equal to or better than the belated Heath Ledger's infamous Joker—all while wearing a muzzle. However, I have a feeling Hardy doesn't feel the pressure. That's half his appeal. He's super chill, like he never has a care in the world.