Sony had already surprised everyone once with the simple fact they’re moving a Venom standalone film into production with a Fall 2018 release date, but now they’ve one-upped themselves by casting Tom Hardy. Yes, Tom Hardy, man of a million, equally incomprehensible voices and all round class act will be playing Eddie Brock in Rueben Fleischer’s film based on the corrupted Spider-Man villain.
An announcement was obviously going to happen soon if Sony were actually going to follow through on their promise of an 18-month production, but nobody expected Hardy to be headlining. There’d been no rumors or even speculation on this. Now the initial shock has subsided, though, there’s really only one conclusion: they couldn’t have snatched up a better star.
Specifically for this project, Hardy has experience in the blockbuster and superhero arena. Obviously, he played villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and was for a time attached to Suicide Squad before scheduling conflicts with The Revenant forced him to drop out, and through his repeated collaboration with Christopher Nolan (besides Rises he’s been in Inception and the upcoming Dunkirk) has manage to notch up several tentpole releases despite a more artistic angling. This is rather rudimentary, but beyond evident acting prowess and an understanding of how to play to fans, it means he’ll be well-equipped to deal with what is going to be a breakneck production.
Of course, there is also the acting prowess, and here’s where the choice becomes genius. Hardy’s skillset is perfect for the resentful, trapped Eddie Brock (in the comics he’s shown up by Spider-Man before allowing the Venom symbiote to use that rage to turn him into a supervillain). Yes, in the day-to-day he’s a down-to-Earth actor who’s able to present real class (see Inception, Legend, his CBeebies’ Bedtime Stories), but when you give him a role with meat he shows immense, varied hidden depths; Locke, the other side of his dual role in Legend and The Revenant. The popular joke is that it’s all funny voices and anger, but each one has a dual vulnerability within them (as well as in contrast to his more conventional turns).
And then there’s Bronson. Made before he was a household name, Nicholas Winding-Refn’s unhinged biopic on Britain’s most violent convict Charles Bronson (real name Michael Gordon Peterson) gave Hardy a chance to show how unsettling and demented he could go. When he was cast in The Dark Knight Rises, Bane’s physique was treated like the obvious extension of the role, but in light of the Venom news it feels a bit misguided; while the masked revolutionary definitely was a tough fighter and shared similar gypsy fighting origins to Bronson, not much in terms of acting technique was actually used. The intense unpredictability that made Bronson so utterly terrifying and captivating has yet to be matched in Hardy’s subsequent career, but is ripe to be channeled into Brock (and of course the actor’s ability to bulk up will give us a hulking Venom straight from the page).
He’s also a fan, something the official Sony announcement, featuring Hardy wearing a Venom t-shirt, really hammer home. Such assurances are commonplace in the modern blockbuster landscape where studios are keen to telegraph to fans that they’ve hired the right person for their beloved property, but with Hardy the choice feels genuine. He’s not one to sign onto a project lightly, which further suggests that Sony will get Venom right this time.
As Spider-Man fans painfully know, this won’t be the first time the symbiote has appeared on the big screen. He was the primary antagonist of Spider-Man 3 and the core of many of the disappointing film’s problems; from dancing emo Peter Parker to a complete lack of genuine peril, it’s fair to say Sony has managed to ruin Venom most out of Spidey’s rogues (with perhaps the exception of Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2). And that’s the other side of Hardy’s casting; it’s not just a case of the actor fitting the part, but of the actor essentially making the part remotely interesting.