Tom Hardy on playing the ultimate anti-hero in Taboo

The actor reveals details of his upcoming BBC drama – your new TV obsession.


Adam Woodward


From Bronson to Lawless to Mad Max, Tom Hardy has played some of the most complex and thrilling characters in recent cinema history. Now he’s taking his distinct brand of unhinged anti-hero to the small screen with the upcoming BBC mini-series Taboo. We recently caught an early glimpse of the pilot episode and, well, let’s just say it’s a show unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Hardy dreamed up the dangerously charismatic, mysterious lead, James Delaney, with his dad, Chips, almost a decade ago. Other projects soon took precedence as Hardy hit the big time, but the pair never lost sight of their passion project, eventually bringing in Ridley Scott as producer and Steven Knight to help flesh out the script. Here Hardy speaks about relishing his most menacing, sophisticated character to date.

“Back in 2007 I played Bill Sikes in Oliver Twist and really enjoyed the character. I thought I’d really like to play Bill Sikes as a lead and I’d also really like to play Dr Faustus in Bill Sikes’ body. I also really want to play Hannibal Lecter and Sherlock Holmes and Philip Marlowe and maybe a little bit of Mr Darcy but not too much because that’s really boring actually. I wanted James Delaney to be like a classical heroic duke, a man of action, but someone who also has a depth of depravity to him and this great ability to say ‘fuck off’.

“The problem with many leads is that they’re quite boring because they just follow a direct line, they do stuff and they just happen to be in the room. This is why the anti-hero is quite interesting because this guy has got some real character to him. The interesting thing about James is that he’s a direct reflection of the sum of his world in the early 1800s. There’s a mythology to Delaney, it’s a very solid fertile playground for us.”


“Life is a relative shit sandwich, but there’s beauty in it. There’s lies and there’s deceit and there’s honesty. What we’re looking at in Taboo is: what is honesty and what is kindness? What is cruelty? Who’s right, who’s wrong? The diverse nature of the human condition can be grey and very confusing. At the same time, there’s sensuality and love and compassion. But not a lot has changed when it comes to power, whether it’s the Vikings or the Romans, nothing has really changed in that aspect. That’s where James Delaney comes in.

“To find a group of people who want to change, that’s very interesting in this period. What kind of people are they? They’re not gangsters. There’s lots of unhappy people and a lot of displacement and a lot of fear around and that’s not similar to what’s cracking on today. For us that presented a very creative place to explore. Because who’s to say that history is absolutely correct?”

Season 1 of Taboo airs on BBC One on 10 January.

Published 29 Dec 2016

Tags: Ridley Scott Steven Knight Tom Hardy

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