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Tom Hardy's Unexpected Inspiration Behind The Dark Knight Rises' Bane

These days, it's regarded with far more affection, but upon its release in the summer of 2012, Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises proved a divisive capper to his otherwise beloved Dark Knight trilogy. Part of the problem, of course, was that TDKR was a follow-up to Nolan's superhero cinema masterpiece The Dark Knight, which featured what many believe to be one of the greatest villains in film history: the late Heath Ledger's Joker. 

Ledger's performance stood — and still stands — tall in supervillain canon, even more so given the actor unexpectedly passed away before the film was released and netted a posthumous Academy Award for his towering work. The deck was clearly stacked against any actor who would step up to play a villain in the Dark Knight sequel. But luckily, Tom Hardy is an actor who's never shied away from a challenge — and when the daring actor decided to reunite with his Inception director for a bad-guy role in The Dark Knight Rises, the whole of Batman fandom was initially over the moon at that news.

Those positive vibes were tempered, however, when fans got their first look at Hardy's masked baddie Bane, and later, when they quite literally couldn't understand anything the actor was saying. Given Bane's general verbosity in the film, Nolan appeared to have tweaked the audio prior to the film's release (despite initially stating that he wouldn't be changing it at all), but even with clearer vocals, many fans were still a bit confounded by Hardy's performance — so much so that they were struggling to place exactly where the actor drew his inspiration for the character from.  

In a recent appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Nolan set the record straight, offering that Hardy partially based Bane on ... well, him. "Tom Hardy maintains that Bane is somehow based on me," Nolan said.

Of course, Hardy also took inspiration from other sources — namely Bartley Gorman, an Irish Traveller known for his boxing prowess, whom Hardy turned to when crafting Bane's voice (via Vulture).

Christopher Nolan isn't entirely sure what parts of his personality are in Hardy's Bane

It may come as a bit of a surprise that Hardy took parts of Nolan and incorporated them into his characterization of Bane. Nolan has normally seemed like a fairly even-tempered guy (even in his recent criticisms of Warner Bros.) with little interest in the sort of brutish, grandstanding intimidation that seems to power Hardy's Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. It seems even the cinematic ingenue himself was surprised to learn he'd inspired the performance, and still doesn't quite see what parts of himself Hardy borrowed for Bane.

"I think there is a slightly mischievous tendency on the part of actors to see [their characters] in the filmmakers. Whereas a writer — particularly writer-directors — [is] able to put a bit of themselves into something and then build on that," Nolan said on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. "In Tom's mind, there's some very complex interweaving of impulses and influences that somehow I have a voice in. I think it's certainly not conscious on my part."

Whatever parts of Nolan's personality Hardy utilized in The Dark Knight Rises, the director remains beyond impressed with the work his frequent collaborator contributed as the beastly Bane. He also remains hopeful Hardy's work will one day be ranked among the actor's best performances: "What he did with that character has yet to be fully appreciated. It's an extraordinary performance, and truly amazing."

Perplexing as it was, Hardy's performance was all the more impressive considering he delivered much of it behind a mask. With The Dark Knight Rises finally beginning to get some well-deserved love in Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, the actor's potent turn as Bane — a wily mix of brute-force physicality and intellectual swagger — is also starting to gain a more respect too. As things stand, his Nolan-inspired Bane remains one of the most underappreciated bad guys in Batman's increasingly vast cinematic canon.