Ben Hardy: I think I was just an attention-seeking little kid”

Volume 4 Issue 002: Journeying from EastEnders to Hollywood blockbusters with the “fucking crazy” anti-thespian.

Arti­cle taken from The Face Volume 4 Issue 002. Order your copy here.

It was only when he was harnessed to the top of Florence Cathedral that Ben Hardy realised he had a fear of heights. Then again, maybe being shackled to the exterior of a 583-year-old landmark, 114 metres above ground level, is enough to give anyone vertigo.

The 28-year-old Brit was in Italy shooting 6 Underground, the forthcoming big-budget Netflix thriller from blockbuster maestro Michael Bay, the man behind the Transformers franchise and lots of other very loud films. Playing a member of a team of six vigilantes (Ryan Reynolds is One”, Hardy is Six” and all half-dozen are, seemingly, billionaires) meant a four-month, globe-trotting shoot and some skyscraping stuntwork. 

I don’t know if you’ve seen the Duomo, but it’s fucking nuts!” Hardy exclaims. The stunt people told me: Don’t worry about it, just lean over this building.’ And this weird instinctual thing kicked in, but my mind was saying to me: What are you doing?!’

It’s a long way down, for sure. And an even longer way from Hardy’s role as EastEnders’ Peter Beale, son of longstanding Albert Square resident Ian Beale. Since leaving Walford in 2015, Hardy has kicked his telly soap origins firmly into touch, rocking wings as Archangel in X‑Men: Apocalypse and wigs as Queen drummer Roger Taylor in the box-office-busting Bohemian Rhapsody. Signing up for a testosterone-fuelled, $150 million Bay extravaganza felt like the next logical step.

Throughout: Shirt Worstok

Or did it? Spend any time with Hardy and it quickly becomes clear that he’s uninterested in the empty swagger of stardom. Kicking back in a Los Angeles hotel room, the London-based actor is softly-spoken, charming and deathly afraid of coming across as one of those thespians” who drone on and on about craft. Please don’t make me sound narcissistic!” he begs at one point. 

In fact, when told about the popular YouTube fan edits of his scenes from the Queen biopic, the actor almost shudders with embarrassment. I’m sure they had that for every character,” he says more in hope than knowledge (they don’t), adding, if that really strokes your ego and makes you feel great about yourself, then I think you might be in this business for the wrong reasons.”

Hardy was born in Bournemouth and grew up in Sherborne in Dorset. As a kid he was a decent rugby player, but when injuries derailed his career in his early teens, he discovered a passion for acting. There is no acting blood in my family – I think I was just an attention-seeking little kid,” he admits. 

He went on to study at London’s Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, and hit the ground running soon after graduation, landing a part in the BBC’s most-watched show in 2013, aged just 22

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Less than two years later he was in Montreal, shooting Bryan Singer’s X‑Men: Apocalypse, the third prequel film in the seemingly endless franchise. Hardy then talked his way into an audition with director Singer to portray Taylor in the long-gestating Bohemian Rhapsody, pretending he knew how to play drums. But during filming, the producers fired Singer, replacing him with Dexter Fletcher. Stories of Singer’s alleged sexual assault of minors emerged (he strongly denies the ­allegations) and there were reports of the director’s lateness, no-shows and other troubles on the set. 

The stuff that went on, that can’t help but be part of the film,” Hardy says carefully. But I think the film is such an achievement. It was tricky to navigate, for sure – there are moments in that film that made me incredibly angry, which I would have liked to voice. But then it’s also more nuanced than that,” he insists.“It’s not necessarily so black-and-white. I’ve worked with Bryan twice, and obviously I am thankful to him for casting me in both those films because it’s done a lot for me. I was very happy to be a part of them. But everyone knows there were some problems on that film,” he acknowledges.

The British actor working the graveyard shift at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Hanging off a colossal dome was presumably less of an emotional challenge, but 6 Underground was extremely physically demanding. I did weeks of parkour training, and my legs were destroyed,” he says. You’re just jumping and landing over and over.” Working with a director like Bay, though, he knew what to expect.

What Michael does – which is so useful for an actor – is make his set gloriously chaotic. He raises everyone’s game because if you have even one off moment, you could be fired. It keeps everyone on their toes, and it’s a certain way of working. Some people love it,” Hardy notes – the some people don’t” is implied rather than spoken. 

But after the rigours of two years on a four-times-a-week soap and two films with a controversial director, Hardy had the chops to impress Bay on that first day at the top of Florence Cathedral. Midway through when I was up there, he was like: Ben, I think you’re fucking crazy – I’d never do what you’re doing.’ Hardy didn’t look down, nor is he looking back. 

Styling Gadir Rajab, Grooming KC Fee at The Wall Group, Styling assistance Caleb Thal, Production Rosanna Gouldman, Production manager Katherine Bampton


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