In 2012, then-newcomer actor Tom Hardy had the unenviable task of playing the Batman villain Bane in Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises, following in the footsteps of Heath Ledger's iconic role as the villain Joker in The Dark Knight. Despite the massive burden of expectations, Hardy was able to bring an exciting sense of menace and gravitas to the role. In an interview for the Happy Sad Confused podcast, Nolan opined that Hardy still does not get enough credit for what he was able to achieve with Bane.
"There's no safety net for any of these guys and Tom, I mean what he did with that character has yet to be fully appreciated. It's an extraordinary performance, and truly amazing. The voice, the relationship between just seeing the eyes and the brow. We had all these discussions about the mask and what it would reveal and what it wouldn't reveal, and one of the things I remember him saying to me, he sort of put his finger up to his temple and his eyebrow and said 'Can you give me this to play with? Let people see this.' Sure enough, you see there in the film, this kind of Brando-esque brow, expressing all kinds of just monstrous things. It's really quite a performance."
The point about Tom Hardy wanting audiences to see Bane's forehead is interesting. All the tools the actor had to perform with as Bane were his body language, his voice, and that formidable brow. With the merest furrowing of his eyebrows in his very first scene aboard the CIA plane, Hardy was able to convey to the audience that Bane, despite technically being a prisoner, was in complete control of the situation.
At other points in the story as well, a mere twitch of the brow and a slight lowering of the head was enough for Bane to convey a host of emotions. As Christopher Nolan states, it truly is a remarkable, self-contained performance, especially after his predecessor Heath Ledger's performance as Joker was built on being able to go all out, and even over-the-top, in terms of his expressions and body language as the maniacal Clown Prince of Crime. In another part of the interview, Nolan revealed that Hardy's Bane took some of his inspiration from Nolan himself.
"I've been teased about [basing my movie characters on myself] in the past. Funnily enough, I think there are, whether you're looking at Kyle MacLachlan with David Lynch in Blue Velvet who does his collar up, I think there is a slightly mischievous tendency on the part of actors to see in the filmmakers whereas a writer, particularly writer/directors, were able to put a bit of themselves into something and then build on that. Tom Hardy maintains that Bane is somehow based on me, but 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, I think Rob with Neil [in Tenet] we talked about a lot of different influences on that character, none of which were me."
Christopher Nolan made these comments while appearing on the Happy Sad Confused podcast.