In this weekend’s The Drop, Tom Hardy stars as Bob Saginowski, a low-key Brooklyn bartender in a high-crime neighborhood. When his bar is held up at gunpoint, Bob and his boss — a washed-up tough played by James Gandolfini, in his final big-screen turn — find themselves at the center of an ever-unfolding crime story that draws together a seedy scammer (Rust and Bone’s Matthias Schoenaerts), his damaged ex-girlfriend (Noomi Rapace), and one adorable Pit bull puppy. Yahoo Movies caught up with Hardy at the Toronto International Film Festival, where, in between hits on two lightsaber-sized nicotine inhalers, he talked about Gandolfini, good accents, and why you can totally let your kid hang around Pit bulls.
You filmed The Drop in some of the tougher areas in Brooklyn. Did you get to see the city at all?
We went all over the place. We met some police officers and played poker with them. And we had a homicide detective on the set who said, “Any time you want to come out and ride in the car, you’re more than welcome. Here’s my card.” It was one of those cards you’d use when you get pulled over, so you can say, “Hey, this guy’s my buddy!”
We had lots of people over there to show us around the city. And we had Jimmy. We didn’t go out for an evening with him or anything like that, but as soon as Jimmy walked onto the set, the film came to life — New York’s in the house! He was our stamp of authenticity.
As an actor, Gandolfini was known for being hard on himself. Did you see any of that during filming?
Yeah. He knew he could give more, so he wanted to reach that. All great actors have a standard they wanna hit, and then push through the ceiling of that. So if he wasn’t pushing through the ceiling, you fuckin’ knew it. When he’d hit a wall, he’d have a little shout and crack his knuckles. And then he’d say, “Sorry. Let’s go again.” Then he’d dig it out, and get it.
He was a superbly generous actor, and full of heart. He was tough on himself because he knew he could do better, and that’s a rare and admirable trait for any man to have — to say, “I can do much fuckin’ better than this, and I’m not giving you enough.”
How did you develop your Brooklyn accent?
It’s like trying to wrangle a cat. There are so many cultures and different ethnicities, so it was more confusing than anything — this collage of Biggie Smalls, Robert De Niro, and Al Pacino. I’d be listening to rap music, and someone would say, “No, that’s not [the accent] for Polish Brooklyn.” Then you go to Polish Brooklyn, and there’s all these different accents there!
During filming, a picture of you holding one of the film’s Pit bull puppies became an Internet mini-sensation. Were you aware of that at all?
No, not really. But I love that dog. There were three of them [on the set], actually. They sent me a photograph [of one of them] the other day, and he is big — a big, big boy. They’re not puppies anymore; they’re big-ass dogs. But Pit bulls are a much-maligned breed.
You rarely read nice things about them. Any time they’re in the news, it’s because they bit some kid.
It’s so sad, because — and I know it sounds silly — but sausage dogs bite more people than Pit bulls do. Labradors bite more people. There’s always a dog that’s getting the bad deal, like: “He’s the bastard! That’s a bad dog.” But in the right hands, that dog could be a very different dog.
Did you know that the Pit bull’s the highest decorated military dog? It’s true, because of their loyalty, and its sensitivity. They would run through artillery fire and bring ammo. And they used to be called the nanny dog, as well, and it was the favorite American dog for many, many years. They’d leave the baby on the porch with the dog. Go online and look it up! You’ll see all these Pit bulls with babies! [Ed. Note: He’s right!] You’d leave your kid with that dog, because they were safe. And if anyone had gone near the baby, they would have gone f—kin’ mental.
Watch a clip from The Drop starring Tom Hardy: