Before he was known as Bane or Max, Hardy's breakout role was Shinzon, aka 'young Picard,' in 'The Next Generation' cast's final movie.
Patrick Stewart’s cinematic farewell as Captain Picard in Star Trek: Nemesis in 2002 provided Tom Hardy’s breakout role as Praetor Shinzon, which the 24-year-old actor landed after providing a “bizarre” and partially “naked” audition tape.
Speaking with ET in 2002, Stewart opened up about the extensive casting process to find an actor to play himself but a few decades removed in The Next Generation cast’s final big-screen outing.
“It was a long, long search to find the actor to play this role. Long before I got involved,” he said. “They were seeing actors in L.A. and in New York. And, of course, in London, because the feeling was that it would be good to find a [British] actor, so there would be at least that vocal similarity there.”
In Nemesis, the TNG crew met up with a familiar face, Shinzon, who they had never met but he did bare a striking resemblance to the celebrated Captain in his younger days. They learn he's a genetic duplicate of Picard, initially created by the Romulans in a larger conspiracy plot against the Federation. While the initiative fell apart when he was a child, Shinzon went on to endure years of abuse as he built up an army and developed nefarious motivations of his own.
Cloning was in the zeitgeist at the time -- Attack of the Clones, The Sixth Day, Dolly the Sheep, etc -- and as Nemesis was a few years out from Stewart receiving one of the earliest applications of CGI de-aging as Professor Xavier in X-Men: The Last the Stand, an actor who could compliment Stewart’s talent and likeness had to do.
“We didn't know where to go. We couldn't find someone,” Stewart explained. “And I had a friend who had been an agent of mine in London. I called her and said, 'Look, they said they've seen everyone but is there any actor you know who Star Trek [producers] haven't seen who could be me and younger?’ And she said, ‘Absolutely. I know just the man. He wasn't seen, because he'd been filming abroad and he's in Morocco right now. And his name is Tom Hardy.' I have a lot of respect for [the agent], so Tom put himself on video."
And the tape certainly set Hardy apart from the herd. The Dark Knight Rises star explained in other interviews that he was unable to find a video editor to remove some other antics he had filmed in his hotel room along with his audition, while also confirming rumors there was some partial nudity.
"It was a bizarre video and there are some people who believe he was actually naked in this video,” Stewart recalled of the self-tape. “He had the sides of some of the Shinzon scenes, but he was improvising them. He wasn't really doing what was in the script.”
“It certainly made us all sit up and pay attention,” Stewart smirked. Hardy’s avant garde approach paid off and Stewart was thrilled with the choice. “Tom is an extraordinary actor. Really, very distinctive. Very unique,” he said. Like many actors entering the franchise, Hardy was aware of the worldwide pop culture phenomenon but needed a brush up.
“I always knew [Star Trek] existed. Like you know Levi Jeans and Coca-Cola exist. You know that Captain Picard is captain of the [Starship] Enterprise. Obviously, I know that. You know who Kirk is. You know who Spock is. You know who the Klingons are. Vulcans,” Hardy told ET in 2002. “But I never followed the series. Not until I actually got the job and then I managed to watch all of The Next Generation stuff and all the films.”
The viewing homework was also part of Hardy’s preparation to play one of television’s most iconic characters. Picard's backstory was the stuff of legend thanks to a handful of episodes and pointed scenes that unpacked what went into making the man ("Tapestry," "Family,” and even more in depth on Star Trek: Picard season 2). But TNG, along with Voyager, never steered into the Mirror World, so fans were left without an on-screen Stewart interpretation for what an "Evil Picard" might look like until Nemesis.
“I did watch a lot of the old Star Trek [episodes] to look at Patrick, because initially, [when] you're told you have to play a clone of someone, immediately you're gonna think, ‘Well, I better look at everything he does,’” Hardy said. “How he moves. How he walks. How he talks. His shadow moves. His jacket pulling (known to fans as the ‘Picard Maneuver’).”
Despite Hardy’s research, Stewart admitted audiences would have to accept the centuries-old theater practice of making the effort to buy into the fantasy. “It's like the convention of twins on stage in Shakespeare,” he offered. “You've never seen a production of Twelfth Night where Viola and Sebastian really look like the same person.”
Hardy still wound up in the hands of famed Star Trek makeup artist Michael Westmore, who applied prosthetics to make his teeth, nose and chin resemble his older counterpart. But he noted Picard and Shinzon are “fundamentally two different people.”
“We have the same genetic makeup, but we have totally different lives,” Hardy said. “I didn't have to copy him in any way at all in the end,” with Stewart adding “there were physical things that Tom brought in that were sometimes uncanny to watch.”
Nemesis was billed as “A Generation’s Final Journey Begins,” but it wasn’t really the last time the 1701-D ensemble would traverse boldly into the final frontier together. Following Data, Deanna Troi, Will Riker and Wesley Crusher’s previous appearances on STP, the show’s third and last season teases a new adventure, with perhaps more certainty than before that it will truly be the “final journey.”
Even with Beverly Crusher, Geordi La Forge and Worf rounding out the ensemble, Stewart is hesitant to call the final season a “reunion,” but he’s willing to bet fans will be “very satisfied.”
“There are many, many changes throughout the whole Picard series. To the lives, identities, associations of the original main cast members,” Stewart teased to ET in September. “The only word that I take a little bit of exception to is the continued use of the word 'reunion.' What happens, particularly in season 3, is not a reunion. It's work. And we are once more active. Playing a role. Fighting. Defending liberty. Defending freedom of speech. All of those things. It's been very important to me, because it gave me a chance to examine what might of happened after Next Generation finished.”
Star Trek: Nemesis streams on HBO Max. Season 3 of Star Trek: Picard premieres Feb. 16 on Paramount+.