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Tom Hardy couldn't do mo-cap for Venom, channeled James Brown for the voice

Contributed by
Aug 24, 2018

The launch of Sony’s Marvel Universe depends on the success of Venom, which means that plenty of comic properties have their futures resting upon a single pair of shoulders: Venom and Eddie Brock portrayer Tom Hardy. It’s a lot to bear, especially when the character doesn’t necessarily have a sterling track record on the big screen. So Hardy needs to do something different — something, perhaps, channeling the Godfather of Soul.

Talking to Total Film in the latest print edition, the Mad Max: Fury Road actor explained his approach to the symbiotic anti-hero and how it might be different than fans have come to expect from their superhero protagonists.

First off, for many heroes who are primarily CGI creations when their powers fully hit the screen, the actors do motion capture to have their footage translate straight to the screen — like Josh Brolin did with Thanos, for example. Hardy couldn’t do that for Venom, simply because the two are shaped pretty differently. Venom is a huge monster, while Brock is just a normal beefy dude.

“It wasn’t motion capture,” Hardy said, “because the eyeballs on the creature, on Venom, and the mouth, they don’t match with my eyeballs and my mouth. So the mo-cap went out the window pretty quickly. So facially, your eyes and teeth and tongue are not going to match with this. And you need a 7-foot-tall basketball player in a Lycra suit for the physical shots.” So, really, there was a mix of practical and VFX when it came to creating Venom. Hardy called it “mental sudoku,” which is how much of this technical wizardry seems to audiences outside the bubble.

Something Hardy had more control over, however, was his hero’s voice. He cites his MMA fighter in Warrior and Woody Allen’s neurosis when developing Eddie Brock’s voice, needing a wide range on display for when the journalist bonds with the creature. But Venom’s voice was a different story. “He’s outlandish and big. I wanted to do something that would stand out, so that he was enigmatic and charismatic, as well as being dangerous and scary,” Hardy said.

That meant taking influences from some interesting corners of the world. Looking to blend these elements together, Hardy looked to rappers Redman and Busta Rhymes, as well as the legendary James Brown. “There’s something electric and soulful, but at the same time primal, about those voices,” said Hardy. It’s not out of the ordinary for Hardy to take on a wild voice for a performance, but these influences promise a transformed role that will certainly help the next time the actor wants to wander the halls of Comic-Con undercover — like he did this year as "Yoda, Deadpool, Spider-Man," and more.