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Tom Hardy has made some incredible physical transformations to play iconic characters in film. Most notably, he bulked up for the titular role in Bronson and for his turn as the villainous Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. The secret behind these transformations is a bit surprising. According to the actor, his fitness routine and diet centered around push-ups and pizza.

Tom Hardy is seen in costume as Bane on the set of "The Dark Knight Rises" on location on Wall Street on November 5, 2011 in New York City
‘The Dark Knight Rises’ star Tom Hardy as Bane | Marcel Thomas/FilmMagic

Tom Hardy gained 7 pounds per week for his role in ‘Bronson’

Before Hardy became an A-list actor in Hollywood, he made a name for himself with audiences in the United Kingdom when he played Britain’s most notorious criminal Charles Bronson in the autobiographical film Bronson. It was a small, independent film that only made $2.3 million at the box office. But, Hardy’s performance earned him critical acclaim and fans took notice.

“The film can barely contain Tom Hardy’s performance. It’s a Method turn so bloodily immersive it’s hard to imagine the actor getting his head straight afterward,” film critic Chris Chang wrote at the time, per The Things.

To “become” the real-life bare-knuckle boxer, Hardy says he had to quickly put on weight in his forearms, chest, and neck, and he ended up looking much bigger in Bronson than he had appeared in earlier films. Hardy reportedly gained a ton of weight for the role at a rate of seven pounds per week because — as he explained to Men’s Health — he was on “a race against the clock.”

The ‘Venom’ star relied on push-ups and pizza to play Charles Bronson and Bane

“We didn’t have any time to waste, so I started eating and my arse very quickly got very fat. For Bronson, I put on about 7 pounds a week – with no steroids. In the end I’d put on about 2 and a half stone (35 lbs.) by eating chicken and rice, which was my staple diet throughout the day,” Hardy said.

“Then I’d have a pizza, Häagen-Dazs, and Coca-Cola: So not good stuff, but I had to put weight on. I needed to put a layer of fat on my body, because Bronson when he was younger was a big guy, a brawler.”

Hardy took a similar approach to the role of Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. During a segment of BBC Radio 1’s “Kids Ask” web series, a 10-year-old journalist asked Hardy how he got “so muscly” during his preparation to play Bane. In response, the actor blamed his “pizza diet” for looking “slightly porky” in the role.

“If you really study the photographs [of Bane], I was really overweight, actually. I ate a lot and I wasn’t much heavier than I am now, but I just ate more pizza. They shoot from low to make you look big,” Hardy explained.

In addition to eating pizza, Hardy also used a “descending ladder format” workout style with specific kinds of push-ups to help him bulk up on top.

Tom Hardy’s ‘press-up matrix’ to get in shape for Bane

Hardy used a “bulk-up matrix to build muscle onto his chest, arms, and shoulders” when preparing for the role of Bane. This included a four-round circuit with bodyweight moves that would descend in reps each round from 10, to seven, to five, and then to three. 

This approach to his workouts allowed the actor to pack-on muscle very quickly. One caveat in his workout was to rely on a “diamond” push-up style to blow up his arms. In addition to the months of training, he went through for The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy also credited Hollywood movie magic for his Bane appearance.


Tom Hardy Improvised 1 of Bane’s More Surprising Lines and 5 Other Facts About His Villainous Turn in ‘The Dark Knight Rises’

“That’s the magic of lighting and three or four months of lifting and training and eating lots of pizza. It wasn’t great for my heart. The point was to look as big as possible,” Hardy said. 

The Dark Knight Rises is now playing on HBO Max. Bronson is available on Amazon Prime Video, Plex, and YouTube.