‘The Drop’ is a crime drama from Michaël R. Roskam, the Academy Award-nominated director of ‘Bullhead.’ Based on a screenplay from Dennis Lehane (Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone), ‘The Drop’ follows lonely bartender Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy) through a covert scheme of funneling cash to local gangsters – “money drops” – in the underworld of Brooklyn bars. Under the heavy hand of his employer and cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), Bob finds himself at the center of a robbery gone awry and entwined in an investigation that digs deep into the neighborhood’s past where friends, families, and foes all work together to make a living – no matter the cost. The film, set for September 12th in the US and a November 14th bow in the UK and Ireland, also stars Noomi Rapace, Matthias Schoenaerts, John Ortiz and James Frecheville.
Your character Bob is the emotional center of the film, yet he demonstrates little overt emotion himself – so much of what is going on with him is under the surface. On his best day, Bob is not a terribly articulate guy, which is compounded by the fact that he has pushed everything down deep inside. What was it about Bob that intrigued you and sparked your interest?
Tom Hardy: I’m always fascinated by characters that don’t get the opportunity to speak their voice. I find that the most interesting characters are normally hidden under rocks and pushed into small corners of society where they don’t often have their voice heard. I like to look into characters that don’t normally get looked into. He’s unassuming and therefore underestimated. You never see him coming. The guy’s an Everyman with a big heart and a long story that he would never burden you with, because he prefers silence. He leads an ordinary life. And Michaël R. Roskam is a great bloke and a fantastic director. For an actor, he creates an environment that allows you to develop and facilitate the character and story by encouraging specificity and volition. The best idea always wins with Michaël. He wants to make great films with great characters and he delivers.
You’ve got the story’s emphasis on complex, contradictory characters; and then you’re working with an amazing cast to bring that to life…
Tom Hardy: For sure. Dennis Lehane has the ability to depict really interesting and complete characters with depth and humility and humor. When I get a chance to play a multi-dimensional character, that’s always a huge draw. And then, look at this cast. Noomi Rapace and I have been looking for projects to do together. Matthias Schoenaerts killed it in ‘Bullhead’ and he’s one of the best. And then James Gandolfini was the icing on an already special cake. These are talented, funny, capable and committed people. Noomi is capable of doing anything she puts her mind to. She’s unstoppable-full of courage, truth and heart. She’s incredibly supportive. If you want to put a team together, Noomi is the way to go. She keeps the flag flying when everyone else is tired and out of ideas.
James Gandolfini was a talented, kind and sensitive artist. He brought a wealth of authenticity and truthfulness to the role. It was great fun to work with him because he was a quick and funny man with a lot of heart. I don’t think I would have laughed half as much with another actor on set. Very few people have the ability to be so compelling that even if you are not part of a scene, it’s impossible not to watch. They’re too good not to enjoy. I felt I failed Jimmy several times simply because I was enjoying watching him work when I should have been working too.
When you have a character like Bob – a man who is going through the motions of what he believes human interaction is, what is the research and preparation process like for you? And with ‘The Drop,’ I know you had just come off shooting ‘Locke’….
Tom Hardy: A lot of the preparation is in my head, you now? I read the script once and then I sit with it and just think, a lot. Every process is different for every job, and I’d shot ‘Locke’ a week before shooting ‘The Drop,’ and I’d come off ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ – so my preparation time was really short. I had the flight to New York to prepare after reading the script and having talked to Michaël and knowing Noomi Rapace… the downside to working a lot is you don’t get a lot of time to prepare, so I had to make some decisions fast – human decisions. I make human decisions in the moment, and I try to find out what decisions would make the most sense for that character – specifics to Brooklyn and the human story… there’s a Greek Tragedy going on in ‘The Drop,’ for me, which is international.
So I start to meditate on the character and what’s going on, and the different layers that are going on. Then I start to think about what’s interesting to play, and I try to exfoliate the character’s center and workout why the character’s doing what they’re doing in order to get what they need. It’s all story based, it’s from an analysis of text, but I don’t go over it with a toothpick or with pen and paper, I just start to think about the different layers of structure with each individual character, and what I’m asking from each one.
After the costume fit and when we set the look of Bob – Michaël was very specific about the jacket and facial hair (laughs). But after that I was pushed out to explore the character, very quickly. The preparation was on the job, so what’s happening in the scenes is me working and researching Bob as we’re moving… does that make sense (laughs)? So you have to make decisions very quickly, because they have ramifications and knock on effects. And as the investigation into the character opened – and we’re all on an investigation together, but then we start to synchronize. And each player, each of my colleagues brings something to the table after doing their research and due diligence as well, the alchemy starts to take place. A lot of it is common sense.
And then finding the voice, is that something that work on individually and then work off the other actors?
Tom Hardy: Yeah. As for accents and whatnot, I have a lot of friends from New York, I watch a lot of movies, there’s a lot of information from New York that comes in… whether that’s listening to rap music right through to the Labyrinth Theater Company that I work with quite a bit – I’ve got a lot of good friends there. And there’s a sound and a tonality that I want to create which will provide a authenticity to character – and then we’ll start to hang an accent on it with the people I’m working with. So if I’m working with Jimmy (James Gandolfini) I’m going to pick up his cadence, if I’m working with Mattius I’m going to pick up his cadence, and Noomi the same. And that’s something I do in life when I speak to people, I will pick up and articulate myself best in way that that person might want to hear what I’m saying.