What’s better than Tom Hardy? How about two Tom Hardys for the price of one? Hardy stars as real-life, twin-brother and sexually fluid gangsters in the action-packed Legend.
By Elijah Sarkesian
Fans of Tom Hardy have plenty to be thankful about with Hardy’s new film, Legend. In it, he takes on the dual roles of Reggie and Ronnie Kray, twin brothers who made their mark as violent gangsters in 1960s London.
What sets apart Legend from most gangster films, aside from Hardy doing double duty, is its look at Reggie and Ronnie as a pair. Their bond as twins, matched with their differing personalities and approaches to life – including sexuality – made them work better together than apart.
In the film, the Krays gain a foothold in London’s underworld thanks in large part to their differences. Ronnie, distinguished by glasses and a slightly heavier frame, is the brute force. When combined with mental instability, he proves dangerous to anyone challenging the brothers.
Ronnie’s intimidating presence makes it easier for him to be openly gay – a criminal offense at the time in the UK – and he’s frequently seen out with various boyfriends, including Teddy Smith (played by Kingsman: The Secret Service’s sexy breakout star Taron Egerton).
Reggie is the thinker. His generally soft-spoken, level-headedness helps keep the business end of their activities in order – most of the time, at least. When Reggie snaps, he’s more violent than Ronnie, and he loses his temper often.
The brothers openly celebrate their outlaw status, even as their glamorous lifestyles, including hobnobbing with celebrities like Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra at their nightclubs, make them targets of both other gangsters and police.
The brothers’ reputation for violence made finding witnesses difficult. They also blackmail people: at one point, Ronnie keeps Scotland Yard at bay after he entraps a member of Parliament in a gay orgy in his apartment.
Legend pulls its story from author John Pearson’s 1972 book The Profession of Violence. After the book’s publication, Reggie and Ronnie wrote frequently to Pearson. Their letters eventually turned into two more books. In shaping their story into film, narrative shortcuts include some notable changes: Both brothers were both bisexual in real life. Ronnie was openly bisexual, not gay like in the movie, and while Reggie’s public relationships were with women, his own bisexuality was considered an open secret.
In 2010, Pearson dropped a bigger revelation about the brothers: in part out of fear of others finding out about their attraction to men, the brothers frequently slept with each other when they were younger.
Sexual experimentation may be something that the Krays share with the man tasked with bringing them to life in Legend. It’s a question that’s come up on Legend’s press tour, though Hardy doesn’t seem too eager to talk about it.
Questions about Hardy’s own sexuality have popped up since his breakout moment in 2010’s Inception, when a 2008 interview with UK gay publication Attitude resurfaced. On the topic of his sexuality, Hardy said at that time, “I’ve played with everything and everyone. But I’m not into men sexually. I love the form and the physicality, but the gay sex bit does nothing for me.”
This time, Hardy asked the reporter if he was trying to ask about Hardy’s sexuality, then asked, “Why?” before thanking him and moving on. He later clarified to Entertainment Weekly that discussing his sexuality doesn’t bother him – it’s the way the reporter brought it up.
“It was just the inelegance of being asked in a room full of people,” Hardy says. “Now I’m happy to have a conversation, a discussion, at a reasonable time about anything. I’m confident in my own sexuality, and I’m also confident in my own being and talking about any issue you want to talk about it. But there is a time and a place for that.”
“It’s so important to the LGBT [community] that people actually feel safe about their sexuality and are able to speak freely and not be stigmatized or feel like they are being pointed out,” he adds. “Why point me out, assuming that I’m gay because I’m ambiguous about it, which I’m very clear if you look into what I’ve said in the past.”
Legend is now playing in Atlanta theaters.