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'The Dark Knight Rises' star Tom Hardy talks about playing Bane and inventing the villain's controversial voice: 'It's a risk.'

When Christopher Nolan asked Tom Hardy to play the villain in his third and final Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises, due July 20, the director doted on one job requirement in particular: the budding star would have to wear a mask that looked like a leathery baboon mouth with metal casings for fangs – a sort of steampunk respirator as fashioned by Francis Bacon. “I think he worried it would be something I might not consider because wearing a mask might damage my career or something. He thought I’d be worried that the audience couldn’t see my beautiful face,” says Hardy, who also worked for Nolan in the filmmaker’s 2010 Oscar-nominated smash Inception. “Like I care. It’s Chris Nolan! I would wear a paper bag over my head for that man.”

To play Bane, a willfully evil and possibly unstoppable force of mind and might, the British actor wanted to develop a distinctive voice, one that evoked (albeit elliptically) the comic book character’s erudition and ethnic heritage (Bane hails from a fictional Caribbean country). Hardy sought a sound befitting a man steeped in malevolence and old soul wisdom and who could trace his roots to ancient Latin culture. “There were two doors we could walk through,” says Hardy. “We could play a very straightforward villain or we could go through this very quirky door, which is totally justified by the text but may seem very, very stupid.” Not surprisingly, Hardy decided to go for the second option. “It’s a risk, because we could be laughed at—or it could be very fresh and exciting,” he says. While some found his dialogue incomprehensible in the IMAX-exclusive sneak peek attached to Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol last December, the actor asks for patience. “The audience mustn’t be too concerned about the mumbly voice,” says Hardy. “As the film progresses, I think you’ll be able to tune to its setting.”

Bane’s motivation as a villain remains one of Rises’ best-kept secrets—although the trailers suggest his master plan requires the razing of Gotham and the death of Bruce Wayne. Does Bane represent a specific political or philosophical complaint? The answer is… maybe. “I think the politics of the film are going to be hotly debated one way or another, as they were in the last film,” says Nolan. Listening to Hardy compare Bane to the scarred, clown-faced villain who terrorized Gotham City in The Dark Knight, you almost get the feeling of a revolutionary usurper with tremendous resources. “The Joker didn’t care—he just wanted to see the world burn, and he was a master of chaos and destruction, unscrupulous and crazy. Bane is not that guy,” says Hardy. “There is a very meticulous and calculated way about Bane. There is a huge orchestration of organization to his ambition. He is also a physical threat to Batman. There is nothing vague about Bane. No jokes. He’s a very clean, clear villain.”

For more about The Dark Knight Rises, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, which features our annual Summer Movie Preview. Get the scoop on all of the season’s most anticipated films, including The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man, Prometheus, Men In Black 3, Snow White and The Huntsman, and more.

Entertainment Weekly is now available on most tablets, including the iPad, Nook Color, Kindle Fire, and Samsung Galaxy. Think of it like the EW you already love, but on steroids: With our digital magazine, you can buy the recommended movies, albums, books, and DVDs while you’re reading about them. Plus, you can watch music videos and film trailers, and find movie showtimes in your neighborhood. Current subscribers can access the digital version of EW for free by downloading the EW app (also free) and logging in using your name and address or the information on your subscription label. Single copies of the magazine are also for sale through the app if you prefer to read EW that way. If you’re not a subscriber, but would like to become one, you can do so by going to ew.com/allaccess.

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