Tom Hardy has said he drew inspiration from all his favourite literary characters for the new TV show he created with his father.
Tom plays a rogue adventurer long believed to be dead in Taboo, a drama set in 1814 that sees his character, James Keziah Delaney, return to London to inherit what is left of his father’s shipping empire.
He said: “I played Bill Sykes in Oliver Twist and really enjoyed the character and I thought I would like to play more Bill Sykes, but as a lead.
“But then I also thought I’d really like to play Doctor Faustus in Bill Sykes’s body. And I’d also actually really like to play Hannibal Lecter there too. And Sherlock Holmes. And I think we should put Heathcliff in there too and Marlow from Heart Of Darkness, we shouldn’t forget him.
“And a little bit of Mr Darcy but not too much, because that’s really boring, actually.
“How can you choose someone where you have a completely sophisticated anti-hero, who is not only completely Dionysiac in aspect, almost Aleister Crowley, and all the best parts of that and Oedipal, and at the same time a can-do hero lead but also a depth of depravity to him, but also great nobility.”
He added: “I took the idea to dad and he was like, ‘F*** off, I’m writing a novel’.
The show will arrive on the BBC seven years after the idea was hatched after Tom and his father Edward “Chips” Hardy roped in Steven Knight, the writer of Locke and Peaky Blinders, to pen the scripts and Hollywood director Ridley Scott to executive produce.
Chips said: “It was a great brief for a kind of conflicted hero, it was also pretty damn impossible.
“So I went away for a year and wrote on this, and tried to build a context, unbeknownst to Tom. It’s a challenge, it’s actually a really nice thing to do to try and take a classical format like real period drama, and put a truly conflicted, almost tragic hero in it, and see what happens. We both love Conrad and Heart Of Darkness and all that stuff.”
Tom, who was nominated for an Oscar earlier this year for his role opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, said he sees modern connections to the story, even though it is set 200 years ago.
He said: “Not a lot has changed when it comes to power.”
Chips added: “There was trade, power. I think people will find their own parallels, but we’re not writing a satire, we just wanted the historical context to play this out.
“It was just before the birth of the modern world, coming out of the 18th century.
“It’s before Wesleyanism, it’s before the factories, it’s before early Victorianism, it’s before the industrial revolution, so you’ve got the tail end of the kind of agrarian culture and Tom Jones and all that kind of stuff, and at the same time you’ve got these big things creeping in, these big beasts arriving.”
Taboo begins on January 7 at 9.15pm on BBC One.