Tom Hardy comes to grips with his inner alien symbiote in Venom, the long-awaited standalone film for Spider-Man’s toothy nemesis.
What began life as a replacement costume for Spider-Man in The Amazing Spider-Man#252 (published in 1984) would soon morph into one of the coolest and most badass villains in the Marvel Comics’ pantheon.
Venom, the sentient alien symbiote with bulging white eyes, a mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, and a long, writhing, muscular tongue, would first use Spider-Man as a host before fusing with ego-driven reporter Eddie Brock – becoming an arch nemesis of the webslinger and a hugely popular anti-hero with fans.
Venom’s transition from comic book to screen was first touted in 1997, with a script by David S. Goyer (Batman Begins) and Dolph Lundgren in talks to star. However, it would be a decade before the symbiote finally made its big screen debut as one of the antagonists in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3 (2007).
Although receiving a lukewarm reception from fans, who griped about the miscasting of Topher Grace as Eddie Brock/Venom, a spin-off film remained in development, and when Spider-Man was rebooted in 2012 with The Amazing Spider-Man, plans were laid for an expanded universe that would include Venom.
However, following the underperformance of The Amazing Spider-Man 2 in 2014, and the subsequent partnership between Sony and Marvel Studios to bring Spider-Man into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Venom was once again put on the backburner.
The project was eventually revived two years later by Sony as a standalone film, with Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) as director and Tom Hardy cast as Eddie Brock.
Having an actor of Hardy’s calibre onboard was a major coup for the production, with Fleischer describing his leading man as “firing on all cylinders” as the divided Eddie Brock/Venom. Moreover, the Jekyll and Hyde aspect of the character gave Hardy the opportunity to exercise his comedic muscle in what could be considered a bizarre buddy movie.
“He’s just really inspiring, and I think everybody on the crew is just fully invested in how he’s chosen to realise Eddie Brock,” says Fleischer. “And on top of all that, Tom is hilarious, and that was exactly what we needed to bring Venom to life for moviegoers.”
For Hardy, a big part of his decision in taking the role was to star in a movie that his young son could watch.
“When this popped up it also appealed massively to me because [Venom] is one of my favourite characters, so I chased after this extremely hard, both for me and also for my son,” he says.
“There was a lot of range to play within the psychological dynamics of the superhero movie. And I found that to be exciting because it is multi-personality; one is a human character and the other is an alien, I get to play opposite a seven-foot-tall creature.
And Eddie Brock has to handle that living inside him. The two of them have a union in one. ‘We are Venom’ is their mantra.”
As well as being a challenging gig for an actor, the duality of the character makes Venom an atypical addition to the current spate of comic book movies.
“He looks a bit like a man, but he can do so much more than that,” explains VFX Supervisor Paul Franklin. “He can extend out tentacles. He can change his body shape. He can take amazing punishment and beating from his adversaries. He’s almost indestructible, though not quite. There’s still a little bit of vulnerability. And he has that interesting quality that he’s almost made out of liquid at times.
“A symbiote can ooze through the pores of someone’s skin, they can be absorbed by the body, travel through clothing. When we first meet the black symbiote it will feel like an amorphous black slug, and then when it fuses with Eddie, it forms a skin over Eddie’s body with the end result being Venom, a slick creature with extraordinary white eyes, almost like the markings on a killer whale.
“Venom is quite a scary proposition with the big teeth and the way that he looks. He’s almost demonic at times, but there’s a deep sense of humour running through the film, a deep vein of dark humour. Venom is a very witty, sarcastic character, which picks up from Eddie’s character itself. So the two characters, Eddie and Venom, very much complement themselves to make this new creature that we’re going to see in this film.”