The actor best known as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises finds a new friend while making The Drop.

There were dogs on set and dogs in the script, but Tom Hardy felt like the production of The Drop could use one more mutt.

The British actor – known for Bane in The Dark Knight Rises and now, he hopes, Bob, the not-so-simple simpleton in the new crime drama penned by Mystic River novelist Dennis Lehane – has a hard time saying no to a pooch, or at least something he likes that might make everyone else a little crazy. So when co-star Noomi Rapace brought Hardy to an animal shelter near their Brooklyn set to research their roles, the outcome wasn’t in doubt.

“I knew the minute we walked in there, he’d be walking out with a dog,” Rapace said in her trailer on the New York set shortly after the unexpected canine trip.

Hardy did adopt a dog, a pit bull puppy, and took her to the set. Never mind that the actor was in the United States only for a few more weeks. Never mind that he was spending 10 hours each day shooting a movie, then titled Animal Rescue before it was changed.

On a chilly April day during the 2013 shoot, Hardy’s new pet was outside the working-class bar where the film is set, jumping, barking and looking a little overwhelmed, or maybe just confused why someone had yet to walk him over to craft services.

“She’s still around, yep. She’s still around,” said Hardy in an interview at the Toronto International Film Festival when asked about the dog. “She has a great home.”

That kind of unexpected behaviour characterised Hardy as he made the film – currently showing in Malaysia – directed by Bullhead auteur Michael Roskam.

Hardy embraced a single-mindedness to play opposite the famously self-critical James Gandolfini (the last movie the late actor shot). Hardy wasn’t bashful in offering suggestions as he watched playback of scenes at the monitors and lobbying Lehane and producers for a more ambiguous ending, which the screenwriter then partly re-wrote on set.

He also often indulged in a kind of wild playfulness when Roskam yelled cut, engaging co-star Matthias Schoenaerts in what appeared to be a game of unrequited tag and generally getting in touch with his inner child.

“I joke around because if I don’t let it go, it has the counter-intuitive effect on the work,” he said in Toronto, puffing on an electronic cigarette.

“Some actors, they can stand still behind a string,” Roskam said. “And with some actors, it’s like they don’t want to over-concentrate and be good when you’re not shooting, and then you say action and they lose it. Tom is one of those actors.”

The Drop is a mood piece of double-crosses and beaten-down humans, of dog rescues that are metaphors for lost innocence. Lehane makes his feature-screenwriting debut with the film, adapting the script from his short story.

Shot by Nicolas Karakatsanis in the brackish palettes and confined spaces of working-class Brooklyn, The Drop has the kind of muted tone and slow-burn pacing one doesn’t see much of in American thrillers these days.

“What I was trying to do was go back into a very authentic era of film noir,” Roskam said.

“The average person thinks of noir, and they think of shadows on the ceiling and a femme fatale and a guy with a smoke. For me, it’s a social comment, a voice for the voiceless. I wanted to direct this film as if Frank Capra would have done Taxi Driver.”

The movie also offers the chance for viewers to see two actors of considerable talent share the screen in a posthumous bonus of sorts.

As he sat next to Michael Gandolfini – Hardy had allowed the late actor’s teenage son to shadow him over the course of several interviews – he described Gandolfini using one of his go-to run-on phrases and extended metaphors (“The melody and music and tonalities is what we were trying, and we were looking for a space to harmonise”) and noted Gandolfini’s perfectionism.

“He didn’t like to get things wrong. If things weren’t going the way he wanted it to, he made very specific demands to accomplish his level of expectations. He would get mad at himself. It was, ‘I’m going to get this right.’ He would police himself.”

That allowed the pair, Hardy said, to build a rapport necessary for the film. “It really is an odd couple story,” he said, “in a strange way a Mice And Men story.” – Los Angeles Times/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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