Tom Hardy, Brad Pitt and the quiet art of the successful celebrity side career

TeaOm Hardy is now a martial arts champion. The 45-year-old actor quietly entered the 2022 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Open Championship in Milton Keynes this Saturday, defeating all his opponents and returning home victorious. Better yet, one of his contestants told the media that Hardy was “probably one of my toughest contestants”.

This, make no mistake, is how you do it. Hardy’s jiu-jitsu debut is just perfect. Think of all the ways it could have gone wrong. Hardy could try to earn from his hobby by making a BBC Three documentary series called Tom Hardy: My Fighting Journey. He could exaggerate the competition on social media, flood the venue with fans and tell the entire tournament about himself. He could have sought sponsorship, and dabbled in logos for Coca-Cola or Chicken Tonight.

But no. He quietly walked into a secondary school sports hall on a Saturday morning, without drawing any unnecessary attention to himself, and kicked everyone’s butt. And this, you suspect, will appeal to Hardy more than anything else. It’s not necessarily that he won, though the fact that he helped shore up not only his hard-man credentials, but the enormity of the event. This is the ban we are talking about. is poison. Hardy flies in the Spitfire for Christopher Nolan, yet here he is, going to Milton Keynes just to win a certificate.

Brad Pitt with Thomas Hausago and Nick Cave at the opening of their exhibition in Finland. Photograph: Jussi Koivunen/Sarah Hilden Art Museum/AFP/Getty Images

Same goes for Brad Pitt, who, without drawing any attention to himself, this week unveiled a new side career as a sculptor. Then, he could do it with a documentary, or a starry exhibition in the heart of Hollywood. And yet he instead opted to make his debut at a Finnish art gallery 110 miles north of Helsinki. And, like Hardy, he appears to be very adept at everything he does, with Jonathan Jones calling him “an extremely influential artist”.

What’s so refreshing is that, in a world where every celebrity imaginable is desperate to throw their interests into a Goop-style megabrand, Hardy and Pitt are totally doing it just to love it. They have distanced themselves and focused on doing something that you would not have expected of them.

Cleverly, he has chosen something relatively career-adjacent to focus on, relying on physical prowess or creative expression. This is important because, when stars diversify too much from their brands, they can never fully recover. For example, it’s hard to make 1970s sex god Rod Stewart a model railway enthusiast, and it requires quite a bit of mental aerobics to deal with the fact that Mike Tyson is also a secret Dove fan.

There is always the potential for ridicule, in short. Actor Jim Broadbent, for example, probably regrets his decision to make his hobby public in 2015. This is because his hobbies include carving man-eating humans out of wood, then dressing them and putting on wigs. Individually, the statues are all distinctive and impressive. But when he posed in front of them all for a photoshoot, it looked like every nightmare you’ve ever had in life.

Clooney at the 2015 launch of Cindy Crawford's book, Becoming, and her Casamigos Tequila.
Clooney at the 2015 launch of Cindy Crawford’s book, Becoming, and her Casamigos Tequila. Photograph: Richard Young/REX/Shutterstock

But it’s still better than the alternative, which would be too noisy to start with as a means to eliminate a hobby. You see stars do this all the time, and it’s almost as if the hobby has been chosen arbitrarily, purely for the return on investment. Anyone can slap their name on a product for money, and the flood of celebrity alcohol brands and book clubs and beauty products makes it seem like most people do.

Interestingly, both Pitt and Hardy have been burned by it before. In 2013 Tom Hardy made a documentary – Poaching Wars – which was apparently inspired by his love for animals but lacked any real authority, and more recently on Brad Pitt for his noisy post-Katrina The latter was prosecuted for “I’m an architect now!” Residents of New Orleans were living in defunct homes as a result of the proclamation.

So that’s probably the best way to proceed. If you’re a celebrity interested, keep it as cool as you can. Showcase your work in the darkest of Finland. Visit the Sports Hall of Milton Keynes. If Brad Pitt and Tom Hardy are any indication, this is the best way to stay popular.

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