Meeting Tom Hardy is a daunting experience. You’re sitting with (mad) Max Rockatansky, getting eyeballed by Bane and dancing around questions with both Kray twins all in one go. Suffice to say, when you’re dealing with someone of the varied and multiple talents of this Hammersmith-born actor, you can never be sure what to expect.

As it turns out, away from his star turns in the likes of The Dark Knight Rises, Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road and most recently The Revenant, Hardy makes quite the phone salesman.

“At a very basic level of security, as well as more sophisticated espionage when it comes to leaks on the next Nolan project or a Warner Bros project like Mad Max, the information that I need to have access to has to be secure as it’s moved about,” he tells me, fluent in the military-grade tech that gives Sirin Labs’ Solarin smartphone its £9,500 price tag.

His character does slip a bit, though: “As [Edward] Snowden did say, your dick pics can be seen by absolutely everybody nowadays,” followed by raspy laughter and digging my ribs in a way you’d never expect from an A-lister. Five minutes in, Hollywood’s favourite villain (Hardy admits he’s “quite happy playing lunatics”) doesn’t live up to this image. He’s fun – infectiously so – eloquent and earnest in equal measure: how he earned a reputation for being ‘difficult’ with the media is beyond me, although I should have known better than to ask whether he’s matured as an actor.

“Well, I’m definitely getting older, mate. I’m an older person than when I started!” Hardy jokes. “Honestly, nothing’s really changed subjectively. I’ve always drawn inspiration from any and everywhere: the actors and actresses are the talents that I enjoyed and continue to enjoy, I like observing the real world and people that I meet, and I make the most of moments when I go off to reflect.” It certainly seems that Hardy has been doing plenty of the latter. Much of the last decade has involved travelling the world from film set to film set, but he’s back in the UK to film Christopher Nolan’s next masterpiece, Dunkirk. It’s a timely return for the actor, and has him thinking about what’s next.

“I’ve got to the point where I need to reinvent my work,” he says. “How? I think just stopping. Pulling myself off the line and having a good look at the world. I want to get out and about, and have a think about what I should do over the next ten to 15 years.” You can’t blame Hardy if he chooses to take a breather. Since his feature film debut in Ridley Scott’s 2001 Black Hawk Down, Hardy has been in exceptionally high demand, which has only proliferated with growing critical acclaim. In his own words, he’s now entering a new stage of his career.

I can’t go around ripping the shirt off, showing the eight pack and kung fu kicking people in the face anymore

“I think there’s a definite period of time where you go from being the young pretender to being a man, which I think can be anywhere between 18 and 35 really. I’m 38 now so I need to start looking at the 35-50 bracket, which is sort of the ‘sad monk era’, then there’s the classic elder statesman at 55 to 80.” Something tells me the Brit won’t be donning the robes anytime soon but Hardy’s convinced. “I can’t go around ripping the shirt off, showing the eight pack and kung fu kicking people in the face anymore, wearing leotards and flying through space. I’m too old and pear-shaped for that now, and I definitely feel it.”

With a Max Max sequel in the pipeline, I’m not sure if Hardy will get his wish, but the actor sees similarities in Max’s character. “I’m glad I’ve got Mad Max because he’s wizened in that respect, and it’s not that sort of gung-ho aspect of the eternal child in superhero land that men can live well past their sell-by date doing. I’m very aware of my own mortality so my reinvention will probably be a bit more bookish and lean towards cardigans, libraries, fishing, allotments…” He must have spotted my raised eyebrows because he continues, “I don’t know, man, I’ve worked the last seven years back to back doing 20+ films. I’m boring everyone – like me right now, I’m boring me! I think it’s time to go away and have a think about what I got into this for.”

Far from being boring, it’s fascinating to hear Hardy’s analysis of his career and how readily he’s looking to start over. Given the chance to advise his younger self, is there anything he would say or warn himself against? “Nah, I don’t think I would have listened to me – and I would have been wise not to!” he says, with that laugh erupting once more. “What irritates me about the youth coming up is the fact that you can’t give them advice. They’re the future and they’re a bit unruly, and they’re gonna do it their way. Actually that’s the exactly way they should do it.”

No doubt, though, there’s plenty of actors who would kill for time with a star like Hardy. “That doesn’t even register on my chart. I still think that I haven’t got there – wherever ‘there’ is. I think what I’m learning is it should be about the journey. There is no end point; it’s just here and now, what I’ve got today. I’ve got quite a few good moments under my belt that I’m really proud of, and I’m still hungry. But I’m old… I’m just fucking old, bruv!”

You’ve got to hand it to Hardy, for someone so physically imposing, he does a good impression of someone who’s passed it. But has the best of Tom Hardy been and gone?

“The good thing about that is, yeah, the best may well have happened but that puts pressure on me to go away and say ‘Actually no’. I don’t think it’s about redoing the same stuff it’s about finding the new. That’s what’s scary. How do you reinvent a style; or push the style forward; or push the job forward? “It’s a new world: I can either choose to play safe or I can do what I prefer to do, which is the exact opposite. But I don’t know, mate, maybe it’s time to be more orthodox, as opposed to anarchic. For me that’s really fucking dangerous.”

Hardy would be the first to say he doesn’t have all the answers yet, but whatever’s next is going to be damn worth watching.

Dunkirk is due to hit cinemas July 2017. Sirin Labs Solarin is available in store; in Harrods; and online. For more information, see