English actor Tom Hardy, who stars as the beastly Marvel character Venom in the highly anticipated film Venom, says his past experiences with addiction informed his nightmarish performance as the infamous antihero. The star sat down with Esquire to talk about his role in the Spider-Man spin-off that will be released on October 5th.

“To me, it’s exciting because it’s a double act,” Hardy explained. Indeed, the actor welcomed the challenge of portraying the dualistic characters: investigative journalist Eddie Brock and his horrific alter-ego Venom. He continued, “[Brock] has an ethical framework, and [Brock and Venom] have to work out how to be together, so they click. He now has a beast who lives rent-free in him. It could be like somebody who’s contracted a tropical disease and gone mad. It’s like acting out mental illness in some aspects, of which I have a fair understanding, having had a certain amount of mental health problems of my own, which are relevant, being an addict. So I might as well f****** use it.”

Hardy is widely celebrated for his commitment to his characters and completely immersing himself in the complexity of his roles. It’s easy for audiences to forget they’re watching an actor when Hardy portrays, for instance, bartender Bob Saginowsky in The Drop or both gruesome Kray twins in Legend.

But Hardy’s career is all the more remarkable considering he spent several years in a steep decline due to addiction. He’s admitted to using a wide assortment of drugs, blacking out often, and revealed that his problems with alcohol and crack cocaine lead him to hit his personal rock bottom in his mid-20s. Describing his struggles as a “Mount Everest that no one else can see,” he mustered up the courage to check himself into rehab at a time when he felt he couldn’t trust anyone to help see him through. But he certainly did manage to turn his life around. He considers himself lucky to still be alive and insists acting helped save him. “I’m really grateful that things that happened in my life, they could have gone the wrong way,” he says.

In a 2013 interview with UK youth charity Prince’s Trust, Hardy admitted what scares him is “not being in control, not knowing, anticipation like waiting for something to go wrong. I’m an addict and an alcoholic, so I have my ups and downs and my head is a bit wonky. So I have to look after that.” In a quest to help others struggling with addiction, Hardy became a Prince’s Trust ambassador, and encouraging people to “Never give up on your dream.” In retrospect, he says, “Everything that’s brought me to where I am today is supposed to happen.”

Now, when it comes to his gritty portrayal as Venom, the London native says, “I’m used to being in the third person. I think I have multiple personas and characters in me that present and represent different parts of me, that I allow to sit in the driving seat. They’re all mine.”

Good thing Hardy is so comfortable inhabiting Venom; he’s set to star as the sentient alien Symbiote in all three movies in the expected franchise. He’ll also be busy portraying the notorious gangster Al Capone in the 2019 biographical crime film Fonzo.

Hardy received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the ruthless trapper John Fitzgerald in The Revenant. Other celebrated roles by the star include Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, Reman Praetor Shinzon in Star Trek: Nemesis, Eames in the science-fiction thriller Inception, and “Mad” Max Rockatansky in the box-office hit Mad Max: Fury Road. Hardy also portrayed US Army Private John Janovec in the award-winning HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.