Warrior is out today, and in case we hadn’t made it abundantly clear to you before, we quite enjoyed it. Recently we had the opportunity to talk to the film’s leading men, Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton. During the course of the interview, we discussed everything from the training regime the stars went through to get into shape for the picture and the number of injuries they picked up on the shoot to Anglo-Australian solidarity, and the pleasures of working with Nick Nolte.
In keeping with the film, neither Hardy nor Edgerton pulled any punches during the interview, and consequently you should be aware that it’s very much Not Safe For Work.
Warrior is out in the UK today. Click here to see our 5* review.
What was the training process like and how long did that go on for?
Joel Edgerton: Eight weeks from 7am to about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, every day, starting with a light stretch and ending with a – you know – we would literally get to the gym at 7 in the morning and then just start with kicking and punching drills, stand-up fighting first, I would go off and do a bit of wrestling, ground and pound and all sorts of stuff until we’d all head off for a big steak together at the Western Steak House or something.
Tom Hardy: Or a bit of pulled pork.
JE: The pulled pork jokes never get old. The t-shirt on the woman who first served us – we were cracking jokes and then she came over with the t-shirt: “Pulled pork jokes never get old”. (laughter) It’s true! Us bright guys, we could come up with a few.
TH: We couldn’t keep eating pulled pork, sadly, because there came a point where the pulled pork had to stop and we were only allowed chicken and broccoli.
JE: Like clean chicken and broccoli. But then in the afternoons we would lift weights, so it was a full day of complete dedication to our bodies and our skill-set and that got us prepared for the beginning of filming. And the filming was a whole new challenge because then you’ve got to figure in a twelve hour shooting day. I mean a movie like this was good because it’s like two cars racing against each other. Tommy would shoot and I’d go and train while he was shooting and then I’d be shooting and then Tommy could go and train.
TH: And then we had to switch when you tore your ligament…
JE: Yeah, we had that stadium hired for six weeks straight of fighting and one week into that, a quarter of the way into the fighting I had to do, I smashed my knee and then it was all up to Tommy. It’s like, [comedy voice] “Over to you – I’m just going to do scenes from the waist up for a while”. So we had to rehire the stadium about six weeks later and complete, particularly our fight.
Was there a difference in approach to your two training regimes because you physically look quite different in the films? Was that deliberate or did it just happen organically?
JE: I mean there was differences to the training regime – I did a lot more wrestling and ju-jitsu than Tom’s character had to do, so our training regimes reflected that. But also, you put two separate people through the same training regime and feed them truckloads of food and it’s going to affect them all in different ways as well.
Did either of you get injured on the film?
JE: Yeah, my shining moment during the shooting was getting my MCL ligament torn on a grade 3 tear, getting thrown over by Jace Jeanes, one of the stunt guys. I tore my ligament and had to go to six weeks of rehab for that. Apart from that the odd elbow or punch in the face. Everybody was getting knocked around – you couldn’t really be an actor during this process, in the sense that you act – it was just surviving.
TH: [in a whining tone] It was so annoying – I just want to act! He keeps hitting me! Not my face! But what was it Gavin said? “It’s a fucking MMA movie, it’s not a fucking kite-flying movie! What do you expect? Man up!” “But it hurts!” “Get back in there!” “It really hurts!”
JE: He literally said that, that day.
You were presumably aware of that before signing on though?
TH: Yes, but you know – I’m not as manly as I thought I was. When push comes to shove, you know what I mean, I start heading for the fucking door!
JE: That was definitely the brief, leading into it. Gavin was like, ‘Oh, I expect this and this and this of you’ and, you know…
TH: You just say yes, don’t you? It’s like when someone asks you if you can ride a horse. “Of course I can. Absolutely!” And then they go, “This is your horse” and then you go (girly scream) “Aaah! That’s a horse!”
Was it a world you were familiar with or did you learn a lot about it when you took the film on?
JE: No, I didn’t know much at all. I mean I knew it was there.
TH: You start learning pretty quickly when people start throwing punches at you though, don’t you? ‘What’s this Muay Thai thing? I need to learn some more!’
JE: Yeah, through the eyes of the film. I mean through the eyes of any film you get to enter a world and thereby learn about it and all its furniture and all that and that was our introduction to MMA, was the crash course in becoming a fighter. Shy of actually getting knocked out.
TH: I got knocked out by Shia LaBeouf, actually, yeah. In Wettest County, apparently, behind the scenes. [Uncertain laughter from journalists present] No, he did, he knocked me out sparko. Out cold. He’s a bad, bad boy. He is. He’s quite intimidating, as well. He’s a scary dude. [laughter] He just attacked me. He was drinking moonshine. I was wearing a cardigan, and it went down. I woke up in Pnut’s arms. [Pnut (pronounced 'Peanut') is Tom Hardy's personal trainer, in the room at the time]. He was concerned for me. I was like, ‘What was that? It was lightning fast.’ He was like, ‘That was Shi.’ [LaBoeuf] Isaid, ‘Fuckin’ hell. Can we go home now?’ ‘No, we’ve still got three weeks to finish.’ So anyway, the long and the short of it is that no, MMA, we’d played it on the X-Box, when we were doing Black Hawk Down it was on the TV and we used to laugh about it because it was so fucking brutal, but never really trained, I’ve never been inside a dojo. You had a black belt in Shotokan, didn’t you?
JE: Yeah, I had a Shotokan background as a kid.
TH: It didn’t help you though, did it? Do you know what I mean? When you get in the ring with those UFC boys, it’s a completely different
JE: Oh man, yeah, it’s a totally different thing. A completely different situation.
Were you united in the fact that a Brit and an Aussie presumably have a lot more in common than perhaps the American guys that live in that world? Was there a common sense of humour that got you through some of the tougher experiences?
TH: I was just thinking about the Brits that went over to America and the Brits that went down to Australia and I was thinking about the history of that, looking at American friends and thinking, Hmmm, aren’t we all related somehow anyway?’
JE: Yeah, at some point one of your great-great uncles stole a sheep, got caught and became my family. (laughs). You know, look – no, I don’t really think about it in those terms at all. All I know is that Gavin saw something in Tommy for the character of Tommy and something in me for the character of Brendan that was right for this movie, regardless of where we were physically, that I’m very glad, in hindsight that he did. And actually I was halfway through filming when I kind of found out that Gavin had his own battle in casting Tommy and I, because when you think about it, at the time when this movie was made, neither of us really had the right to be there when you think about Hollywood being the stock market that it is, completely driven and fuelled by decisions based on money.
You have a really touching scene with Nick Nolte, who plays your father. Was that harder to play than the physical stuff?
TH: No, because that’s where I come from, that kind of background, you know what I mean, it’s like drinking stock. That was me doing the bit that I’d done years of training on already, before I arrived on set! Not being flippant but genuinely, the whole addiction, abuse storyline, to me is not a shock and it’s not far from home or friends and family and understanding addiction and dealing with addictions and stuff, it’s not something that’s difficult to access and facilitate. And I’m nine or ten years going on sober now anyway, so I’m a long, long, long way away from my last drink but I know people in and out of recovery and I know people who’ve died, so that territory for me is actually a space which I feel responsible, to be part of work that’s involved in that, because I’ve actually got something that I can use.
Do you feel it’s quite important to speak out about it?
TH: I think it’s relevant. I think one has to be very careful how much you talk about it, because it’s one of those things unfortunately whereby it takes lives. It’s not to be taken for granted – it’s not a fashion accessory, alcoholism and addiction, it’s a really fucking dangerous illness, it kills people. If you have it, it’s something that needs help, you need help and the help is there. So yes, to be aware of it is one thing, to promote it is bad taste, but I think it’s important to be part of where you’re from and participate in life on life’s terms and addiction is part of my story, so it would be futile to
ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist, because part of living with addiction is being part of it. So it’s nice when it comes up in a story you can do some justice with it. I think those scenes were – I
really enjoyed doing them and I thought Nick was brilliant in them. And when I watched it, I cried, actually, because I’d been in places like that, but I was very glad that what we were doing made sense.
When I watched it back I was like, “Yeah, okay, cool. Tick the box, so we can feel like we lived it.”
The scene by the slot machines with Nick – he’s very reactive and you get the sense he’s simmering and you’re chucking coins at him. How was it to do that and what was it like working with Nick Nolte generally?
TH: Nick Nolte is like carved from the rock of actors. He’s as prevalent in my life as a Digestive biscuit. He quintessentially exists. [To Joel] In England, Digestive biscuits are like a staple part of a
child’s diet – you know it’s there, you know the brand, like Marmite or something. Nick Nolte is the American – he’s like an American brand of type of actor, this lived-in, hard cop, you know, tough guy, been through the fucking mill, working class, with a huge heart. Huge grizzly bear with a thorn in his side but a huge sensitive child-like clown inside and he is as wonderful to work with as he is to watch and he is mercurial and funny and enigmatic and full of life as he is when I watch him on screen and he is as troubled as you can imagine he probably could possibly get at times too. And probably the most exciting thing – apart from working with Joel – the most exciting thing about working on Warrior.
JE: Who’s Nick Nolte? (laughter)
TH: He worked with Eddie Murphy.
JE: Oh yeah, that one. No, everything he said. I don’t know if I could ever put anything as eloquently as Tom can, but there’s a lot of privileges that come with being an actor, which is that you get to enter these worlds and we get to live the life as a fighter and Nick Nolte…
TH: Nick Nolte is the question. The question is about Nick Nolte…
JE: Yeah, yeah, I’m getting there. I’m trying to make a bigger go of my answer than you usually do. And one of the great privileges of being an actor is the people you get to work with. And when you know you’re heading down the barrel of heading with a great actor like Nick, it’s just something you – you could either get really scared and freak out about it or you just kind of charge into it and you get excited about it. But everything that Tom was saying about him – he’s very special and – you know, and one of the great things I find about Nick too is that as he gets older he doesn’t sort of relax and turn in half-performances. In fact, I think this film proves that he –
TH: Tell them about the six in the morning…
JE: Yeah, me and Nick did that scene on the lawn. That was my first scene in the movie that was part of the acting component, the “no punching component”, I call it.
TH: Six pages long, as well.
JE: Six page scene, 6pm to 6am, Nick’s close-ups were shot as the sun was coming up the next morning.
TH: And he’s almost 70 years of age.
JE: And he was as dedicated in every moment and as heart-breaking in every word and every gesture and every breath up until six in the morning. And including when the camera was clean of him onto me, he was not going to give me anything less than the best and I really respect that and it made me respect him more, knowing everything I know about him already, that I got to be a part of that with him.
Warrior is out in the UK today. Click here to see our 5* review.