Opening this weekend is writer-director Gavin O’ Connor’s Warrior. Starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Jennifer Morrison, Nick Nolte, and Noah Emmerich, Warrior tells the story of two estranged brothers (Hardy and Edgerton) on their paths to the biggest MMA fight of their careers. Now I’m going to tell you something that might surprise you: I loved the movie. One of the surprises about Warrior is the way it shakes the typical narrative structure by having you root for two protagonists. While your typical sports movie will have you rooting for one character, driving you to cheer them on in the finale, Warrior makes you feel for both characters who each have a very strong storyline.
At the press day for the film, Hardy and Edgerton talked about the challenges of making the movie, the fight scenes, training, how the other fighters helped them, working with Nick Nolte, future projects like The Great Gatsby, The Dark Knight Rises, Mad Max: Fury Road, and a lot more. Hit the jump for the audio and transcript.
As usual, I’m offering you two ways to get the interview: you can either read the full transcript below or listen to the audio by clicking here. Warrior opens this weekend.
Question: This film is so filled with emotional and physical energy. But in between takes were you just laughing at each other and saying, “Oh, my God. Quit sweating on me?” How was the energy like between takes? Did you maintain the intensity or did it have to break?
Joel Edgerton: There was fatigue. I often times find with movies that the heavier the onscreen situation is, the more levity there is off screen. It’s almost out of necessity. There is a lot of that going on and there was here. There was a little bit of crying on each other’s shoulders and “Get me a latte!”
Tom Hardy: No. There were no lattes as we were shooting. Did you have a latte during shooting?
Edgerton: No. Remember that point where we were walking through the crowd and you were like, “I need a burrito!”
Hardy: It was the burrito.
So in the final shot where you are walking through the crowd…
Hardy: It was the final moments of one of the fights.
How long were you shooting?
Edgerton: The whole film? It was 12 weeks. Was it 12 weeks?
Edgerton: 10 weeks? We got to Pittsburgh 10 or 12 weeks earlier. We were training for almost as long as we were shooting. So we were there for a long time.
The film has been finished for over a year now and it has sort of been waiting to come out since The Fighter was coming out. How has that process been like for you guys? To be honest, the film is great and when a film is delayed it’s often times because something is wrong with it. So how has it been like for you during the waiting process?
Hardy: You know, I think it is the due diligence of [director] Gavin O’Connor as opposed to the testament of why the film stands up so well. I don’t necessarily think that it was The Fighter. I know we were shooting at the same time that The Fighter was shooting, but I don’t know if that was a conscious decision. Personally, I don’t know.
He said that the studio didn’t want to release it at the same time as The Fighter.
Edgerton: But also Gavin took a long time. He had so many feet of footage. I mean, just for the fights alone there was so much to pick through. There were four cameras.
Hardy: 210 hours worth of footage.
Edgerton: It was a forever amount of footage for the fighting and he had to cut all that together. So he cut longer than…most films get cut in, I don’t know, maybe 20 weeks or something. I’m sure that Gavin cut for almost twice that long. He really dug in and he wasn’t going to lock the film until it was ready. So I think that was the first kind of delay. The next thing was “We are not going to release a movie about two brothers in the world of fighting when there is another one out there”. Obviously, they are completely different movies but when the general public looks at a trailer they might be like, “I’ll only spend money on one of those movies.”
Mr. Hardy, a friend of suggested that your deltoids should get its own credit because it is the mass and shape of a separate character. All kidding aside, is it fun or creepy to do that science fair kind of stuff of “I’m only going to eat chicken and broccoli and lift weights. Let’s see what kind of monster I can be.” Is that fun or is it just terrifying?
Hardy: [laughs] The novelty wears off. Initially it was good fun and then you settle in for the tour and the tour is a few months. By the end of Warrior I went on to Inception and it was really nice to just wear a pair of silk pants, a silk shirt, get a sun tan, and to just lay down and sleep a lot. I didn’t have to get beaten up anymore for awhile. But now Chris [Nolan] has asked me to come back and go through the whole thing again of the chicken and broccoli. [laughs] I’m banished with more chicken and broccoli. It’s good fun but at the same time one has to be concerned about their body.
Edgerton: You’re more worried about the people around you that you might break. [laughs]
Hardy: Well, Bronson was fat. Tom Conlon was about replacing that fat with about 14 pounds. It was about stripping the fat down from Bronson. Bane is about putting those 14 pounds back on plus another 10. So we are dealing with minimal sums, but we are still messing around with the system. So, yeah, I do worry about that. Thanks for bringing it up. [laughs]
How was the training like while having the fighters on set? Did that influence your roles at all?
Hardy: You can’t have a tantrum for starters because who are you going to shout at? You know what I mean?
Edgerton: [laughs] They were awesome, man. I think I had the perception that I was going to rock out in the gym and there was going to be a lot testosterone and a lot of aggression. I thought there was going to be a lot of judgment towards us for trying to fill the role of a fighter. But it was nothing but a nurturing and awesome atmosphere. They were basically going, “Welcome to the gym. Let us show you what we know.” They were constantly talking about health, diet, and all of the different training methods.
Hardy: They were encouraging you.
Edgerton: They were really encouraging. I think that is also just because that is the nature of really great athletes. When people are really great at what they do there is no aggression because they are comfortable in their own skin. They know themselves well enough that you don’t have anything to prove. That was very much the energy there. It was very encouraging. They knew that we were going to kind of be the vehicle with which their sport was going to be portrayed in either a good or bad way. I think there was a general spirit on the movie that we were going to pay respect to the sport. They knew that was the intention. They were very happy with it.
Hardy: Nick Nolte’s character is my only friend in the whole movie. He is the only person that I hang out with if I’m not on my own being grumpy. I love Nick and I think that he is fantastic. He is an icon for me. As an actor, he comes from an old school heritage of real realistic and naturalistic movie actors. Strasberg lineage right through from Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and Dustin Hoffman. It goes all the way through to Nick Nolte and James Caan. He is old school. I look at him and I can see that the history is carved into his face. I really like that. It’s like an old cliff. He has a crazed history written all over him. He is like a big bear. He is very gruff and very aggressive. He is a huge behemoth of strength. Yet, he has this really soft, sensitive, charming, and childlike playfulness to him. There is a clown in Nick, which an actor to work with is something that is really important – that you don’t lose your childlike true sense and ability to play regardless of consequence. So you just throw things out generously to go back and forth. He is 70 now and he still has it, and he keeps you on your toes. He is very, very brave. He also has stories. He talks about Brando and his earlier movies. That is how it was like working with him. He is a legend.
Edgerton: It was fun. There is this kind of thing with Nick in particular and other actors of his profile. You get a lot of information about them before you meet them. Unfortunately, for Nick for a couple of reasons, a lot of that information is kind of craziness. There is a certain photo of him with his hair all teased in the air – the mug shot version of Nick. So I was definitely like, “What am I in for here? What is this guy going to be like?” My first day on set was the scene I do with him on the lawn, which was from 6 pm to 6 am. It was me and Nick going toe to toe on a seven page scene. I was like, “What are we in for here?” and he was fucking awesome. He was just completely everything that you would hope for. Unfortunately, in this industry, not everyone is what you expect. So you have this sort of weird expectation that when someone really famous is actually really nice, good at their job, and really dedicated to their job that it is a rarity. It shouldn’t be that way and it definitely isn’t with him.
What were your expectations for this business?
Edgerton: I don’t know. I don’t know whether it’s because I came from a very small town, but my expectations were that I would be a theater actor and that I would never be in the movies. I then got a chance to be in the movies in Australia and I never imagined that I would end up in the movies here. So I kept getting surprised by how far I could push things. And then when I got here I just felt like, I don’t know, I thought at some point recently I started thinking that maybe I should start setting goals for myself because maybe I could achieve more if I actually have my eyes on the future rather than going, “This is where the train stops. It is right here in the theater.” But my expectations….I’ve gone well beyond my expectations and I am very happy. Anything that happens from here I am excited by and happy about. But I am happy now because I feel like only now I am starting to get the challenges that I want as an actor. I often times sat around on the set of a little movie thinking…
Is there any comparison between being a martial arts champion and being a movie star?
Edgerton: I reckon I would be able compare anything to anything else if you gave me enough time. [laughs]
Do you both live in Los Angeles now?
Edgerton: I do, but he doesn’t.
Hardy: My son lives with his mom and her husband in London so that is it. I am a Londoner forever. I’m never moving until my boy is old enough to move with me if he wants to.
Hardy: No. I can’t do that. That is illegal. [laughs]
Hardy: Yeah. He hadn’t seen Bronson at that time. So I was surprised that he came to me. I knocked on his door around midnight one night. I told him why he should hire me to be Chuck Norris. The first time I read Warrior I thought that Chuck Norris is what he wanted. [laughs] I stayed with him for a week and we talked a lot about marines, this documentary The Smashing Machine about the UFC, and about the acting process. What was interesting is that we bonded entirely on the “how to” about the process. I had embroidered him Gavin “The Worker” O’Connor because he is very interested in the work. His process is intrinsically his own. As actors, we have the opportunity to work with many directors. Directors only work with themselves and other actors. They never know what it is like to work with another director. So that relationship that one has with a director is entirely always the king. So we spoke for a week about his process, which was the be all and end all – his process. At the end of the day he totally went to bat for me to play Tommy.
There must have been many offers after Bronson.
Hardy: When Bronson came out CAA took me on. CAA took me on just as we did Warrior. Bronson came out and it was a great calling card actually for other things. Funny enough, Chris Nolan has never watched Bronson.
How did he cast you then?
Hardy: He liked me from RocknRolla actually. [laughs] I played the gay getaway driver.
Can you talk about how it has been going with this small indie film that you have been filming?
Hardy: I can’t say anything about it.
I mean, can you talk about working with Nolan this time?
Hardy: Oh, I love working with Chris Nolan. I’ll do anything with him. It is such an honor to be asked to play….to be in Batman full stop. If I think about it and what I am actually doing then it would be so overwhelming that I would probably not be able to do the job. So I would rather not talk about it. It’s quite a big deal actually. [laughs] Chris and the whole crew are brilliant in their environment so you are never aware of the size of the job.
Edgerton: I can tell you as much as I know about Gatsby. We have been sort of in pre production where we did a really great kind of exploration workshop in New York. I’m off on Monday and back to Australia where everything is getting prepped and ready. We are going to continue rehearsals and then we start shooting in a few weeks. Then it is all systems go until Christmas.
Are they shooting The Great Gatsby in Australia?
That just seems wrong. It would be like shooting The Man From Snowy River in Manhattan.
Edgerton: But then there have been movies set in space and, you know, you don’t shoot them in space.
Edgerton: And the unions would not allow it.
Hardy: Have you tried hoovering the moon? It is so dusty.
Edgerton: I mean, could you shoot it in New York or Long Island these days? I would argue that it would be almost impossible to shoot it in Long Island. It has truly changed.
Hardy: We are shooting Mad Max in Hackney.
You are shooting Mad Max in Hackney?
Hardy: Yeah. In Stoke Newington. Well, since the riots in London, it is so post apocalyptic. We are just going to shoot it entirely in London and Hackney.
Edgerton: I didn’t mean that to be disrespectful. I’m just saying that Baz [Luhrmann] also has a very big infrastructure in Sydney. He has made all of his movies there. He knows what is going on there.
What did you learn about the world of MMA?
Hardy: It is terrifying. Don’t try it at home. If you do, then do it with an appropriate adult. It really is an athletic sport. It is very serious and they are very serious about it. What I found is that you can marry any of the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu guys. They are lovely and humble. The most humbling experience is training with a mixed martial artist. As Joel said, they have nothing to prove. So when you are working with them they are so generous, kind, loving, thoughtful, and so entirely about your well being. You are surprised that for 25 minutes of an evening they go out and beat each other up to win [laughs] because most the time they spend it entirely on taking of themselves and each other. They have nothing to prove so unlike the rest of us, who maybe get aggressive in their car, shout at people, or have tantrums, these guys are chill. They are like Buddhas fighting on knee pads because they spend all day kicking each other. It is very respectful.
Edgerton: I had no idea. I saw it as a kind of bloody gladiator sport. There is an elopement of that of course. You are going to be elbowed in the face or get a leg in the head. I’m not going to say that it is like people tickling each other with feathers. It is beyond that. But there is more to it than meets the eye. As everything in life, there is a world to explore.
Do you see your tattoos in the film?
Hardy: Yeah. You do. [shows his tattoo] This is my beautiful boy. This is my son. Bellissimo.
Do you speak Italian?
Hardy: No. I don’t, but I will be. I hope to play Al Capone so I will. So I’m learning Italian.
When is that going to happen?
Hardy: In a couple of years. I’m going to put on a lot of weight for that. I want to play that in Italian.
Mr. Hardy, when are you filming Mad Max? Is it greenlit? Are you definitely doing it?
Hardy: Oh, yeah. That is going live. But the Australian desert has had the finest rainfall in, like, years. So it is no longer a desert anymore. It is a meadow. You know, the hills are alive with the sound of music if we shot there.
Edgerton: All of the young Australian actors went out there with watering cans because they didn’t want Tommy to play Mad Max.
Hardy: So we will probably have to find somewhere else to shoot it, but it looks like it going in April.
Have you heard anything from Mel Gibson at all?
Hardy: No. He doesn’t have a problem with me playing Mad Max. He doesn’t want to do it anymore. He was offered it. It is his role. I’m second choice.