Payout Exclusive: Interview with “Warrior” star Joel Edgerton
September 14, 2011
MMA Payout had the opportunity to speak with “Warrior” star Joel Edgerton. Edgerton played older brother Brendan Conlon, the high school teacher and ex-UFC fighter thrust back into the cage to make money for his family.
MP: Did you know anything about MMA before this role?
“I knew MMA existed but I was more interested in boxing. Since this movie role, I am a convert to it (MMA).”
Edgerton was aware of the UFC’s shows in his native Australia but was out of the country both times. “I was disappointed that I could not go, it would have been keen to watch the UFC on home soil.”
MP: What did you think of the role when you were first presented it?
“I thought it was a good script and an ambitious project.” Edgerton’s participation in the movie was due in part because of director Gavin O’Connor. He was a fan of his work on Miracle and Pride and Glory. “If you are going to do a movie on MMA, you had to do it right and breathe life into it.” Edgerton added, “He’s (O’Connor) the right person to do it as you see it (Warrior) now.”
O’Connor, produced the raw, HBO documentary, “The Smashing Machine,” which featured MMA fighter Mark Kerr. Edgerton recalls watching it when it came out and saw it again in preparation to work with O’Connor, “I saw it again. I think it was an interesting template for what Warrior is about.”
MP: How was the training, diet, getting ready for the role?
“Gavin wanted two actors to get to the (film) location early and train hard. Because when you are an actor you can fake a lot of things. But, there were certain requirements that you couldn’t fake.”
Edgerton and his co-star Tom Hardy worked out for 10 weeks from 7:00 am until the mid-afternoon. During that time, Edgerton learned jiu jitsu and muay thai as well as dieting and getting a lot of rest.
Edgerton holds a black belt in Shotokan Karate he earned as a kid but had never dabbled in other martial arts and had never been around wrestling. During the filming, Edgerton grew a fondness for jiu jitsu. “If I were to continue in martial arts I would learn jiu jitsu. I found jiu jitsu strategic and challenging.”
Edgerton also mentioned special thanks to MMA trainer Greg Jackson. Edgerton and co-star Frank Grillo, Brendan’s coach Frank Campana, spent time with Jackson to learn about the fighter-coach dynamic. “We observed a lot in the gym,” Edgerton explained of his time at Jackson’s MMA. They specifically learned about Jackson’s instructions to his fighters between rounds. Edgerton recalled Jackson asking the actors regarding specific situations, “If you were training this guy, what would you say?”
“I can’t speak highly enough of that guy,” Edgerton said of Jackson.
MP: How was working with the MMA fighters?
“It was great. My complete understanding of MMA was through the guys (MMA fighters Erik Apple, Anthony Johnson and Nate Marquardt) I thought this was going to be an “Alpha Male” atmosphere in the gym. But, they were so helpful to Tommy (co-star Tom Hardy) and I and so interested in what was going on (with the film). They were dipping their toe into acting and we were dipping our toe in their world. It was like a cultural exchange. I guess when you think about it, they were concerned that the sport of MMA would not being depicted accurately. The guys were hoping we were going to represent it (MMA) the right way.”
Edgerton also noted that the Tapout guys, Punkass and Skyscrape, were “bending over backwards” to ensure that the crew had everything they needed for the movie.
MP: Have you encountered those with a negative perception of MMA?
“It feels like the sport is on the cusp and there’s a lot of people interested in it and its growing like wildfire. Still, there’s a little bit of negative attitude about the sport. There is a feel that it is gladiatorial. Yet, these are probably the same people that stop and watch a fight on a street corner or car accident.”
Edgerton has grown an affinity for the sport and the time and dedication the fighters put into the sport. He finds the fact that some perceive it one way is a shame.
In its first weekend, MMA Weekly reports that the movie made 5.6 million at the box office and third overall in the U.S. Edgerton expressed his happiness that the film has received positive reviews from critics and moviegoers.
You can check out the Payout review here.