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Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton Talk About 'Warrior'

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Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton in Warrior

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton in Warrior

© Lionsgate Films
Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy came into the interview for Lionsgate Films' Warrior at the 2011 Comic Con munching on bagels and looking relaxed and dressed as though ready to head off to the gym. And before taking a seat at our table, Hardy and Edgerton did something not a lot of actors do: they walked around the table shaking hands with each of the six of us as we introduced ourselves. If Hardy and Edgerton's acting talent isn't enough to set them apart from the pack, then the fact these two much in-demand fellows acted like real gentlemen before getting down to the business of talking about their film absolutely does.

And, as a dog-lover, Hardy further endeared himself at the end of the interview as he talked about his bulldog - Max - he lost just three months ago. Hardy definitely misses his companion/best friend and confided that Max's ashes are currently on the couch at his home, occupying a place Max used to love to hang out. (If that doesn't tug at your heartstrings, then I don't know what will.)

But back to the movie discussion, Edgerton and Hardy were enthusiastic with their praise for the work done by Gavin O'Connor (Miracle) on this dramatic tale of brothers who both compete in Mixed Martial Arts, but for very different reasons. Putting off a brotherly vibe (Hardy even picked up and ate half of Edgerton's bagel without asking at one point in the interview), the two chatted about working on Warrior, the film's themes, what this film gets right about the world of Mixed Martial Arts, and how they discovered much to their surprise that Warrior's sort of a chick flick.

Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton Warrior Interview

Are you digging rocking the MMA buzz-cut?

Tom Hardy: "This isn't for MMA, it's because I forget to comb my hair."

Joel Edgerton: "We could do the interview or we could just roll around and fight each other for five minutes."

[Much chatter from the 4 women at the table over paying money to see that]

Tom, you've done a lot of action movies and obviously you've done a total transformation for this movie as well as Dark Knight Rises. Has action always been the genre you've wanted to be a part of?

Tom Hardy: "No, I'm into parlor dramas. I'm into theatre. I'm trained for the stage. I trained to do Chekhov and Shakespeare, I was trained for the stage and ended up in the cage."

Joel Edgerton: "And kicking people in the head."

How do you feel about where you ended up?

Tom Hardy: "I'm really grateful. It's hard work. It's not what I expected to be doing. But also, I trained to be a character actor so it falls under that banner of extreme character acting, do you know what I mean? Where I have to do extreme physical transformations and go to the gym."

The physical transformation to become MMA-worthy is a big deal. But did you notice in your daily life things were different?

Joel Edgerton: "It feels good. I mean it feels good to be fit and strong, and it feels good to learn new things. That's one of the great privileges being an actor is that someone pays you and sends you off to learn about something that otherwise you'd never know about."

Talk about the training for MMA. Those guys are serious and that's a crazy sport.

Tom Hardy: "It's a full-time job there, it's like being a tiger. There's not a lot of room for anything. But they're old women - in the British that's a very common expression, that 'old women' - in the sense that they sort of sit around and they discuss MMA all day. That's all that they do. They all look after each other, and they're all terribly concerned about how they're doing physically. Have they been hurt, their injuries...they're very sensitive to each other. So it's a microcosm world."

It's very much like the ballet.

Tom Hardy: "Yeah, it's very much like the Black Swan. We talked about that in Paris."

Tom Hardy: "Tom said he felt a bit like Natalie Portman he said in Paris."

Tom Hardy: "Right now I'm thinking about that too." [laughing]

We might be at the beginning of a resurgence of MMA movies. What so far do you feel the other movies might not be getting quite right that you were able to bring accurately to Warrior?

Tom Hardy: "Truth."

Joel Edgerton: "I think we're the only film, unless I just haven't been aware of them, that depicts this sport in a way that's getting closer to the truth, and that gives it the respect it deserves."

Tom Hardy: "Martial arts movies which are for the martial artists who like to see different moves and acrobatics and skill sets, [those don't] necessary have to have a storyline - or have a very simple storyline - these guys are very proficiently skilled from the Ong-bak right through to the old Bruce Lee movies. And then you have things like David Mamet's Redbelt. And David Mamet we all know is a great screenplay writer and playwright and a great director. If you like him, you like him. If you hate him, you really hate him. He's someone who's into controversy, you know what I mean? That's David Mamet."

Joel Edgerton: He's also a huge fan of jujitsu."

Tom Hardy: "He's also a brown belt. I don't know if you know this. He's six years trained and he should be a brown belt by now. Then you've got Never Back Down, which we don't have to go into because we also represent Lionsgate today. [laughing] And then you have Gavin O'Connor's take on the world of Miracle and sports movies. And then you have Pride and Glory with brothers - Gavin's got a thing about brothers and a thing about sports, and what he's brought to his vision of Warrior is like putting a microscope over a sport like MMA and exploring it. He's actually de-stigmatizing the sport, showing you the athleticism of the sport, the discipline. And also he gives you two protagonists in this world - one who's fighting for country and for self, for reasons towards his own self-centeredness and pain. Whatever it is. He's a Marine, but there's other reasons why Tommy's fighting. The fight is within Tommy. And you've got someone who's actually an upstanding member of society, he's a parent, a teacher, who's also an athlete. So it's the fight for financial reasons. These are normal people in extreme circumstances with the backdrop of MMA. So in that way when you ask what does Warrior do for the MMA world that others have failed, it's actually that it's talking about it as a sport as opposed to making a kung fu movie or a martial arts movie. It's like Rocky meets a Kramer vs Kramer, if you like."

So if you don't like MMA, there's still something in the movie for you?

Joel Edgerton: "It shows you a set of human beings who are participating in that sport and you really get to understand them as a family with all the pain that they've experienced. I think for some reason if the movie was an MMA movie where you didn't get to understand the participants, where you just saw them as these kind of gladiators and nothing else, there's a chance the audience can engage in it. But the film really is a family drama and Brendan and Tommy could be getting together at the end to have a game of chess. The fighting could be replaced with anything. But thankfully it is a really dynamic and kind of cool sport."

Tom Hardy: "It scored very highly with women, you know? We were very surprised to hear that. It's like, 'We made a chick flick?' My girlfriend, my fiancee, she's watched it a couple of times now and every time she watches Joel getting beat up, at the end of the sequences she's like, 'No!!! Oh god, get out! Get out!' She was really drawn into it. She was really drawn into the brothers. She cries when she sees it."

"There's something that's very human about Warrior that brings you out. You're watching the movie and, yeah, there's fighting - there's a tournament at the end of the movie - but it takes a long time to get to know these people. You see them in a fight situation and you get to know them, so you have two movies. It's very interesting how Gavin's set you up with the red car and the blue car. Who are you going to bet on? Who do you want to win? Who do you think will win? But, at the end of the day, it's not really that important. You've spent two hours in the movie theater with two guys you care about, and the dad you care about, even though none of these people are clean. They've all got problems; they are all flawed. They are human, but at least at the end we love them. We kind of care about them. It's quite emotional. The people close to me that have seen this film, there's quite a few people that I've shown the film, have all felt emotionally moved and touched by the end. It's not a kung fu film. It really kicks up the skeletons and the dust for everybody. It's really amazing."

There are two protagonists here. How do you think you think your character will connect with audiences as compared to Joel's? Why would they root for you?

Tom Hardy: "I don't know why they'd root for Joel. He's the boring brother."

"If you're lucky like me, your relationship with your brother has resolved itself on the peaceful side of the fence and has stayed there. But if you're someone who's got a family that's all fractured and finding it hard to relate, that's a very sad place to be - especially for a lot of people who will spend the rest of their days in that space with a lot of regret and a lot of pain and a lot of projection, which I think this movie is rich with."

"I was drawn more to Brendan when I watch it. I watch the movie and it's not like I want to play Joel's part to me, because I'm greedy and I want to do that because it's different. Don't get me wrong, I love Joel, but at the same time I watch it and I connect much more with the family situation because I have a son and the family and the house and trying to do your best and it not working. And then having someone take away that which is your security, and then you go to any means necessary to protect that. I totally engage - I totally engage. When I see him getting beaten and thrown about the cage, I'm like, 'No!' And even though I know the ending of the movie, I cheer every single lock and move. You watch the dynamics of the ballet of the dance and the fighting that's going on, the choreography, and you can see when he's losing and when he's getting the upper hand a bit. You go, 'Oh, he's losing it again.' It really pulls at me because I want him to win."

"Tommy, I want him to have a cuddle, man. 'Come here, Tommy, what you need is a big hug. You want your mom back. You can't have your mom back. You want your family back. You need your faith back and your trust back, and you need your home back.' There's things about Tommy...Tommy's not fighting for anything but to be heard, to get rid of the noise so it's silent. The noise is in him, the fight is in him when he's still. The chaos when he's in the ring, it's completely on the outside. It's silent on the inside, until he meets his brother and then he falls apart. It's an intervention in the ring."

How do they film the fight scenes and capture all the dramatic moments needed in order to show that side of the story?

Tom Hardy: "It's a mixture of the choreography. JJ Perry and his stunt team are nuts about the sport and wanted it be portrayed realistically and sensibly. It's very difficult to show you the notes within the notes. This is not just spray and pay. This is very specific, these moves are as specific as a lawyer's questions in court. Every syllable is connected to another syllable which draws the syntax of a sentence to makes sense. Wants and desires and needs and reactions, they need something from you. So every movement is accounted for and wanted. And then you have a little Japanese guy called Masa [Takayanagi] in there with a camera. He's really, really amazing."

Joel Edgerton: "Four or five angles on every piece. Outside the cage, two setups. Inside the cage, two sides with four cameras. Four takes, like a lot of fight films. But also on that as well, with Gavin - particularly with the fight with Tommy and I at the end - that fight was written like dialogue in that there was choreography but then it was massaged and kind of sculpted into a shape that told its own story. In Gavin's words, every word was... I'm trying to describe the way he would put it into words. But, every punch and every kick meant something, that it was an exchange that was headed toward this intervention."

Tom Hardy: "Because everything they wanted to say to each other, they couldn't say. Then you see it."

Joel Edgerton: "That's the way they were brought up to do, and that's the way they lived their life - physically."

Tom Hardy: "So the equilibrium is restored by the end of the film."

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Warrior hits theaters on September 9, 2011.

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