They may play brothers at odds in the film Warrior
, but actors Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton appear to have left all that rivalry behind when they stepped off the film’s set. In the riveting drama, they play brothers torn apart by an alcoholic father who gave them very little, save for martial arts training.
Their respective life paths lead them to a MMA (mixed martial arts) cage, where they literally fight out the rage that’s been building up in each of them over the years. Off camera, and in real life when they are together talking about the film, the two actors, fast on the rise, are comfortable around each other and crack jokes rather than knuckles.Warrior
is directed by Gavin O’Connor, whose previous work includes the critically acclaimed film Miracle, which told the true-life story of Herb Brooks, the player-turned-coach who led the 1980 US Olympic hockey team to victory over the mighty Russians. The Dark Knight Rises
No stranger to stories centred on sports themes, in Warrior
O’Connor pits brother against brother, each with their own desperate claim for the prize, to see who will win. The writer-director says he purposefully wanted to cast actors who could learn to fight, rather than fighters who would have to try and create the emotion he was looking for, and found in Hardy and Edgerton.
Hardy, whom we will soon see as the villainous Bane in the next Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises
, grew up an only child, in London’s Hammersmith city. "I don’t have a brother so I didn’t have that relationship to draw on for the film," he says.
"I could have loaned you mine," jokes Edgerton, referring to Nash, his stunt-co-ordinator brother with whom he owns a production company.
"Nah," responds Hardy. "I didn’t want anyone else, I wanted you."
They joke a little more before Hardy gets serious about the one thing he he had that helped him prepare for Warrior - that Edgerton didn’t.
"I grew up with alcoholism all around me in my family," he says. "It was a family business. So it was nice to be able to be a part of it and do something useful with it as opposed to the old ways of doing something not useful with it."
His chuckle belies the impact that alcoholism has had on his life. Hardy’s own bout with drink and drugs, starting in his early teens, has often been reported, and it cost him his first marriage (to Sarah Ward, they divorced in 2004 after 5 years of marriage). In 2002, after completing filming on the Star Trek: Nemesis
movie, he had a complete breakdown. Thankfully for the man who’d won a number of promising young actor awards, a bout in rehab helped set him right. He’s been on the wagon since 2003, but the intensity with which he plays the role of Tommy Conlon makes it seem as if it were only yesterday that he’d just left.
Edgerton’s story is almost the opposite. Born in New South Wales, Australia, he rose to prominence on the popular TV series The Secret Life of Us and went on to appear in King Arthur and Star Wars, and last year’s Oscar-nominated Animal Kingdom. "I’ve got a very close family," says Edgerton. "My brother and I are best mates, I am still on speaking terms with my dad, I haven’t rejected him, and my mum is still alive, so in a strange way that’s why I can relate to the film." Physical transformation
Indeed, the blue-eyed Edgerton is so close to his “stunt-guy” brother Nate, that they work on films together. There were reports that Nate even helped train his brother to get fit for this role. It turns out, this wasn’t true. “I think he wondered if I was up for the challenge or not!" he laughs.
But Edgerton certainly proved to be up for it, and is convincing as the physics teacher who harbours a secret ability to cage-fight. His role didn’t require as much physical transformation as Hardy’s did - he put on around 14 kilograms of muscle for it. Hardy, no stranger to this, having piled on the weight for Bronson in 2008, admits it was difficult.
"With Bronson, a lot of that was fat. With Warrior, I wasn’t allowed to have as much fat. I was out of my comfort zone, to be honest and I didn’t think I could achieve it - the shape that I was in. I was punching well above my weight. But as an actor, where I was at, I would have done anything to do an American role," he says, before adding, "and I did."
It’s not surprising Hardy, and Edgerton too, worked so hard. Their on-screen father is the Hollywood veteran Nick Nolte, an Oscar-nominated actor they both say draws out the best in his co-stars. "It’s amazing just being in his presence - to watch and learn," says Hardy. Edgerton agrees: "The choices he’s making, the way he relates to his work, is something Tommy and I, as younger actors, need to be reminded of."
"Just to soak it up," Hardy adds in his British accent. "He can get away with murder. I mean, literally, he’s got two kids dead just with his authenticity," he adds, referring to the pair of them.
Nolte’s performance, together with both that of Hardy and Edgerton, has been received positively by critics, even if the box office hasn’t been as kind. The actors say they know this film was always going to be a tough sell. Both agree that it’s best served by good word of mouth. "People need to know that it’s not a fight movie," says Edgerton.
"It’s a great drama. The fighting is just the extra cool bit."* South Africa's Mixed Martial Arts elite, including two EFC Africa champions, were given a sneak preview of Warrior. In this video they give their professional take on the movie and talk about the how it depicted the reality of life as an MMA fighter:* Warrior is currently showing at cinemas countrywide.