10 Revelations about the Grueling Training and Commitment behind Warrior
1. Both lead actors were put on a grueling ten-week training regimen and a strict high protein diet of six small meals per day. Hardy’s regimen focused much more on heavy weight lifting with the goal of bulking up, ultimately to the tune of 28 additional pounds of muscle put on for the part. Unlike Edgerton, Hardy didn’t have previous athletic experience. The son of a Cambridge academic father, Hardy is the first to admit that prior to WARRIOR, he was not a fighting man, and not intimately familiar with “alpha male territory.” While the structure of his training days, which consisted of two hours of boxing, followed by two hours of kickboxing and Muay Thai, followed by two hours of choreography, and finally two hours of lifting, won’t be missed by Hardy (who Perry lovingly described during training as “carb-depleted, angry and moody”), the sense of accomplishment and athletic prowess gained as a result of appearing in the film will be forever treasured.
2. With three World MMA Awards to his name, the legendary Greg Jackson was a technical advisor for the film. Jackson has trained many successful fighters, including current UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre and former King of Pancrase Nate Marquardt, who appears in the film.
3. Production of the fight scenes went on for six straight weeks, with over two hundred hours of footage ultimately shot for the film, much of it extra fight coverage.
4. As the shoot began, training transitioned from Jackson’s Albuquerque, New Mexico facility to the Pittsburgh Fight Club, which played host to the production both while cameras were rolling in the gym scenes as well as for the cast’s off-camera training. While both actors did have stunt doubles, Joel and Tom completed at least 85% of the fight work seen on screen.
5. Observes Jackson, “I was incredibly impressed with the quality of the actors on this project. They were dedicated to really understanding what it takes to be high-level fighters and trainers. They partook in heavy training and the results speak for themselves.”
6. Filming MMA fight scenes presented unique challenges. For one, the gloves used in MMA are four-ounce gloves – far thinner and less padded than boxing gloves – and fighters’ chests and legs are exposed. Describing how little room for protection there was, Perry says, “If we do a fight scene in a nightclub and you’re wearing clothes, I can use knee pads and elbow pads. We can cheat a lot of things.” Though small concessions were made, like replacing the gloves’ thin padding with equally thin but higher density padding and installing a special gymnastics style spring floor in the bottom of the cage to help absorb impact, at the end of the day, both actors had to literally throw themselves into a physically precarious shooting environment.
7. They also had to face real fighters, some of the best in the world. Like Olympic champion wrestler and Pittsburgh local hero Kurt Angle as Koba, the Russian wrestling champion. Though his screen time is limited to one match, his shadow hangs over the entire film as a fearsome opponent. Angle was accompanied by fellow world-class martial arts pros Nate Marquardt, Erik Apple, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson, and Yves Edwards.
8. It was a challenge not just to train the two lead actors as credible fighters, but train real fighters who have spent a lifetime physically crushing opponents to the ways of stunt fighting, or “selling” punches versus actually throwing them. In other words, Perry’s challenge was to train the fighters “not to wreck the actors,” as he puts it.
9. Despite his best efforts though, the occasional punch did accidentally connect, and there were a handful of “comes with the territory” injuries on set, including Hardy’s personal tally of a torn ligament, broken foot and cracked rib, and a serious injury to the MCL of Edgerton’s right knee that jeopardized the shooting schedule. Despite doctor’s warnings, the Australian toughed it out and finished the shoot despite the tear in his knee.
10. Finding an actor with an absolutely unique balance of opposite qualities to play Tommy Conlon, a character who does some unlikeable things and who is often unpleasant but whose core goodness and vulnerability must be ever apparent to the audience, was the key to the film first and foremost. O’Connor had read close to 200 actors for the part when after an initial phone conversation, he arranged for an in-person meeting with Tom Hardy. “It wasn’t a traditional audition” explains Hardy, who was confident in the dramatic essence of the character but had fierce initial doubts about whether he could “close the gap” presented by the accent transformation, physical transformation, and cultural transformations the role required. After sharing his concerns with O’Connor, the two settled on a pow-wow in the United States to do some reading, development and analysis, and hopefully arm Hardy with a fully rounded character. That experience turned out to be more in-depth than O’Connor ever imagined. He recounts, “(Hardy) showed up at my house at midnight on a Sunday, unannounced. Just a knock on the door, and there’s Tom Hardy. He was supposed to go to a hotel, but instead stayed at my house for five days. He never left, so I got to know him very well. And the qualities that he had as a human being were just right for the character.”
source: Warrior Production Notes