Interview with “Warrior” star Joel Edgerton

Originally posted on MMA Payout

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.

MPDid 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.”

MPWhat 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.

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Review of upcoming MMA Film, “Warrior”

Originally Posted on MMA Payout

I had the opportunity to see a sneak preview of the new mixed martial arts movie, “Warrior,” opening on September 9th.

Warrior has everything MMA fans are used to: a high school teacher turned MMA star, a war veteran-turned-fighter, a stoic Russian MMA machine, a mohawked brawler, a seedy manager, a famed trainer and an underdog story.

The story centers around the Conlon family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Eldest brother Brendan is a physics teacher with a wife and two daughters trying to make ends meet. When the bank tells him that it will foreclose on his home in 90 days he turns to fighting in a quasi-toughman contest to earn quick dollars. He is suspended from his job after its learned what he is doing and he must turn to MMA fights full time. Despite his wife’s apprehension, the former UFC fighter convinces her that he is cherry-picking against less skilled fighters and it will be easy money. He regroups with his old MMA coach and is thrown in with a younger, stronger training camp. Brendan eventually adopts and when an opportunity presents itself, he finds himself in a two day MMA tournament in Atlantic City with the winner getting $5 million.

Younger brother Tommy is an Iraq war veteran holding onto a secret from his tour of duty. Looking to rekindle his past as a champion amateur wrestler, Tommy works out a boxing gym where he discovers a group training for the same big tournament in Atlantic City. After Tommy delivers a severe beatdown to the gym’s toughest fighter, he is noticed by an MMA manager who pulls strings to gets him into the tournament. In order to train, Tommy seeks help from his recovering alcoholic father (Nick Nolte) despite his disdain for his father who tore their family apart when he was a kid.

With both brothers making the tournament, there is the prospect that they could meet. Unlike the Klitschko brothers, the Conlon brothers are willing to fight as Tommy feels that Brendan betrayed him as when their father and mother split up, Brendan stayed in Pittsburgh with his father and girlfriend (and eventual wife) instead of moving with him and his mother west.

Similar to “The Fighter” and “The Wrestler,” the combat sport serves as the backdrop for the story’s plot. Warrior is more “The Fighter” than “The Wrestler” as the sport serves as the vehicle for the story.

Fighters Erik Apple, Anthony Johnson and Nate Marquardt make cameos as opponents in the tournament. Kurt Angle plays the movie’s version of Fedor which is ironic since he is a U.S. Olympic gold medalist in wrestling and his pro wrestling character plays up American patriotism.

The movie does a great job in explaining the sport of MMA without hitting the audience in the face with it. Although Warrior embellishes the rules of MMA, the fight scenes are fairly true. Not only do the action sequences feature stand-up game but also show jiu jitsu. Warrior will play well with non-MMA fans as it does not try to shove the sport down the audience’s throat. The movie is subtle in letting the non-MMA fan know that the sport is more than physicality and its participants and fans are intelligent. Brendan, the high school teacher, teaches physics. Also, the school principal is a closet fan who secretly backs Brendan’s moonlighting although its frowned upon by the school.

Tommy (played by Tom Hardy) looks more like pro wrestler Bill Goldberg (trap muscles and all) as he enters the cage, disposes of an opponent and then leaves without any celebration or the referee raising his hand in victory. Nick Nolte is excellent as the fallible alcoholic father trying to make amends after a lifetime of screwups. Brendan (played by Joel Edgerton) is the most complex character of the three as his primary goal is to provide for his family by any means. Yet, he does not know how to deal with Tommy or his father.

In prelude to the premier, MMA Weekly reported that Insight Editions and Lionsgate Films released a coffee table book, “The Men of Warrior.” The book features images and stills of the MMA fighters participating in the movie including Nate Marquardt and Erik Apple. Hopefully we will see more marketing behind the film as its opening approaches. Its not just a mixed martial arts film and hopefully people will not dismiss it because of any negative stereotypes.

Regardless of whether you are a fan of mixed martial arts, “Warrior” is one of the better films of 2011.

 

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Editorial: Getting involved in politics should not be limited by state borders

Originally published in the July 23-29 edition of the NW Asian Weekly

A controversy is stirring in Oregon as United States Congressman David Wu is receiving criticism for out of state donations for his reelection campaign. Wu, a Democrat, is the first Taiwanese American to be elected to the United States House of Representatives. As he heads into a tough season of campaigning to retain his seat in Congress, he has received a heavy amount of donations from Asians, mostly out of state.

“His latest financial disclosure report reveals that about three-quarters of the $230,000 he raised in the last three months came from donors with Asian surnames,” reports the Oregonian.”It’s friends helping friends,” stated Cupertino, California councilman Barry Chang in the Oregonian article, “that’s about it.”

Chang was one of those that helped Wu with fund raising for his campaign in Northern California.  Wu’s list of donors also includes many residents of New York.

One of Wu’s supporters, Howard Li, owner of the New York-based Waitex Group of Companies, reports company revenues exceeding $110 million a year.

Opponents of Wu argue that his donations are coming from outside of Oregon.

Thus, the argument is that Wu is lacking support inside Oregon. The most recent campaign financial disclosure report indicates that only eight percent of Wu’s campaign donations came from Oregon donors. Meanwhile, Wu’s chief opponent, Brad Avakian, has raised $195,000 between April 1 and June 30 with most coming from Oregonians.

While opponents may make the argument that Wu is seeking favor from friends outside the borders of the state of Oregon, he is not breaking any campaign laws.

The fact that donors have “Asian surnames” should not have negative meaning. In fact, it should be seen as a source of pride and community. Notably, Wu’s opponent, Avakian, an Armenian-American, has received donations from the Armenian-American community. But, not as much as Wu. This does not mean that just because you are Asian or Mexican or Italian that you should write out a check to a politician with the same ethnic background. But Wu’s donors show that Asian Americans are increasing its involvement in politics. It also means that they are making a political statement with their checkbooks.

The modern political campaign demands cash and its necessary to seek out campaign funding where you can find it. Out of state contributions does not stop Wu’s opponents from doing the same.

Wu is not the only politician receiving out of state contributions. In the state of South Carolina, Republican Governor Nikki Haley brought in $52,210 in campaign contributions in the past three months. Nearly 88 percent of the money came from out-of-state businesses, political action groups and individuals.

Asian American candidates from Hawaii and California have come to Seattle to raise funds for their campaigns back home. The practice goes back to the 1980s (and maybe farther) to former Delaware Lieutenant Governor Shien Biau (“S.B.”) Woo. He sought help from outside the state of Delaware seeking contributions to his senate campaign.

Race is not only a factor when political candidates seek contributions outside their state. Women candidates have sought funding from outside women’s groups to fund their campaigns.

The amount of money raised by Wu from Asians is a positive sign that Asians are becoming more involved in politics. Contributing to campaigns should know no state boundaries.

It is likely that opponents facing Wu this year may argue to Oregon residents that Wu raised money beyond the borders of Oregon and therefore is not representative of the voters in his district. However, soliciting contributions and serving your constituents are two separate things. The fact that Wu is receiving donations from other states does not mean he would neglect the voters that would reelect him. ♦

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