The burgeoning star of Inception and next year’s The Dark Knight Rises puts his dukes up in new mixed martial arts film, Warrior.
Were you a fan of MMA before this film?
My best friend has been into it for ages. His dad trained the Guardian Angels, so they’re very serious and I’ve always been surrounded by martial artists. But I never really had the discipline. I was always the gobby one.
You’ve got a fighter’s body in Warrior. Was that a lot of training?
My body in Warrior is a hangover from Bronson [biopic of notorious British prisoner, Charles Bronson]. I had a lot of fat on me, so I had to strip if off and then put on a stone of muscle. All in all, the film lasted about five or six months, and I was training throughout. Then the two months before, I tried to stretch myself out and lose as much fat as possible, so I could move on my feet a bit better.
So you had no fighting experience beforehand?
No, I started MMA from scratch, and it was an upward curve. Any martial arts expert who watches this will be able to spot all my weaknesses and say, “There’s no way he could be a champ.” But to counter that, we had a lot of input from UFC fighters in the film. Greg Jackson [pro trainer] came down to the set, and we had a lot of guys who were at the top of the MMA fighting tree giving advice. They were there to try and make it work, which is brilliant for actors to have. I’ll be really interested to see what the MMA world thinks of it.
Did you get hurt at all?
Oh yeah, I cracked my ribs, broke my little toe, and tore a ligament in my right hand. We had thumbs break. A lad even broke his neck and just carried on fighting. He didn’t realize.
Have you ever been in a real fight?
Fights and scraps and bits and bobs. I remember being kicked in the balls at school when I was about nine. That was a miserable outcome. A lot of my fights have taken place when I’ve been in absolute blackout, so I can’t remember a lot of them. Getting into a ring with these boys for Warrior was a horror of horrors. It’s like running around naked with live oxen, in a car park.
You’ve done a lot of theatre. Ever have any mishaps?
I had a panic attack on stage recently. I just wanted to leave. I knew I couldn’t, but my brain was telling me, “You really must leave, you need to walk off the stage now.” I’m talking myself down a lot on stage, because I have quite an active brain. Sometimes it gives me very stupid ideas. Sometimes my head goes “run now” or “forget your line now,” things like that. The shame that comes from forgetting your line is horrible. It’s like that point in an argument when you realize that you’re wrong.
We know that one.
I’ve also gone through a lot of clothes on, cloths off stuff. All that, “If in doubt, get your willy out” stuff. Nothing too embarrassing. Apart from dancing. I’m terrified of dancing. For some reason it makes me feel very vulnerable. I’m sure at some point God will give me a massive dancing role. I’ll have to be Fred Astaire or something.
You’ve played a few unhinged types in your time [Bronson, Clarkie in Layer Cake]. What’s the art to playing a good nutter?
I would say the secret is to just allow yourself to run riot. Think about all of those characteristics that aren’t good – arrogance, impatience, intolerance, selfishness – and then just amp them all up, and try to add charm to it.
It’s about not being afraid to explore options that will terrify people. Like, when you look at somebody, really consider eating their lips and their nose. It really does work.
Many, many super thanks to neverbabylon!