Tagline: Fight For Family Director: Gavin O’Connor Writers: Gavin O’Connor (screenplay), Anthony Tambakis (screenplay) Release Date: (UK) MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense mixed martial arts fighting, some language and thematic material Genre: Action | Drama | Sport Runtime: 140 min
Two brothers face the fight of a lifetime – and the wreckage of their broken family – within the brutal, high-stakes world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting in Lionsgate’s action/drama, Warrior. An ex-Marine haunted by a tragic past, Tommy Riordan returns to his hometown of Pittsburgh and enlists his father, a recovered alcoholic and his former coach, to train him for an MMA tournament awarding the biggest purse in the history of the sport. As Tommy blazes a violent path towards the title prize, his brother, Brendan, a former MMA fighter unable to make ends meet as a public school teacher, returns to the amateur ring to provide for his family. Even though years have passed, recriminations and past betrayals keep Brendan bitterly estranged from both Tommy and his father. But when Brendan’s unlikely rise as an underdog sets him on a collision course with Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront the forces that tore them apart.
… Brendan Conlon
… Paddy Conlon
… Tess Conlon
… Frank Campana
When the announcer is quoting Koba’s credentials, he states that he is an Olympic Gold medalist in wrestling. Kurt Angle, the actor playing Koba, won a gold medal in the 1996 Olympics in the 220lbs/100 kg weight class for freestyle wrestling. He was also a world champion in the same style and weight class in 1995.
Co-writers Anthony Tambakis and Gavin O’Connor were introduced by comedian Bryan Callen, who plays himself in the movie alongside writer Sam Sheridan. Callen dated director Patty Jenkins for 9 years. She is now married to Sheridan.
The role of the promoter, played by director Gavin O’Connor, was originally written for TapouT founder ‘Charles ‘Mask’ Lewis’. Lewis was killed by a drunk driver just before shooting began. O’Connor spoke at Lewis’ memorial service on April 14, 2009, six days before principal photography began. The film is dedicated to him.
The role of Paddy was written for Nick Nolte by Anthony Tambakis and Gavin O’Connor, who is neighbors with the actor in Malibu. The studio was resistant to casting Nolte, but the writers held firm and Nolte’s portrayal has won him universal critical praise.
Anthony Tambakis and Gavin O’Connor selected The National song “About Today” to close the movie before writing the final scene. The scene was written with the song playing on a continual loop at O’Connor’s house while the writers worked.
Joel Edgerton tore his MCL in the cage during production, halting fight scenes for six weeks. Tom Hardy suffered a broken toe, broken ribs, and a broken finger.
Frank Grillo based his character on famed MMA trainer Greg Jackson. Grillo and Joel Edgerton trained and lived with Jackson at his New Mexico gym during pre-production. All of Grillo’s fight scene dialogue while “cornering” Edgerton was suggested by Jackson.
The original script location for the Conlon family was Long Beach, CA. It was moved to Pittsburgh due to Pennsylvania tax breaks. The scenes set at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City were originally written for the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Gavin O’Connor moved the action to New Jersey to fit with the gritty east coast aesthetic of the film.
Olympic gold medalist Kurt Angle played the Russian fighter “Koba,” whose nickname was taken from the moniker given to ‘Josef Stalin’. In the original script, “Koba” was named “King Kong,” but it was changed for legal reasons. The brother of Gavin O’Connor’s assistant, Samantha Ellison, suggested the name “Koba.”
The location for the scenes in Iraq was actually an abandoned parking lot on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, dressed to look like the desert by production designer Dan Leigh.
Instead of going to his hotel after his flight from England, Tom Hardy appeared at director Gavin O’Connor’s door at midnight the evening before his audition. The pair ended up living together for five days.
While filming in Pittsburgh, Gavin O’Connor, Anthony Tambakis, Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton, and Frank Grillo all lived together at the Cork Factory Lofts.
On the first day of shooting, the crew gave Nick Nolte a standing ovation after the first take of a scene shot at a local diner. The scene was later cut but appears as a DVD extra.
Writer Anthony Tambakis portrays a fight official in the film, and Gavin O’Connor plays the fight promoter. O’Connor agreed to play J.J. Riley only after his friend and co-writer Tambakis agreed to make a cameo himself.
An alternate opening shot at Moundsville State Prison in West Virginia and featuring Tom Hardy’s character cage-fighting in jail, was cut from the film.
One of the commentator’s references Kurt Angle’s character, Koba, as being a World Sambo Champion. Sambo is a martial art known for leg locks – Angle employed an ankle lock as a signature move during his wrestling career.
The footage shown of Tommy Riordan wrestling in high school is actually high school footage of Pennsylvania high school standout, and later NCAA Division I champion and US Olympic team member Cary Kolat. Kolat was also unbeaten during his high school career as it is suggested Tommy was.
Actual UFC fighters Anthony Johnson and Nathan Marquardt each play the role of Sparta competitors.
The character “Koba” strongly resembles real life Mixed Martial Artist Fedor Emelianenko, who was the #1 ranked Heavyweight in Mixed Martial Arts for over 7 years and considered unbeatable. He also was Russian and a Sambo Champion multiple times over. Plus there is even a physical resemblance, as Fedor was white, bald, and about Koba’s size.
Koba’s entrance song is one of the trademark songs of the Soviet cult singer-poet Vladimir Vysotsky – The Fastidious Horses.