Exclusive Interview: Kurt Angle


Rising stars Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton command the screen as two estranged brothers facing the fight of a lifetime in Lionsgate’s “Warrior”, a moving, inspirational action drama from acclaimed director Gavin O’Connor (Miracle).

Haunted by a tragic past, Marine Tommy Conlon (Hardy) returns home for the first time in fourteen years to enlist the help of his father (Nick Nolte) to train for Sparta, the biggest winner-takes-all event in mixed martial arts history. A former wrestling prodigy, Tommy blazes a path toward the championship while his brother, Brendan (Edgerton), an ex-fighter-turned teacher, returns to the ring in a desperate bid to save his family from financial ruin. But when Brendan’s unlikely, underdog rise sets him on a collision course with the unstoppable Tommy, the two brothers must finally confront each other and the forces that pulled them apart, facing off in the most soaring, soul stirring, and unforgettable climax that must be seen to be believed.

A rousing ode to redemption, reconciliation and the power of the human spirit, “Warrior” is also a moving testament to the enduring bonds of family.

“Warrior” is in theaters this weekend and Kurt Angle called in to tell us more about his character in the movie.

Tell me about your role in “Warrior” and elaborate on your character a little bit.

I play an undefeated Russian MMA fighter that ironically is an Olympic Gold Medalist in wrestling. I won the Olympics for the United States but it’s so ironic because they interviewed about 45 different fighters and couldn’t find the right guy with the right look. I just happened to be there at the last second and when I tried out they knew they had the right person, which is pretty cool.

So you didn’t prepare ahead of time for this role?

I didn’t audition right away. I knew “Warrior” was being shot. My friend owned the Pittsburgh fight club where they were hosting the movie to train the fighters and the actors. They kept having casting calls for this character named Koba. They interviewed 25 Russian fighters and 20 more fighters or actors. They couldn’t find the right guy so after a couple of weeks of my friend hassling me I went down and sparred a little bit, threw some punches, did a few takedowns. They asked me how much I weighed. I said 230. The said they needed a guy that was a middle weight and wanted me to lose 30 pounds. I told ’em it wouldn’t be easy but yeah, I could do it. They asked me to stop tanning. They wanted to know if I had any tattoos. Obviously he didn’t want me to have tattoos so I said no. I was lying because I have one on my back! They were able to cover it up during the film.

How much of your character did they have developed before you got the part?

They told me they were going to make a really cool character for me in the film named Koba. They asked me to do two things: learn Russian. I did. I took me three months. Then they took my speaking roles out because of the second thing they asked me to do: base my character on Russian fighter Fedor Emelianenko. I had to study Fedor – the way he fought, the way he acted. It wasn’t that hard to do, considering he shows no emotion. The hard part was learning the Russian, which I worked so very hard at and they pulled it at the last second because they didn’t want me to say a word! (laughs) They thought it looked better for Koba to go unspoken. I was a little disappointed but it’s such a huge movie. It’s going to be remembered forever. I was very honored just to have a role in it.

I heard the director is a very particular man to work for.

I’ve never worked so hard day after day to get exactly what Director Gavin O’Connor wanted. He is very precise and he wants it done the way he wants to do it. If it’s not done right you’ll do it over and over again until you do it right!

You sound like a man who knows from experience!

(laughs) I’m tellin’ ya! A few hard days in that octagon felt like we were really fighting. There are five fights in the movie. Three were fights that the fighters were studying and two were in the tournament. I had to learn five different fights and it was very grueling.

Dude, losing 30 pounds would be grueling for me! What did you have to do physically to prepare for the role and how did it affect your Impact Wrestling career?

The hard part was wrestling full time for Impact Wrestling and losing 30 pounds and going out there and taking bumps for that company. I was very vulnerable to injury. That was the hard part.

Did your role in “Warrior” mean any other physical changes?

This movie is why I started growing in the hair and the beard. They loved the look and I’ve actually kept it since. (laughs) It’s actually made me a lot lazier! I don’t have to shave as much anymore! Even though Fedor doesn’t have a lot of scruff they wanted me to have it.

As a professional wrestler I’m sure you’re used to having a certain degree of choreography in your fights. How hard was it to take these MMA fighters and introduce choreography into a fight?

For me it was relatively easy. They were concerned because I was on the road four days a week and they were only getting me three days a week. They were concerned I wasn’t going to learn the technique. I said, “Guys – that’s the last thing you need to worry about. Give me all five fights today and I’ll learn them in one day.” I just needed them to show me what to do in one day. I did it but I had to earn it a little bit. Thank God I have the amateur wrestling background. I trained MMA for a year and a half. I had all worlds coming in. I was the real deal that knew how to go by instinct. I also did choreography with pro wrestling. Both sides helped me tremendously.

“Warrior” isn’t just an action film or a drama. It seems to have the best of everything.

Without a doubt. You’re absolutely right. It’s true to MMA. It’s not overdone. The acting was incredible. I’m really excited for these guys.

It’s not geared towards one particular type of fan. It’s for fans of good movies. What can audiences take away from “Warrior”?

The movie relates a lot of things in real life that they may have gone through. Some things in this movie could have happened to them. It’s a very true film and very real to how life is. It’s about things being thrown at you and what you have to do to overcome them. This is a movie for everybody. It’s a classic. You’re gonna love this movie regardless of who you are. You’ll want to take your whole family to this movie.