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Interview With 'Warrior' Director Gavin O'Connor: I Wanted To Salute Our Veterans


Two brothers are forced to confront their past inside and outside of a mixed martial arts (MMA) arena in the new film, “Warrior.” Starring Joel Edgerton, Tom Hardy and Nick Nolte, “Warrior” focuses on a family coming together after being separated for over a decade. I recently had the opportunity to conduct a phone interview with director Gavin O’ Connor, who wrote the script alongside Anthony Tambakis and Cliff Dorfman.

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O’Connor, who previously directed the inspirational film “Miracle,” talked to me about the film which tells the story of two brothers named Brendan (Edgerton) and Tommy (Hardy) who were separated early in life. Brendan lived with his alcoholic father (Nolte) while Tommy moved away with their mother. The two brothers, who don’t see each other for fourteen years, are eventually forced to fight each other when they both compete in a mixed martial arts competition.

I asked O’Connor about the genesis of the story. The idea, he noted, was an amalgam of things happening in his life combined with his interest in telling the story “of two brothers that are estranged that have to reunite and sort of heal and repair the damage of the past.” As a fan of mixed martial arts, O’Connor wanted to use that in the film and he “liked this idea of what I call an intervention in a cage.” That cage, of course, is the arena in which the two brothers find themselves battling each other for the MMA championship.

I also asked O’Connor about his own family and he noted that, like in the story, he and his brother were separated at an early age. Gavin went with his father and his brother went with his mother. Although the length of time spent apart is different than the length of time that the brothers spend apart in the film and the sets of brothers are different, Gavin said that the “emotionality behind it (the split) was similar” to what is experienced in the film.

O’Connor and I also talked about the topical subjects explored in the film. Brendan, for instance, only becomes interested in fighting because he is at risk of losing the home that he shares with his wife and their young children. O’Connor said that in a way, he looks at that aspect of the story as “wish fulfillment because there are so many people in this country that are fighting to save their homes and save their families”. He added that he finds it interesting that Brendan “literally fights his way out of debt… because there are so many people in this country that wish they can do that.”

While Brendan is dealing with the possibility of losing his house, his brother Tommy is dealing with the scars left over from his time as a Marine during the war in Iraq. Although Tommy saved several lives in the war, his military history isn’t as clear-cut as it seems. O’Connor informed me that real Marines were used in the film and he relied on a Marine technical adviser for accuracy. O’Connor added that he wanted to “touch on the war” but not make a political statement about it. “I didn’t want to make a movie about the war,” he said, “but I wanted to somehow speak to the veteran, to our soldiers and sort of acknowledge them and salute them…”

When I asked him about what he wanted audiences to take away from the film, he told me that the “overriding theme of the film is forgiveness; so if people walk out of the theater maybe talking about forgiveness, maybe acting upon it in their own homes, in their own lives, in their own relationships, that would be a good thing.”

For fans of MMA fighting and for those looking to see a good story about a family coming together, I highly recommend “Warrior.”

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