Was it a world you were familiar with or did you learn a lot about it when you took the film on?
No, I didn't know much at all. I mean I knew it was there.
You start learning pretty quickly when people start throwing punches at you though, don't you? 'What's this Muay Thai thing? I need to learn some more!'
Yeah, through the eyes of the film. I mean through the eyes of any film you get to enter a world and thereby learn about it and all its furniture and that was our introduction to MMA, was the crash course in becoming a fighter. Shy of actually getting knocked out.
I got knocked out by Shia LaBeouf, actually, yeah. In Wettest County, apparently, behind the scenes. No, he did, he knocked me out sparko. Out cold. He's a bad, bad boy. He's quite intimidating, as well. He's a scary dude. [laughter] He just attacked me. He was drinking moonshine. I was wearing a cardigan, and it went down. I woke up in P-nut's arms. [Tom Hardy's personal trainer].
So anyway, the long and the short of it is that no - MMA, we'd played it on the X-Box, when we were doing Black Hawk Down it was on the TV and we used to laugh about it because it was so fucking brutal, but never really trained, I've never been inside a dojo. You had a black belt in Shotokan, didn't you?
Yeah, I had a Shotokan background as a kid.
It didn't help you though, did it? Do you know what I mean? When you get in the ring with those UFC [Ultimate Fighting Champion] boys, it's a completely different thing.
What was the training process like and how long did that go on for?
Eight weeks from 7am to about 3 or 4 in the afternoon, every day. We would literally get to the gym at 7 in the morning and then just start with kicking and punching drills, stand-up fighting first, I would go off and do a bit of wrestling, ground and pound and all sorts of stuff until we'd all head off for a big steak together at the Western Steak House or something.
Or a bit of pulled pork.
The pulled pork jokes never get old. The t-shirt on the woman who first served us – we were cracking jokes and then she came over with the t-shirt: “Pulled pork jokes never get old”. [Laughter] It's true! Us bright guys, we could come up with a few.
We couldn't keep eating pulled pork, sadly, because there came a point where the pulled pork had to stop and we were only allowed chicken and broccoli.
Like clean chicken and broccoli. But then in the afternoons we would lift weights, so it was a full day of complete dedication to our bodies and our skill-set and that got us prepared for the beginning of filming. And the filming was a whole new challenge because then you've got to figure in a twelve hour shooting day. I mean a movie like this was good because it's like two cars racing against each other. Tommy would shoot and I'd go and train while he was shooting and then I'd be shooting and then Tommy could go and train.
And then we had to switch when you tore your ligament ...
Yeah, we had that stadium hired for six weeks straight of fighting and one week into that, a quarter of the way into the fighting I had to do, I smashed my knee and then it was all up to Tommy. It's like, ‘Over to you – I'm just going to do scenes from the waist up for a while.’ So we had to rehire the stadium about six weeks later and complete.
He was drinking moonshine. I was wearing a cardigan, and it went down...
Were you united in the fact that a Brit and an Aussie presumably have a lot more in common than perhaps the American guys that live in that world? Was there a common sense of humour that got you through some of the tougher experiences?
I was just thinking about the Brits that went over to America and the Brits that went down to Australia and I was thinking about the history of that, looking at American friends and thinking, Hmmm, aren't we all related somehow anyway?
Yeah, at some point one of your great-great uncles stole a sheep, got caught and became my family. [Laughs] You know, look – no, I don't really think about it in those terms at all. All I know is that Gavin saw something in Tommy for the character of Tommy and something in me for the character of Brendan that was right for this movie, regardless of where we were physically.
And actually I was halfway through filming when I found out that Gavin had his own battle in casting Tommy and I, because when this movie was made, neither of us really had the right to be there when you think about Hollywood being the stock market that it is, completely driven and fuelled by decisions based on money.
They wanted Jake Gyllenhaal and Hayden Christensen.
No! No-one wants them! But you know what I'm saying? I mean, really, they want them in the ring, to watch them really go down, but not on the film. Good God, no, you wouldn't do that.