You have a really touching scene with Nick Nolte, who plays your father. Was that harder to play than the physical stuff?
Not being flippant but genuinely, the whole addiction, abuse storyline, to me is not a shock and it's not far from home or friends and family and understanding addiction and dealing with addictions and stuff, it's not something that's difficult to access and facilitate.
And I'm nine or ten years going on sober now anyway, so I'm a long, long, long way away from my last drink but I know people in and out of recovery and I know people who've died, so that territory for me is actually a space which I feel responsible, to be part of work that's involved in that, because I've actually got something that I can use.
Do you feel it's quite important to speak out about it?
I think it's relevant. I think one has to be very careful how much you talk about it, because it's one of those things unfortunately whereby it takes lives. It's not to be taken for granted – it's not a fashion accessory, alcoholism and addiction, it's a really fucking dangerous illness, it kills people. If you have it, it's something that needs help, you need help and the help is there.
So yes, to be aware of it is one thing, to promote it is bad taste, but I think it's important to be part of where you're from and addiction is part of my story, so it would be futile to ignore it and pretend it doesn't exist, because part of living with addiction is being part of it. So it's nice when it comes up in a story you can do some justice with it. I think those scenes were – I really enjoyed doing them and I thought Nick was brilliant in them. And when I watched it, I cried, actually, because I'd been in places like that, but I was very glad that what we were doing made sense.
The scene by the slot machines with Nick – he's very reactive and you get the sense he's simmering and you're chucking coins at him. How was it to do that and what was it like working with Nick Nolte generally?
Nick Nolte is like carved from the rock of actors. He's as prevalent in my life as a Digestive biscuit. He quintessentially exists. [To Joel] In England, Digestive biscuits are like a staple part of a child's diet – you know it's there, you know the brand, like Marmite or something.
Nick Nolte is the American – he's like an American brand of actor, this lived-in, hard cop, you know, tough guy, been through the fucking mill, working class, with a huge heart. Huge grizzly bear with a thorn in his side but a sensitive child-like clown inside and he is as wonderful to work with as he is to watch and he is mercurial and funny and enigmatic and full of life as he is when I watch him on screen and he is as troubled as you can imagine he probably could possibly get at times too. And probably the most exciting thing – apart from working with Joel – the most exciting thing about working on Warrior.
Nick Nolte is carved from the rock of actors. He's as prevalent in my life as a Digestive biscuit...
And for you, Joel?
Who's Nick Nolte? [Laughter]
He worked with Eddie Murphy.
Oh yeah, that one. No, everything he said. I don't know if I could ever put anything as eloquently as Tom can, but there's a lot of privileges that come with being an actor, which is that you get to enter these worlds and we get to live the life as a fighter and Nick Nolte -
Nick Nolte is the question. The question is about Nick Nolte ...
Yeah, yeah, I'm getting there. I'm trying to make a bigger go of my answer than you usually do. And one of the great privileges of being an actor is the people you get to work with. And when you know you're heading down the barrel with a great actor like Nick, you could either get really scared and freak out about it or you just kind of charge into it and you get excited about it.
But everything that Tom was saying about him – he's very special and one of the great things I find about Nick too is that as he gets older he doesn't sort of relax and turn in half-performances. In fact, I think this film proves that he -
Tell them about the six in the morning ...
Yeah, me and Nick did that scene on the lawn. That was my first scene in the movie that was part of the acting component, the “no punching component”, I call it.
Six pages long, as well.
Six page scene, 6pm to 6am, Nick's close-ups were shot as the sun was coming up the next morning.
And he's almost 70 years of age.
And he was as dedicated in every moment and as heartbreaking in every word and every gesture and every breath up until six in the morning. And including when the camera was clean off him onto me, he was not going to give me anything less than the best and I really respect that and it made me respect him more, knowing everything I know about him already, that I got to be a part of that with him.