Kurt Angle On 'Warrior,' Tom Hardy, Joel Edgerton
He already holds an Olympic Gold Medal and several World Heavyweight Championship titles. Now, TNA superstar Kurt Angle is facing off with Hollywood. Appearing opposite Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, Angle stars in the film Warrior as the Russian mixed-martial arts champ, Koba.
Angle, who was born in Pittsburgh, Penn., started wrestling at the age of 6 and continued throughout high school and college. While training for the Olympics in 1996, Angle suffered severe neck and back injuries, but nevertheless, recovered and received the Gold Medal in the heavyweight class. Angle originally turned down an offer from the World Wrestling Federation, but signed a contract with them in 1998. During his time with WWF, he held both the European Championship and Intercontinental Championship and eventually the WWF Championship. After he left WWF he joined TNA where he went on to win the TNA Triple Crown, as well as other TNA Championships, giving him a total of 20 championships throughout his career.
Angle has managed to rack up some acting roles while simultaneously wrestling. For Kurt Angle, playing Koba, a Russian mixed-martial arts trainer was not a foreign persona from his real one. “With my background, I got to throw around the stunt double, Sammy, quite a bit,” he told Uinterview exclusively. “I got to beat him up, and they kept telling me, ‘The harder you punch him and the more you throw him, the more money he’ll get.’ So I got really intense and pretty cranked up.”
- Q: How did you prepare to play the role of a Russian mixed martial arts fighter in Warrior? - Uinterview
- A: I was excited to be a part of this movie, because I knew from the beginning, seeing the script, knowing the actor’s abilities, the way the fights came out, I knew this movie would be a top movie. I knew it’d be the first Rocky. I knew it would be the first incredible, awesome mixed martial arts film. So, being Koba, the Russian killing machine, was a perfect character to play for me in the movie. Thank God. I had to learn Russian. Took Russian dialect lessons for three months, but they pulled the interviews and the dialect — they took it out, because they wanted me not to say a word. They wanted me to be the same person as the fighter Fedor Emelianenko, so the less I said, the better, which means I was saying nothing after they got done editing it.
- Q: How did you get roped in to being in the film? - Uinterview
- A: My friend hosted the movie Warrior at his club, the Pittsburgh Fight Club in Pittsburgh. He kept calling me and he said, “Listen, they’re looking for this character, Koba, and I think you’re perfect for it. They can’t find it, they interviewed, like, 45 guys, 25 of them were Russian. They’re looking for a Russian fighter that was an Olympic gold medalist in his home country in wrestling and Samba world champion.” And I said, “Well, I’m pretty busy with Impact Wrestling. I don’t really have time. I have a pay review this week. I'm gonna get there.” So, the next week, he called me again, he said, “They still haven’t found it.” I didn’t call him back. The next week, he called me again, he’s like, “You gotta come down.” So, I went down and I tried out and I started sparring and shooting takedowns and doing stuff with my feet and the director, Dag Gabriel O’Connor was really impressed and he said, “Hey, how much do you weigh?” And I said, “I weigh 230 pounds.” And he said, “Well, we’re looking for a middleweight. Can you lose 30 pounds?”
- Q: What did you say? - Uinterview
- A: I said, “Yes, I can.” He said, “Can you stop tanning for a couple of months?” I said, “Yeah.” He said, “Do you have any tattoos on you?” And I figured since he couldn’t see any on me, he probably meant no, and I do have a tattoo on my back, but I lied and I said no. And Thank God they were able to cover it in the movie, but basically, they wanted somebody that had that Russian rugged look. That had the eye and the character of Fedora Aleminenco, and they thought I was the best person that they interviewed out of, like, 48 guys. I seem to be the guy.
- Q: Is this your first film? - Uinterview
- A: No, I’ve done other movies in the past. I did Dealing Dog which debuted in May, but this was my really big, big, big film. Dealing Dog was a big film, too, but it just didn’t do quite as well as I expected it to. I just knew Warrior would be one of those classics that everybody would remember forever, so thank God I got a part in it and I was real excited about it from the beginning. When I saw the finished product, I was even more impressed. I thought, “Wow, this is the best movie I’ve seen in 15 years.” And that’s hard for me to say, because I watch a lot of movies.
- Q: What stories can you share about your experience shooting the film? - Uinterview
- A: With my background, I got to throw around the stunt double, Sammy, quite a bit. I got to beat him up, and they kept telling me, “The harder you punch him and the more you throw him, the more money he’ll get.” So I got really intense and pretty cranked up. But when Joel Edgerton got in the ring with me, he walked right up to me and said, “Mr. Angle, could you please take care of me?” He was terrified, and I don’t blame him. He was watching me beat up Sammy pretty badly — so bad he got a knee injury that he had to take two or three weeks off, so he was very concerned.
- Q: What more can you tell us about working with Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy? - Uinterview
- A: I spent a long time with Joel, but we had great chemistry. I mean, he was just as good as the stunt double, and I was really impressed by his fight technique. The same with Tom. I couldn’t believe they picked up on it that quickly. You couldn’t have picked two better people that weren’t real fighters that went out there and learned the sport. They learned the choreography and the style. Tom was a knockout-punch guy, and Joe was a defensive guy. He was always an underdog and he would catch people. So, you really bought into the characters and, you know, we can’t really talk about the outcome, but everything was real, very true to mixed martial arts. Nothing was over the top. The only thing that I can say that might’ve been a little tad bit over the top was when Tom broke his arm.
- Q: Mixed martial arts can be controversial because of the intense physicality and violence in it. What do you make of the controversy? - Uinterview
- A: If football is still here today, and it is America’s sport, there’s no reason why mixed martial arts can’t be. Boxing was once an American pastime — and God willing, it’ll start to peak again when they get some really great, awesome fighters back in the game. If boxing has been around for over 100 years, there’s no reason why mixed martial arts can’t keep growing. I don’t know why it’s been blocked in New York. I believe it’s very safe. I dabbled in it. I’ve almost signed with UFC, Strike Force, Pro Lead XE, IFL — I’ve done all of them. Now, the only concern is about the long-term effects.
- Q: Do the long-term effects concern you? - Uinterview
- A: I don’t know. That remains to be seen, because we don’t know. UFC, in general, is only 15 years old. But in the NFL, I heard about this head injury thing and they’re suing the football players.
- Q: You’re talking about the controversy over repeated concussions? - Uinterview
- A: Yeah, so if that ends up not going to court, which I hope to God it doesn’t, because when you get into a sport, you take the risk. When I get older, if I, God forbid, have any kind of damage to my body, I’m not gonna take it out on pro-wrestling. I knew the risks, I knew the factors going into it. I believe every athlete knows that. I believe that they do sign a contract; I believe it’s the same for fighters. So, the long term, you know, God forbid, I think it’s been relatively safe and, you know, a lot of fighters don’t seem to be punch drunk. So, I think it’s one of the safest sports out there, to be honest with you — besides maybe baseball.
- Q: There’s a rumor you might be considering doing the Olympics next year. Is that true? - Uinterview
- A: Yes, sir. What sparked me to do it was the fact that I trained for Warrior, and also training to go possibly go to UFC at the time. It showed me that I still have a lot of ability.
- Q: The same ability you had in 1996, when you won the Gold medal? - Uinterview
- A: My takedown skills are almost as sharp as they were in ’96. I still have a lot of fuel left in my tank. The reason why I picked the Olympics instead of UFC or MMA in general is because it was under my terms. I knew when I had to be ready. I knew what I had to do to get ready. I didn’t have to go under anybody else’s terms but my own. I know what I need to do to get ready. I know… I actually had a coach tell me, “You realize, you know, what you have to do to make the Olympic team… you know, the sacrifices you have to make.” I’m thinking, “Did this guy just ask me, who already has done it, what it takes?” I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe he just asked me that.” And I said, “Listen, I’ve been there before. I’m not dumb.” And what I was basically saying was, “I know what it takes. I’m not an idiot.”
- Q: Will you have time to train? - Uinterview
- A: Yes, since I signed a deal with TNA Impact Wrestling. So, I knew if I want a reduced schedule with TNA, I would have more than enough time to train. I’d have at least 25 days a month off where I’d be able to train. The president of TNA is on board with me doing the Olympics. She has given me ample time to train. So, I have a really good shot of making the team. There are a lot of great wrestlers out there in my weight class, but I didn’t realize that I was going to be as sharp as I am right now.
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