I recently got the chance to talk to MMA fighter and promoter Dan ‘Punkass’ Caldwell about his involvement in ‘Warrior’. Here, Dan talks about his own personal life in MMA and who out of Tom Hardy and Joe Edgerton he would fight in a charity match…
Hey Dan. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your involvement in new film ‘Warrior‘.
What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?
It’s basically about a broken family and these two brothers who are struggling with the problems of trying to put their family back together, and coming to grips with their mother’s death. And of course they both have a fighting background and their paths lead them to this big fight show called Sparta! I don’t want to give too much away!
Tell us a bit about your involvement in the movie…how you got involved in the project, your role within the film…
Charles (Lewis Jr.) and I were introduced to Gavin O’Connor by a mutual friend at CAA where we were both being represented. Gavin told us about the film in a very passionate way and Charles became obsessed with helping Gavin with this film. I mean obsessed in a good way! Gavin and Charles began talking all the time about the project and how to make the script as authentic as it could be to the MMA core audience. Charles and I would talk for hours about his conversations with Gavin and how great this film was going to be! We were all really excited about the possibilities of having an authentic ‘Rocky’ type film for the MMA audience but even more important for the non MMA fan. Something that would introduce them to our sport of Mixed Martial Arts. Gavin and Anthony wrote Charles, Skrape and I into the film as the promoters throwing the fight! He was really excited about playing that role! But all our worlds changed on March 11, 2009 when Charles was killed by a drunk driver. We were all devastated! The decision was made by Gavin to play Charles’ part in the movie and Skrape and I would play his partners as well as be kinda technical advisors on the film. A few months later we started filming.
How would you say this film is different and unique? I imagine as you’re part of the MMA scene you must have some strong views about it…
Well the movie definitely sets the bar for any MMA movie that will ever be made! It was very authentic to the MMA scene how these up and coming fighters fight in the small shows hoping to one day fight in a big promotion! The fights looked so real, the acting was great, it’s just the whole package! It was just so well done to the point I’m not sure how it could be made any better! Maybe different but not better!
The film stars Joe Edgerton, Tom Hardy, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Morrison and Frank Grillo, with Gavin O’Connor onboard as director – what was it like working with the cast and crew on-set?
All of the actors were great! It was like a family on the set. I still talk to most of them on a regular basis and consider them all friends! Gavin was so awesome to work for! We talked all the time about the movie and his vision for the movie, and of course Charles! We still talk all the time!
I feel this is a bit of a dangerous question to ask – but if you had the chance to fight either Tom Hardy or Joe Edgerton in a MMA charity gig – who would you choose and why?
That is a hard one! I’d probably fight Tom! I’m a little more technical like Joe was and it worked well for him against Tom in the movie so I hope it would work well for me! But Tom is a monster! I’d probably go home with something broken either way!
Let’s talk a bit about you Dan. You’ve trained as a MMA fighter and you currently promote mixed martial arts through your company, TapouT – how did you get into the whole MMA scene in the first place?
I watched the first UFC in 1993, here in the U.S., and I was blown away! Charles and I found out that Royce Gracie, the guy who had won, had a school two hours away and a week later we were training with him! I had already been boxing and Charles was kickboxing so when you add in the Jiu Jitsu from Royce Gracie it turned us into well-rounded fighters!
Of course we mentioned TapouT a few seconds ago, how did the company form?
After we had been training for a few years, probably around 1996 or 97′, Charles came to me and asked what I thought about us starting a clothing company based around this up and coming sport – (that at the time was called NHB – (No Holds Barred)!) I thought it was a great idea, and the rest is history!
What advice would you give to anyone trying to get into MMA?
Find a great school and make sure you love it! Because if you don’t then it’s probably not for you!
Which MMA fighters are your favourites and why?
I guess I’d half to say Anderson Silva, BJ Penn, guys that are well-rounded fighters that are always looking to finish off their opponents!
Where did the name ‘Punkass’ come from?
I got it in high school. I was that disruptive kid in the back of the class that couldn’t sit still! I don’t remember if a teacher gave me the name or a friend but it stuck!
What is currently on your I-Pod right now?
Honestly I wish I could say it was a lot of cool music but it’s almost all audio books! I love to listen to books! All non fiction, biographies, self-help, or anything to help step up my game! I had a lot of catching up to do after screwing up high school! I still have some Eminem, Jay Z, and Smashing Pumpkins on there though!
If you could invite three guests to dinner, (living or dead), who would you choose and why?
Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs, and Andrew Carnegie. Three guys I know I could learn a lot from!
What’s coming up for you and TapouT in 2012?
I’ve been real blessed to be able to keep doing the things I love. So this year I’ve been expanding TapouT around the world and it’s been great! I’ve been doing more film, including a movie called ‘Hamill’ – (also known as ‘The Hammer’), that I was executive producer on. It’s about the true story of Matt Hamill’s life, he’s a professional UFC Fighter, and is also deaf! It’s a great little movie, it’s won 8 out of 8 film festivals it’s entered and it comes out in limited cinemas on Oct 27, 2011! Also got a documentary coming out called ‘Once I Was A Champion’ about Evan Tanner, an ex-UFC Middle Weight champion that died in the Southern California Desert under mysterious circumstances. Just check my Twitter for all the good stuff! @TapouTPunkass
Thanks for the interview!