Exclusive Interview with ‘A Fighting Man’ Star Dominic Purcell

Dominic Purcell interview for A Fighting ManDominic Purcell stars as an aging boxer who has to undertake one final important fight in the dramatic thriller A Fighting Man coming to DVD on June 17, 2014. Written and directed by Damian Lee, A Fighting Man marks the second collaboration between Lee and Purcell who previously teamed up on the action film Breakout.

In support of A Fighting Man‘s release, Purcell took time out of his busy schedule to discuss preparing for the role, why audiences embrace boxing movies, and his co-stars.

Dominic Purcell A Fighting Man Interview

This is your second time working with director Damian Lee. What is it about him that made you want to collaborate again?

Dominic Purcell: “Intelligence. Damian is a very profoundly intelligent guy. He’s incredibly well-read. I think he has a real profundity about him and that’s always a recipe for potential great storytelling. On top that, we really get on well together. We’re collaborating on a number of projects at the moment. You know, it just made sense to keep working with him.”

Did you know immediately during the first film that this was going to be lasting artistic relationship?

Dominic Purcell: “I suspected so and we got along so well. Damian is a Canadian director who is entrenched in the financial funding bodies in Canada. He gets movies made. He’s not a talker; if he says he’s going to get it done, he gets it done. And that’s always very refreshing to find someone who can actually get stuff done and more so if you actually happen to like the individual.”

Is it the type of relationship where you really felt free on the set to give your own input and know it’s going to be accepted and used?

Dominic Purcell: “Oh, absolutely. I mean, there’s great respect between us. The creative collaboration between us is wonderful. We both speak our minds and he allows me to put my input in and, obviously, he puts his input in and we have great disagreements about things. The best part of the process is coming out with good results.”

Do you enjoy working with a director who’s also the writer?

Dominic Purcell: “Yeah. For me, with a writer/director you get a sense of, ‘Okay, this guy knows exactly what he wants.’ It makes my role as an actor a lot easier because I’m operating within guidelines that I trust.”

But do ever find that they’re a little more precious with their words? Or have you not encountered that?

Dominic Purcell: “No, I haven’t really encountered that because these guys know that I’m going to be hands-on and I want input into what I’m doing as well, and they’re always very accommodating with that. And Damian is the same. If he thinks things are not working or I think things are not working, we just get rid of it and we come up with something better on the day.”

Was it more physically, emotionally or mentally challenging to get into this particular character? He’s kind of messed up.

Dominic Purcell: “Yes, he is. It’s a dark movie. I remember the first time coming out of there going, ‘Wow! That’s just so heavy,’ You know scene after scene, beating after beating…that’s just like one sledgehammer after another. Emotionally – it wasn’t really taxing emotionally. Physically, certainly.

I spent months, nine months actually, training for that and then I had to put on close to 30-40 pounds of bulk. That was a nightmare. Then on top of putting on the weight, I had to train. So physically I would say it was much more taxing.”

Is it difficult for you to put on and take off that much weight? Can you gain and lose pretty easily?

Dominic Purcell: “I can lose weight quick and I can put it on pretty quick as well. You know after A Fighting Man because a lot of the bulk I’m carrying is muscle, it took me four months, five months for that muscle to kind of get back to, ‘Okay, I’m starting to look like a normal individual again.’ [Laughing] They called me ‘Neck and Back’ on set because my back blew up, my ass blew up, my thighs blew up. I walk around at a comfortable 185 and for that movie I was 225-230. It was kind of shocking just seeing myself that big and seeing the size of my head. It was like a giant watermelon. When you eat as much food as I was eating, that’s just what happens.”

Boxing’s a popular sport but I have to confess I don’t really enjoy watching men beat each other up. However, I like boxing movies. Why do you think people who don’t like boxing are drawn to boxing movies?

Dominic Purcell: “Well, I think boxing is a metaphor for life. You see the ebbs and flows of a fight, just like we do in life. We’re all fighting to survive and to get ahead in this world, and I think people, on a subconscious level, can relate to what’s going on in the ring with, in a metaphoric sense, with what’s going on in their own lives.

And then there’s the other scientific point of view that we were all at one point cavemen and it’s in our DNA to hunt, kill and gather. Fighting is a very primal instinct and it’s in our DNA to survive.”

You have a boxing background?

Dominic Purcell: “I used to box a lot when I was a kid. I stopped when I was about 13 and then I didn’t take it up until this movie again. So it took a while for me to get back into the swing of things. I spent nine months training and I realized that, ‘Gee, I’ve been out of the game so long I’ve forgotten everything.’ It took me a good six months into training to start feeling comfortable in the ring. You know, getting in the ring with other guys and training with them.

I’ve always been a fight fan. I’ve never stopped watching boxing on TV. I just have never gone back in the ring. But now after this fight I’ve since fallen in love again with it. You may have noticed Freddie Roach was in the film and he and I have since become good friends and I go to his Wild Card [Boxing Club] a couple times a week, and I just really enjoy the environment of a boxing gym. The best way to describe it for me is the Wild Card is like a giant stag meeting. I mean, what’s more masculine than talking shit with your friends and getting your head punched in? [Laughing] I always come back from training feeling very refreshed and rejuvenated and calm, which is a good thing.”

This is kind of a weird question but you’re a good looking guy and you’re an actor who makes a living with his face. Aren’t you worried at all about messing that up?

Dominic Purcell: [Laughing] “I wear protective helmets so there’s no chance of me breaking my face. And the guys that I spar with are real boxers and they’re friends so they take it easy on me while they let me pound the crap out of them.”

You’ve got an impressive assortment of co-stars in this film, and in particular your scenes with James Caan are terrific. Can you talk about working with him?

Dominic Purcell: “Yeah. Jimmy’s such a wonderful guy. I must say I was so honored to…you know, you hear a lot of actors say this when they work with legends, but it truly is an experience working with someone that you’ve seen in so many movies. He was in The Godfather, for God’s sake. But what I noticed working opposite Jimmy is that he’s so real and raw. When he acts, it’s not acting. It’s just so earthy and grounded. During a couple of times when he and I would work where I actually kind of came out of character and I was watching him as a fan. I had to keep checking myself and remember, ‘You’re in this game as well. You’ve got to start putting your acting helmet on as well.'”

Is there someone you’ve worked with in your career who has really upped your game so much so that you take what you learn from that person and incorporate it in your acting?
Dominic Purcell: “Yeah. Certainly Jimmy was a guy that I knew I had to be on point and really smart about what I was doing. You know, I’ve worked with legends including Robert De Niro, John Cusack…so when you work with these guys it just elevates you. The intensity, the nerve, the anxiety that builds when you’re about to go on set and work with these individuals just gets your senses so attuned. So that certainly does elevate your abilities, I think.”

Can you say anything about the projects you’re doing in the future with Damian?

Dominic Purcell: “We’re working on a thing called Abraham right now. A father/son profoundly deeper version of Rambo, if you will. My son has suffered Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and he’s involved in a friendly fire incident. His platoon gets wiped out and he’s already on the brink and he just snaps and starts taking out the bureaucracy behind the cover-up in the incident. He goes AWOL, disappears into the forest and starts popping these guys out. I happen to have been an ex-Commando SEAL who trained my son and they ask me to go in and get him. So there’s that moralistic question of, ‘Well, if I go in and get him something may happen,’ and it does set up that whole thing about Abraham and God where God told Abraham to kill his son. So that’s one thing we’re doing together.

I have another thing at the end of the year called I Am America. Not with Damian, with someone else. It’s another deeply repressive, religious-themed film. Well, I wouldn’t say it’s a religious-themed film but it certainly has those elements where I’m playing a radical, right-wing, religious evangelical guy who believes, literally, in the Bible and puts all his beliefs onto his children and his children start rebelling against it and it becomes quite violent. So, yeah, I’ve got two heavy films at the end of the year. I’m about to go off and do a nice genre action piece with Danny Glover and Jason Patric. So things are okay. Things are going well.

I also have a movie coming out called Turkey Shoot, an Australian remake of a film that happened to be Quentin Tarantino’s favorite film. And Quentin, in a very small way, contributed with the financing for this Aussie independent film. I’m excited about that as well.”

Watch an exclusive clip from A Fighting Man:

-By Rebecca Murray

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