'Warrior' wants you to cheer on its martial arts fights

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"Warrior" director Gavin O'Connor realizes people may want to be home in time for the Penguins-Red Wings game. But he invites Pittsburghers to spend the balance of the day with him tomorrow at the Petersen Events Center in Oakland.

He will be staging six fights for his mixed martial arts movie about a once-fractured family and needs 10,000 people at the Petersen from 10 a.m. to roughly 7 p.m. The stars, Nick Nolte, Tom Hardy and Joel Edgerton, are expected to be there.

Go to www.warriorevent.com, call 866-204-0621 or simply arrive before 10 a.m. Saturday and follow the signs. Extras must be 18 or older, or be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, and will have to sign filming releases to gain entry.

Participants will not be paid but they will be eligible for hundreds of prizes, including a new Ford Ranger truck, iPods, flat-screen televisions, DVDs, Giant Eagle gift cards, TapOut clothing and T-shirts. Also, for every person who shows up, the producers will make a donation to the Pittsburgh Fallen Heroes Fund.

O'Connor's father is a retired police officer in New York City, so that's a cause that hits close to home, he said yesterday. "We have a bunch of cops that I know in New York that are actually coming up for this. They were up here for the services," for the three city officers killed on April 4, and are returning this weekend.

"This is our real big crowd day. We're going to maybe roll six cameras, so we all have our fingers crossed that the response is good and people come out and support us," O'Connor said.

"So far the extras who have come in have been incredibly helpful. It's interesting because the actors keep telling me how real the extras are making it feel because their spirit is so caught up in what we're doing that it feels very truthful, their response to the fighting and the performances.

"If we can get that on a larger scale, that's what we're looking for."

To keep people in their seats, "Warrior" also will have a stand-up comic and other entertainment on hand.

Extras need to steer clear of black-and-gold garb, since the Petersen will be doubling for an Atlantic City venue. "I would encourage people to dress nicer than maybe they normally would. We're saying we're in Atlantic City," for this multi-million-dollar tournament.

"At some of these events, whether it's high-end boxing, a world championship boxing match or a UFC event, people dress a little nicer than maybe they would to go to a Steeler game. Obviously, wearing the colors of the Steelers or Penguins is not going to be helpful since we're supposed to be in Atlantic City."

Imagine, he suggests, "You flew in and you've been hitting the casino and the gaming tables and then you went to the fights." So pretend you're living large for the day.

O'Connor, whose movie is slated for release some time in 2010 by Lionsgate, says his experience so far has been "amazing. I think we're making a beautiful film. I'm really, really happy with it.

"I love the city. The characters are from Pittsburgh, so we've shot the city and I call it working-class poetry, the city. Churches, bridges, rivers, the trains, that's what I see everywhere I look, and all these houses on hills and mountains and the roads.

"I think we've captured the visual poetry of the city in a beautiful way," said O'Connor, whose previous films include the police drama "Pride and Glory" and the rousing hockey story "Miracle." Yesterday was day 30 of a 54-day shoot, so there's still plenty of work ahead.

The Petersen Events Center is at 3719 Terrace St. in the heart of Oakland. It's on the upper campus of the University of Pittsburgh near Trees Hall, the Fitzgerald Field House, and the Cost Center. The main lobby is on Terrace Street between Darragh and DeSoto streets.

Post-Gazette movie editor Barbara Vancheri can be reached at bvancheri@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1632.


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