'The Warrior' Director: I Wanted to Make a Film That Salutes Our U.S. Soldiers

While Hollywood isn’t always known for its glowing depiction of the U.S. military, director Gavin O’Connor knew how he wanted to portray the Marine Corps in the highly-anticipated MMA-inspired film, “The Warrior.”

“I wanted to salute the soldiers coming home. I think in Hollywood today, there have been so many movies about the war and some of them came out years ago when audiences didn’t really want to go to the movies when it is on the news every day,” O’Connor told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “I wasn’t making a political movie, but I did want to acknowledge those guys over there that have risked their lives and many of them have died, and I just wanted to tip my hat.”

“The Warrior” tells the story of Marine Tommy Conlon (Tom Hardy), a former wrestling prodigy, who returns home after 14 years to enlist the help of his estranged father and recovering alcoholic (Nick Nolte) to train for Sparta, the nation’s largest winner-takes-all mixed martial arts competition. O’Connor also insisted on using real Marines as opposed to extras in the large Sparta scenes.

“We had real Marines come in, out of all those guys in uniform, I would say 90 percent of them were real marines,” he continued.

But getting beefed-up and cage-ready was no mean feat for the film’s stars.

“It was a long, long process," said actor Joel Edgerton, who plays Conlon's brother. "We got to Pittsburgh early, a good two months early, and from seven in the morning until late in the afternoon, we were doing a combination of lots of training like martial arts training, and lifting weights and eating a lot of food, guided by an incredible stunt team who guided us through the experience.”

Nick Nolte is already generating Oscar buzz with his heartfelt portrayal of a WW II veteran overcoming years of alcohol abuse. He says he drew on his own family tales to piece together the complexities of his character.

“My father was a Major in World War II, but he couldn’t talk about it, because those guys won the war so they couldn’t speak about it. They couldn’t tell you it was hell. It was the worst thing, and we didn’t know about post traumatic stress syndrome,” Nolte said. “So in the 50’s everyone wanted quiet, calm, wearing the same thing. Nothing happened in the culture, nothing moved, nothing progressed. But these guys had been through hell.”