Belfast Telegraph

Edgar Ramirez trained by Roberto Duran himself for Hands of Stone

The Venezuelan star was thankful to spend so much time with his movie subject.

Actor Edgar Ramirez relocated to Panama to train with Roberto Duran as he prepared to portray the boxing icon in new movie Hands of Stone.

The Zero Dark Thirty star features opposite singer/actor Usher, who plays Sugar Ray Leonard in the biopic, which explores the pair's longtime rivalry in the ring.

Edgar had to undergo intense training sessions to shape up for the role, and he was lucky enough to be mentored by Duran himself - an experience the Venezuelan actor will always treasure.

"He trained me for the movie with his sons," Edgar told U.S. breakfast show Today. "I moved to Panama for (the training). He's a force of nature and he was really very open and very generous and he shared a lot of his skills and a lot of his techniques with me."

Despite Duran's willingness to share, the 39-year-old star noticed the Panamanian sports veteran, who was nicknamed Hands of Stone due to his powerful punches, was still holding a few ring secrets close to his heart.

"There was always something of himself that he kept for himself, as any other good fighter would," Edgar explained. "I think fighters are like magicians, you know, they always keep their traits and their secrets somewhere, protected up their sleeves, and that was something that to me, was very revealing and really helped me to play the character."

Edgar insists the move to Panama was key in helping him capture Duran's struggles both in and out of the ring onscreen.

"For me, the key to understanding this guy was a physical transformation," he told the Boston Herald. "There was no way to even attempt to build a character without becoming a boxer myself.

"You cannot 'act' it; you have to become it. So I moved to Panama, because there was no way for me to access Roberto's state of mind, his soul, without understanding the degradation, the sacrifices and the struggle, the pressure a boxer has to go through.

"I actually trained in a very 'underground' gym that is located in the less privileged areas of Panama in order to get as close to the reality that Duran grew up in. The whole process was probably a year."

And working so closely with Duran was an eye-opening experience for Edgar: "Roberto embodies the spirit of Panama. His saga as a boxer has a lot to do with a sense of emancipation (from American rule) for his people. And you cannot understand that in L.A. or New York or even Caracas."

Hands of Stone, which also co-stars Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin, and John Turturro, hits cinemas in the U.S. on Friday (26Aug16).

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