'Off the Cuff' Podcast: Cory Hardrict on Going From Kmart to Clint Eastwood

Cory Hardrict - P 2015
Bobby Quillard

Cory Hardrict - P 2015

The 'American Sniper' actor tells #THRpodcasts how he went from sleeping on a floor in Inglewood to starring in one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

Cory Hardrict sat down with Off the Cuff a few days before the Oscars, where his film American Sniper was nominated for Best Picture and Best Actor. We asked Hardrict what he thought about all the "controversy" surrounding the film, despite (or in light of) the fact that it was quickly becoming one of the biggest box-office hits in history.

"I think controversy starts coming into play once the films starts doing really well," he tells us. "Then people start saying, 'That's some bull!' "

What isn't bull is Hardrict's portrayal of one of the Navy SEALS who toured Iraq with legendary sniper Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper (about whom Hardrict says, "He's a great person, so he's deserving of everything that's coming his way," including the aforementioned best actor nod.) To prepare for the film, which is the second Hardrict has made with director Clint Eastwood, he had to undergo weeks of intense training with reals guns — or real enough to him, anyway, as he notes: "The blanks will shoot your hand off, I'll tell you that!"

"I love picking up a gun in a movie," he admits, comparing the rush he gets out of pretending violence to "old school just bustin' the man in the head with a bottle."

He describes losing his mother back in Chicago when he was still in high school and how her belief in his acting future inspired him to move to L.A. after he convinced his cousin to buy him a ticket.

"He got me a one-way ticket. I told my stepdad I was going to visit some friends and 'I'll be back!' " He never did go back, choosing instead to sleep on the floor of his friend's place in Inglewood with "a blanket and a lamp" and "two shirts hanging in the closet." He landed a graveyard shift at the local Kmart and was still working there when he booked a role in the 2001 Kirsten Dunst film Crazy/Beautiful. He laughs as he remembers the preview for the movie coming on TV during his lunch break.

"I told the manager right there, 'Hey man, that was me!' And he was like, 'That ain't you, man! Get your ass back to work!' "

We also hear about the time Hardrict sheepishly accepted a ride home from his already famous future wife, actress Tia Mowry ("I was waiting at the bus stop"), why he doesn't understand the paparazzi's interest in his family ("I feel like there's too many celebrities instead of too many successful people"), how he seeks out roles that aren't "race-specific" and why we can count him among the voters who are "Ready for Hillary."

"I would love that," he says. "I love women in great roles."

Listen to Hardrict's full interview in this episode of Off the Cuff, and be sure to subscribe to #THRpodcasts on iTunes for all the latest episodes.