With an all-star cast and an inspiring story, The Fighter is shaping up to be both an awards season contender and a sizable commercial hit.
Christian Bale is already being labeled as the front-runner for a Best Supporting Actor trophy by many Oscar prognosticators, and the film itself is being mentioned in the same breath as The King's Speech and The Social Network.
Healthy grosses at the box office are sure to come once mainstream audiences have a look at the Paramount release. Boxoffice.com is currently predicting a $12 million debut when the film goes wide on December 17. Make sure to keep track of all the buzz via our Facebook tracking, Twitter tracking and WebWatch reports.
BOXOFFICE recently attended a press conference in Los Angeles to get a better sense of how The Fighter came to be.
Dicky Eklund seems like someone who would take a very active interest in the filming of this movie. David, was it at any point necessary to do Eklund Management, so to speak?
Christian Bale: Can I answer that a little bit? There were a couple of times I had to physically restrain Dicky from going and landing one right on David. We had some initial interesting times when we were rehearsing in Mark's house, where Mark very nicely put up Micky and Dicky, and actually they lived at his house for some time. And there were some script changes going on, and Dicky wasn't initially totally understanding that sometimes in putting a whole life into two hours, a little bit of license has to be taken and mixing things up. He wanted everything initially to be absolutely how it was portrayed. And if it wasn't, there was a couple of times he would say, "I'm gonna go and I'm gonna get him," so there was a couple of times I'd be going, "No, no, no." And then we'd talk and David would talk with him. I'm not sure if you ever had to stop him from coming and laying one on me, you know? That could well have happened as well. But it was interesting—it was an interesting time. But he actually came around, and you know, and seemed to really understand it. And you know, after we showed him the movie, he didn't punch any of us. And I talk to him almost daily. You know, so I think that's a great achievement, to make the story of someone's life and do that with. Anyway, sorry, David, that was more your question.
David O. Russell: What he said.
Christian, what is your take on Dicky? Do you think he is ultimately a good influence for his brother?
Bale: I think that he was an absolute source of inspiration initially. And then I think he probably became an absolute confusion for his younger brother, because they're—it's an immensely loyal family and they're immensely loyal brothers. But you know, as you see in the movie, it took Charlene to convince Micky that it wasn't him abandoning his family to be able to remove himself for a little while, in order to change the dynamics. And then once that had been recognized and once Dicky, who also I think had had immense pressure from the family in the expectations they had of him at such a young age, and that through his success, the whole family would have success. And really, I think very much that's a part as well of what was drawing him to self-destruction. Once Dicky was able to initiate and say, it's no longer his time, it's Micky's time now, and then convince the rest of the family of that, which took some doing, then after that, Dicky was no end of help for Micky. I don't think that it could have happened without the one or the other. You know, this movie wouldn't exist without that beautiful relationship between the two brothers.
How difficult was it to master the Boston accent? Particularly for Mark, I imagine you've had that accent drummed out of you over the years, so what's it like trying to get it back?
Wahlberg: It's a lot harder to get rid of it than it was to get it back. Every time I would leave Boston, people would, you know, it would appear that it'd be like nails on a chalkboard for people hearing that accent. And I've been in other movies that took place in and around that area, and the accents were god-awful. And it's almost to the point where it made it seemed like we were doing bad accents, the people who were actually from that area. But no—everybody did a fantastic job and didn't push it too far, even though you - you think these characters are so extreme and so broad. But they're actually a toned down version of these larger than life characters, so—
Bale: Mark was a great deal of help, in just—he would never say anything but he'd just get a certain look on his face when you said something, that you just knew that wasn't it. You know. But also, I approached Dicky's accent as—I mean, Dicky's got his own thing goin' on, you know. He's got—he calls it Dickinese, himself. And I think everyone will agree that I really had to tone down his natural rhythm and voice because I understand him completely now because my ears are in with it. But if I'd done it exactly like Dicky, we would have needed subtitles, probably. You know.
What sort of confidence did it take to stick it out and see this film finished after such a long and labyrinthine development process?
Wahlberg: Well, I mean, you know, the movie was a go and then it fell apart and we just—I just continued to train. So after four and a half, well, three and a half years, I felt confident enough to go in there and be believable as a boxer who could possibly win the welterweight title. And you know, had somebody said, "Hey, you've got to train four and a half years to make this movie," I would have said, "Absolutely not." But the fact that I was just continuing to do it and never wanted to stop because I figured if I stopped and I—I would be giving up on the movie, and I never wanted to do that. So for me it was well worth putting in the work. It just—you know, there were times obviously when it was harder and more difficult to get out of bed, and especially while making another film and training for a film that may or may not happen. But you know, it was certainly worth it in the end.
Amy, you got to participate in a fight yourself. How fun or tough was that?
Amy Adams: Well, when I got the role, David informed me that I looked like a girl who couldn't punch, which made me want to punch him. So I actually took just a couple boxing lessons, and that was fun, with Mark's trainer, who was fantastic. And then we just did some fight choreography. I think it was about not being afraid of hurting anybody. That was my biggest concern. I didn't want to hurt the girl that I was fighting with. I wasn't afraid of getting hurt myself. I just—when I was younger, my sister thought it was funny to pretend to fight—to punch me in the face to tell my—because my mom was concerned about my teeth falling out because they were loose for a long time. And she knocked out my teeth. So I've always been a little afraid of fake punches, so—but it was fun. I had a good time.
Amy doesn't necessarily look like the kind of girl who looks like she can punch. David, can you talk about why you chose to cast her?
Russell: I had been speaking to Amy. We would have lunch every couple of years and talked about wanting to work together. And I knew that she was eager to break type for herself, you know, and it—in the sense that she had played mostly very sunny women. And she was very eager to play someone against type, and I knew she was gonna kill it. You know, and just from talking to her, I knew that she was really ready to step up. And there's nothing better a director can have than somebody who's very eager, like all these people were.
Melissa and Amy, could you comment on your preparation to do the film?
Melissa Leo: I have to say that I love acting, I really do. I think that's maybe the one thing that is known about me. And although it sounded like an extremely exciting and interesting project, and the notion that it was about real people who are still living, and they'd be involved in it—I still had a lot of doubts going and meeting with David. But it sounded interesting enough. I took the meeting, met him at the Maritime Hotel, and sat down and we kind of dived right into starting to work about it. It wasn't really an interview, but there we were, working on Alice together over breakfast. And that then went on with another couple of meetings by my recollect, and that was the first stepping off place, was David's belief that I could be his Alice. I thought, "Well, golly, I'm only a couple years older than these chaps, and I'm not such a pushy gal, by my reckoning. I guess - you really think so, David?" And his, this—I—I don't know how to describe it, except having a palpable belief that I could be his Alice. He then gave me the opportunity to meet Alice Ward. And I traveled—I'll never forget, because it's the only time I really met Christian before we worked - we flew to Lowell, from L.A. together, and I watched him meet Dick and begin to take that on. It was an extraordinary thing to watch. And I got to meet Alice Ward. And upon meeting her, saw immediately my mother's mother, my maternal grandmother in Alice, and knew then that, "Oh, I have her in here somewhere." So then with Mark Bridges' help, and Johnny, who did the hair with David saying, "Shorter, shorter, shorter," with every haircut - and Trish Heine, who did my makeup, finally found Alice and walked in her shoes. It was a thrill to walk out of the trailer and have half [of the locals] world go, "Oh, Alice! Oh, you look my mother!" So that was great.
Adams: I'll just echo what David said - I mean, what Melissa said. David's belief that I could be Charlene, that was like half of the preparation. But just knowing that he knew I could do it, made me - made me feel like I could do it. And then the other half of it was research and also David telling me to lower my voice. He kept going, "She's down here. She's low. She's low." That's what—
Russell: Well, both these women talked like dirt, you know, you know. And my mother did, too. They come from a very deep power place. And the beautiful thing, I'll just say, that they each brought to the parts that really make them succeed so beautifully is that Melissa consistently fought for the compassion for Alice, as Christian and I initially agreed that Dicky should be someone you love. You know. Mark and I knew that Micky was someone you loved, because the whole movie [is] swirling around him. And it was a question of how you could plug into Mark's emotions, feeling that and understanding why he would put up with it and why he needed it. That's the heart of the story. Why Micky wanted these powers that forced him into the championship. That's the crucible that put him there—Charlene and the family and his brother. He got the discipline from the cop in his corner; and he got the inspiration from an older brother who could give him the mantle. You can't get better inspiration than that—an older brother who didn't want to give it to him, for a long time. But Melissa always said, "We gotta love Alice." You know. And I love it because Alice - Alice made mistakes but Alice loves all of her children. And I thought that was beautiful. Likewise for Amy. You know, Charlene is a tough bitch, you know, and Char— and Amy's very fierce. And Amy has that fierceness in her, but Amy also brings a great deal of emotion in her eyes, so you have that great cocktail that I find so interesting, of the two.
For Mark, I'm wondering if you can talk about your role as producer and what that entailed.
Wahlberg: It was just out of sheer desperation for getting the movie made. I had already promised Micky, Dicky, Alice, Charlene, everybody else involved, that we were gonna get this movie made. And it seemed, you know, at first glance, like it was a no brainer. I mean, amazing parts, what a wonderful story, a really new and interesting world that you're not that familiar with. And it just wasn't meant to be, so it just—you know, we just had to grab ahold of it and force it to happen with sheer will and determination - but very much like Micky's journey to winning the title, you know, he just had to go and make it happen. So -
David and Mark, you guys have obviously worked together a couple of times now. I was curious what professionally you each value most about the other.
Wahlberg: That's my brother, man. I love this guy.
Russell: Oh, thanks, Man.
Wahlberg: We've been through a lot together and you know, we're so comfortable with one another, you know, we're like family. And to be able to work with somebody that you admire so much and that you trust and that you care for, it—I'm speaking for myself, of course. I don't really know how David feels, but no, I just loved it. I mean, you know, when it dawned on me that there is a way to get this movie made, with David as the director, we had already, you know, started a relationship with Christian and got him to commit, I thought, "We have a chance to make something really special, and David will bring something to the table," that I don't think anybody else was really trying to tap into. They thought, "Well, the story between the brothers is really fascinating. And it's more of a boxing movie." And he brought a level of humor and emotion that I don't think anybody else was capable of bringing to it.
Russell: Thanks, Mark.
Bale: I think also a lot of the other people, they would overemphasize, you know, the druggie nature, the addiction, as though that was something fascinating to see. And we felt like we've seen that in so many movies, and you don't meet Dicky and Micky—and it's not what you think about. You know, of course it's part of his past, but you didn't want to obsess on that, you know. And David's got this great sort of tandem earnestness and complete silliness going on at the same time.
Wahlberg: And if you went down that dark path, I mean, it would be a very limited audience that would go and see this movie. And we thought, you know, it's—it has so much more to offer. And we thought, you know, young, old, men, women, would all enjoy the story and everybody would find something very compelling, as well as entertaining and inspiring about it. So - so that was what David brought to the table.
Russell: It's a real blessing. I'm very happy to be here, you know. I just feel really lucky to be here with this much talent and this much amazing raw material, and these characters. I mean, as soon as I saw the raw material that Mark was talking to me about, I just said, "Oh, my god, this is amazing. These characters are amazing in their world —they're dynamic." You know. It was amazing. And it's - there's nothing better than having a collaborator that you have a great shorthand with and a great comfort with, who's shepherding the project along. I mean, that—that's the best thing you have in cinema, where there's many cooks in the kitchen, you know. So it makes life much easier.
And didn't know what to expect when I first saw the family. I thought they might be some very harsh people that I wouldn't want to spend ten minutes with. You know? I thought, "God, this could..." because I remember hearing about Micky Ward. And then when I saw him and I heard him talk, I was like, "Oh, my god. He sounds much rougher than I expected." You know. I expected some sweet talking Oscar De La Jolla type, you know. And the fact is, they—the people are so unbelievably lovable. You know, and as Christian said, I still hang out with them; we—they're, they're—and that's what goes into the movie. That's the only thing that goes in the movie.
Wahlberg: And I did promise David that after making this movie, our next collaboration would be right back to me just saying, "Yes, Sir; no, Sir," and strictly being there to service his vision, because it was—it was definitely a different dynamic you know, me saying, "Hey, wait, no, no—what about this—David, I don't know, this is not..." You know. Because I was so close to them, into that world, and I think that was the only thing that took a little getting used to, and I promised my—my leader here, that I will not do that again, the next time, if we get to work together again—
Russell: He can't it if when I first met him, he was a 26-year-old kid mumbling off of Boogie Nights—he could be—mumbling everything in a hotel meeting. And then the next—you know, and then the time we made this movie, it was like, you know, "Boardwalk Empire" builder—you know (laughs).
Wahlberg: Shit happens, Dude. I'm a hustler. I'm from the fuckin' street, Baby; I gotta make it happen. Nothing comes easy for me.
Russell: And these guys met at Mark's preschool—the preschool of your daughters, is that right? It was as if you'd looked across the parking lot and saw Christian Bale and he was like, ‘Bing' - right?
Wahlberg: Well, what I said was I was like, "There is the guy who's not scared to play this part. Everybody is like - loves the idea of it, but nobody really wants to commit and go there." And I had seen The Machinist; I had seen, Rescue Dawn and I was like, "If he responds to the material, this is again, you know, a chance for us to make the best possible version of the movie." I could see why people were so attracted to the part, but at the same time, it can be intimidating. But you know, he's a fearless actor and he just, you know, he responded to it immediately. And that was, you know, really kind of what got the momentum going, and everything else started to fall into place after that.
Bale: And also, like David's got—he's got a very big heart. It would be very funny. There'd be times when he was often crying with laughter, and also just flat out cryin'. Remember, they'd often be that, at Mark's place. And you'd be listening to stories or telling a story, or listening to Dicky or whatever, listening to Micky. And it was, it was either they had his sides splitting with laughter and he was balling his eyes out with that; and then it would segue into tragedy, and he'd be balling his eyes out. Like you could really see how much he felt it and really enjoyed the company of these guys and was going through a whole rollercoaster of emotions, you know, which is usually what actors are gonna be doing. But David was right in there feeling every little bit of it, as much as any of us.
Russell: There are scenes in the movie I can't talk about without still getting choked up, which is, you know, after you've been with the movie a long time, that's unusual, I think.
For Mark and David, the film has a rousing, real crowd pleasing conclusion, but I was wondering if maybe you were tempted to go a little further and include the legendary Arturo Gatti bouts that followed.
Russell: The story was always one that I thought led him to the doorway of his future. You know, this film delivers him to the ability to dig himself into a real income, you know. And that to me is the—it's a hard choice, but I think that—I think the story is legendary in itself, how he got there. Because you know, without this story, he doesn't get those [PH] Gotti fights. In fact, the guy, the last guy he fights in Erie, was saying, "I'm ready to fight Arturo Gatti." He thought he was gonna move right through Micky. And he—this guy was supposed to be the next champion and shame Erie. And he was like, "Me and Gatti would make a great match-up." Well, guess what? You know. It turned out to be Lunderdock who made the great match-up with Gatti.
Wahlberg: And we're doing those fights in the sequel. We'll do four more fighters. We'll do the first Gatti fight in the sequel; then we'll do the second one in the third installment; and then the fourth and final one will be Micky fighting -
Russell: In Russia. Russia.