Combine David O.
Russell, the talented maverick director known for getting in a fistfight with
George Clooney on the set of Three Kings (1999)
and humiliating Lily Tomlin while making I Heart Huckabees (2004)
with Christian Bale, the brilliant,
tightly wound actor who attained internet mash-up notoriety with his obscene
tirade at a hapless member of the film crew during the production of Terminator:
and you would think you'd have some fireworks. Throw in former Lowell boxing champ Micky
Ward, his unpredictable former crack addict brother Dicky, their fearsome
mother Alice and their seven wicked stepsisters, and it would be a miracle if
anyone gets out alive.
In fact, though, the result was ‘The Fighter,' which stars Mark Wahlberg as Micky, Bale as Dicky, Melissa Leo as Alice, and Amy Adams as
Micky's tough cookie girlfriend Charlene and is
a crowd-pleasing, Rocky-like true story of pugilistic triumph. Maybe
Wahlberg, also the film's producer, kept everyone in line. Whatever it was it
worked: not only is ‘The Fighter'
expected to get Oscar nods but Bale, Leo, Adams,
Russell, and Wahlberg still seem to be enjoying one another's company and
having fun in this press conference they held promoting the movie. The Fighter
Q: For David O. Russell: Dicky Eklund seems like someone who
would take a very active interest in the filming of this movie. Was it at any
point necessary to do Eklund-management?
Christian Bale: I'll answer this a little bit. There were a
couple of times we had to physically restrain Dicky from laying a fist on
David. We had some interesting times when we were rehearsing in Mark's house,
where Mark very nicely put up Micky and Dicky and they actually lived in his
house for some time. And there were some script changes going on, and Dicky
wasn't initially totally understanding that sometimes when you're putting a
whole life into two hours that a little bit of license has to be taken, and you
mix some things up. He wanted everything initially to be absolutely how it was
portrayed. And if it wasn't... a couple times he was like, ‘I'm gonna go! I'm
gonna leave!' (laughter) You know, that's a serious thing coming from a pro
boxer. And a couple times we were like, ‘no, no'...and we would talk and David
would talk with him. I'm not sure if you had to stop him from laying one on me
(laughs) but it was interesting; it was an interesting time. But he actually
came around, and seemed to really understand it, and after we showed him the
movie, he didn't punch any of us, and I talk to him almost daily. I think that's
a great achievement; to make the story of someone's life. (laughs) Sorry David,
that was more your question.
David O. Russell: What he said.
Q: This question is for Christian.
CB: David will answer that one.
Q: So many times we see your rapid, extreme weight loss.
What is your regimen for it and when you do it, does it help put you in that
edgy, jittery place that you needed to play Dicky?
CB: No, I felt so good and calm playing Dicky. I was just
running like crazy; I could just run for hours on end and I felt really
healthy. I don't know...usually I say, ‘oh, I do a lot of coke' whenever I lose
weight (laughs)...but I'm not sure if it's so funny for this movie. But there's
not a whole lot of secrets to it. The one really good thing is to have this
particular water, Aquahydrate [the water company that Wahlberg is involved with
(laughter)....Um, I run a lot.
Q: Christian, what is your take on Dicky and do you think he
is ultimately a good influence on his brother?
CB: 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 it's an immensely loyal family, and they're immensely
loyal brothers but 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 and the expectations they had of him at such a young age...that
through his success the whole family would have success, I think very much that's
part of what was drawn into 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...and after that Dicky was a
huge help for Micky...I don't think that one could have happened without the other.
You know, this movie wouldn't exist without that beautiful relationship between
the two brothers.
Q: For Christian: How did you train for the Boston accent? For Mark:
what's it like to get it back after having it hammered out of you over the
Mark Wahlberg: It's a lot harder to get rid of it than it
was to get it back. Every time I leave Boston
people would hear it; 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. It was almost to the point that it made it seem
like we were doing bad accents to people who were actually from that area. No,
everybody did a fantastic job and didn't push it too far. You think these
characters are so extreme and so broad, but they're actually a toned down
version of these larger-than-life characters.
CB: Mark was a great deal of help...he'd never say anything
but he'd just get a certain look on his face when you'd say something, and you
just knew that it wasn't it. I approached Dicky's accent...you know, Dicky's got
his own thing going on. He calls it Dicky-nese...so. And I think everyone will
agree I really had to tone down his natural rhythm and voice. I understand him
completely now because I was with him...but if I had done it exactly like Dicky,
we would have needed subtitles.
Q: For Mark: The boxing scenes are very realistic...Tell us
about the fight scenes; they were very convincing how did you pull those off?
And the sister fight scenes.
MW: Well, the movie was a go and then it fell apart and I
continued to train so after 3 and a half years I felt confident enough to go in
and be believable as a boxer who could possibly win a welterweight
championship. Had somebody said, ‘hey, you've gotta spend 4 and a half years to
train for 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 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; there were times obviously when it
was harder, more difficult to get out of bed. Especially when I was doing
another film...training for a film that may or may not happen, but it was
certainly worth it in the end.
Amy Adams: Well when I got the role David informed me that I
looked like a girl who couldn't punch, which made me wanna punch him. So I
actually took just a couple boxing lessons, and that was fun, with Mark's
trainer which 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 I was fighting with. I wasn't afraid of
getting hurt myself...when I was younger my sister thought it was funny to
pretend to punch me in the face...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, but it was fun; I
had a good time.
Q: For David: Can you talk about casting your female leads
and if both of you can talk about your preparation for the roles.
DR: I had been speaking to Amy...we would have lunch every
couple of years and talk about wanting to work together and I knew that she was
eager to ‘break type' for herself 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...just from talking to her, I knew that she was really ready to
step up. And as a director there's nothing better than someone who is very
eager, as all these people were...And actually Mark recommended Melissa to me off
of ‘Frozen River'
and I hadn't seen it and I watched it and thought she was phenomenal.
Q: Melissa can you comment on your preparation for the role?
Melissa Leo: I have to say that I love
acting; I really do; I think that is maybe the one thing that is known about
me. Although it sounded like an extremely exciting and interesting project, and
it was about real people, I had a lot of doubts going and meeting with David,
but it sounded interesting enough, took the meeting, and sat down and we kind
of dived right into...really an interview (laughs), but there we were working on Alice
together over breakfast. And that was the first stepping off place; David's
belief that I could be his Alice.
I thought, ‘Golly, I'm only a couple years older than these chaps (laughs), not
such a pushy gal by my reckoning...you really think so, David?' I don't know how
to describe it except for 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...'cause it was
the only time I really met Christian before we worked. We flew to Lowell 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 I saw immediately my mother's mother-my maternal
grandmother-in Alice, and knew then that, ‘Oh, I have her in here somewhere.'
And then with Mark Bridge's help and Johnny who did the hair with David saying ‘Shorter,
shorter, shorter' with every haircut, and Trish who did my makeup, I finally
found Alice and walked in her shoes. It was a thrill to walk out of the trailer
and have half of Lowell go ‘Oh, Alice! You look like my
AA: I'll just echo what Melissa said; David's
belief that I could be Charlene...that was half of the preparation. Just knowing
that he knew I could do it, made me feel like I could do it, and then the other
half of it was research and David telling me to lower my voice. He kept telling
me ‘she's down here, she's low' (laughs).
DR: The beautiful thing that they each
brought to the part is that Melissa consistently fought for the compassion for
Alice; Mark and I knew that Micky was someone you love because he's taking all
the heat through the whole movie; and there's a question of how you could plug
into Mark's emotions 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. Charlene, his family, his brother; he got the
discipline from the confidence corner, and he got the inspiration from the
older brother...you can't get better inspiration than that. But Melissa always
said, ‘you've gotta love Alice.'
And I love that...because Alice made a lot of
mistakes, but Alice
always loved all her children, and I thought that was beautiful. Likewise for
Amy...Charlene is a tough bitch, and Amy's very fierce; Amy has that fierceness
in her, but Amy also brings a great deal of emotion in her eyes.
Q: For Mark, can you talk about your role
about producer and what that entailed?
MW: It was out of sheer desperation for
getting the movie made. I had already promised Micky, Dicky, Alice, Charlene,
and everybody else involved that we were gonna get this movie made. And it
seemed at first glance like it was a no-brainer: amazing parts, wonderful
story, new and interesting world that you're not that familiar with...and it just
wasn't meant to be so we just had to grab a hold of it and force it to happen.
Sheer will and determination, but very much like Micky's journey to winning the
title. You just have to go and make it happen.
Q: For David and Mark, what professionally do
you each value most about the other?
MW: He's my brother, man. I love this guy. We've
been through a lot together and we're so comfortable with one another; we're
like family. And to be able to work with someone that you admire so much and
you trust and that you care for...speaking for myself of course; I don't really
know how David feels (laughter)...but I loved it. When it dawned on me that there
is a way to get this movie made as David as the director; you know, we had
already started a relationship with Christian and gotten him to commit, I
thought, ‘we have a chance to do something really special.' And David was
trying to bring something to the table that no one else was willing to tap
into. They thought: Well, the story between the brothers is really fascinating,
and it's more a boxing movie, but he brought a sense of humor and emotion that
I don't think anybody else was capable of bringing to it.
CB: I think also a lot of the other people,
they were over-emphasizing the kind of druggy nature, the addiction, as if that
was something fascinating to see, and we felt like we've seen that in so many
movies and when you meet the real Micky and Dicky that's not what you think
about...I mean, of course it's part of his past, but you don't want to obsess on
that. David's got this great sort of earnestness and this great silliness at
the same time, which is great.
MW: And if we had gone down that dark path,
there would have been a very limited audience that would go and see this movie,
and we thought it had so much more to offer, and we thought young, old, men,
women would enjoy the story and find something very compelling, as well as
entertaining and inspiring from it.
DR: It's a real blessing I just feel really
lucky to be here with this much talent and this much raw material; and these
characters. As soon as I saw the raw material that Mark was talking to me
about, I just said, ‘Oh my god, these characters are amazing, this is amazing.'
The dynamic, you know, is amazing. There's nothing greater than having a
collaborator that you have a great comfort with who's moving the project
along...it makes it that much easier. I didn't know what to expect when I first
saw the family; I thought it might be some very harsh people that I wouldn't
want to spend 10 minutes with...I thought, god...I remember hearing about Micky
Ward and then when I saw him and I heard him talk I thought, ‘Oh my god...he
sounds much rougher than I expected.' I expected some sweet-talking Oscar De La
Hoya type, and the fact is, the people are so unbelievably lovely. As Christian
said, I still hang out with them...and that's what goes into the movie.
MW: And I did promise David that after we
make this movie, our next collaboration would go back to me saying ‘Yes sir, no
sir' (laughter)...strictly being there to service his vision...because it was
definitely a different dynamic, me saying ‘No, wait...I don't know about this,
what about...no, no...' because I was so close to them and to that world, and I
think that was the only thing that took a little getting used to... and I
promised my leader here that I would not do that again. Next time we work
DR: I can't help it; when I first met him he
was this 26-year-old kid mumbling everything in our hotel meeting, and by the
time we made this movie he was like ‘Boardwalk Empire' [which Wahlberg produces] builder and Godfather..
MW: Shit happens, dude; I'm a hustler.
(laughter, cheers). I'm from the fuckin' street, man, I've gotta make it
happen. Nothing comes easy for me.
DR: And these guys [Bale and Wahlberg] met at
the pre-school of your daughters, right?
CB: Yeah, he banged on my door.
DR: He looked across the street and it was
like, ‘ziiiing.' (laughter)
MW: What I said was like ‘there's the guy who's
not scared to play this part.' Everybody loved the idea of it but nobody wanted
to commit and go there, and I had seen ‘The Machinist' (2004);
I had seen ‘Rescue Dawn' (2007)...and
I just thought, it he responds to the material, this is 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 he's a
fearless actor and he responded to it immediately. And that's what sort of got
the momentum going and everything else started to fall into place after that.
CB: Another thing is David's got a very big
heart; it's very funny; there would be times when he was often crying with
laughter and also just flat out crying. [to David O. Russell] Remember? You'd
often do that...at Mark's place, you'd be listening to stories or telling stories
or listening to Dicky or whatever, listening to Micky...it was either they had
him side-splitting with laughter and he was balling his eyes out with that...and
then he would seep into tragedy...and he'd be balling his eyes out, like you
could really see how much he felt it and really was enjoying the company of
these guys and going through the whole roller coaster of emotions. Which is
usually what actors are doing, but David was right there feeling it as much as
any of us.
Q: For Mark...Are you maintaining your
regiment? Also, you're going to be on ‘60 Minutes' this Sunday; any big
revelations that we should probably know today?
MW: Unfortunately I think aside from the
movie itself and the story and the making of the movie and how similar Micky's
life is to mine, the story has been told; I mean, I was in a lot of trouble and
then I turned my life around, but it makes such a good comparison to Micky's
journey. Nine kids in both families, and growing up 30 minutes from each
other...I'm hoping that it's not the same old story...I did have a nice time
working with them and they really...the reason why we did it was because of their
reaction to the film. David's talked me into doing stuff like that in the past,
whether it's ‘20/20' or ‘Dateline' or this and that...but I love this movie and I
would have done anything to get this movie made to support and promote the
movie; it's that important to me. And I do still have the ring...as far as the
regimen...my new regimen consists of a bottle of red wine and a lot of food...and I'm
enjoying myself and my wife is like, ‘You know...you're starting to look really
bad...you know...I'm like a former Victoria's Secret model, a super model...you wanna
hold onto me, you've gotta do something.' (laughs) So I'm back in the gym.
Q: For Mark/ David...The film has a rousing,
crowd pleasing conclusion, but I was wondering if maybe you were tempted to go
a little further and include the legendary Arturo Gatti fights that followed.
DR: The story was always one, I thought, that
lead him to the doorway of his future; this film delivers him to the ability to
dig himself into a real income; and that to me is the real...you know, it's a
hard choice but I think the story is legendary in itself, how he got there...'cause
without this story he doesn't get those Gatti fights. In fact, the last guy he
fights, [Shea] Neary, was saying, ‘I'm ready to fight Arturo Gatti'...he thought
he was going to move right past Micky...this guy was supposed to be the next
championship, well guess what...it turned out to be the underdog.
MW: And we're doing those fights in the
sequel. (laughs) We'll do four more ‘Fighters.' We'll do the first Gatti fight in
the sequel...then the second one...and the
third installment, and then the fourth and final one will be...
DR: In Russia,
of the things that made this film so beautiful...we were just saying ‘do you want
anything from the picture?' Every single person brought that to the film, and
that's a rocket ship. Amy came and said she's ready to fight...we were
choreographing fight scenes in Whole Foods at, like, 11 o'clock at night...I'd
run into her I'd go ‘how're we doing that scene tomorrow?' Amy said, ‘As long
as it happens between ‘action' and ‘cut,' I can do anything.' And that's pretty
great; with the father of her child standing on the set...it meant for great
chemistry between these guys. He's willing to do anything it takes in the ring;
Melissa transformed herself completely, to the point of throwing pots and pans;
and then breaking your heart completely when she's sitting on the porch looking
at her sons; there's an unstoppable ‘I'll go there'...Christian already had the
weight off and was shaving the bald spot before we stepped foot into
Q: For Amy...Your character gets labeled in the
movie as an ‘MTV Girl...' what's your opinion of that label and do you think it's
fair. Also did it guide your research in any way?
AA: Well, that was their opinion of her; she
was no MTV Girl.
ML: Oh, yes she was... (laughter)
AA: Here we go...
MW: I think she's more of a VH1 girl...
MW: With a little sprinkle of BET...
AA: And a dash of Lifetime...I think MTV was
very different then; they actually showed music videos. I think it meant that
she was wild; Spring Break...
MW: Titties out...
AA: A party girl...That's what the sisters
said...that she was trash. I think she still gets accused of it, I don't know.
Every here and there. Do I think it's fair? From Charlene's perspective? No.
No...she was just a girl trying to make good, trying to do with what she had.
DR: She was a sweetheart.
AA: She was a sweetheart...what struck me about
Charlene was that there were all these big personalities around her and she
never once said, ‘let me tell you my side.' She was content to sit in the
background; in fact I think you guys had to really convince her to go on tape
so I could watch her...like they really had to talk...she was not about drawing
attention to herself. She was really happy that Micky's story was being told
and she was really supportive of that, so I don't think it was fair.
Q: For Mark and Amy...how much work went into
the chemistry between your characters?
MW: It was instant for me...(laughs)...she's a
sweetheart. David always says she doesn't seem like the girl who can throw a
punch but she reminds me of so many girls in my neighborhood; she looks like an
Irish-Catholic, tough, no-nonsense kind of girl, and I saw that immediately. I
was such a huge fan of hers. We actually had lunch before, to talk about
another movie...it was a bad movie that I did...she dodged the bullet...I don't wanna
tell you which movie...alright, ‘The Happening' (2008) (laughter) ...fuckin'
trees, man...plants. You can't blame me for wanting to try to play a science
but she didn't do the movie, and we got the chance to work again, and I
was very happy about that because I thought she would bring something very
special to the table, and again...showing the side of her that I certainly knew
she was capable of doing but that she hadn't gotten to show yet.
AA: It was pretty instant. [to Mark] It was
so easy to work with you. The women in here see him I mean how hard is it to pretend that you're attracted to
that? Like, ‘oh, gosh...I'm such a good
actress.' (laughter)...so, with that being said, with all respect to your wife
and my significant other...Mark has a great quality as an actor and that is he is
able to show that with Micky...this vulnerability...a man who is powerful and strong,
yet a man who is able to show tenderness and vulnerability...that's really sexy.
CB: And he's got a full set of teeth in his
head as well.
AA: I love
teeth (laughs). David didn't really give us much options...I remember it was the
first day and there wasn't a kiss planned, and then he was like, ‘Okay, and now
you kiss!' And we were like, ‘We do?'
DR: The funny thing is I think Christian is
more like Micky and Mark is more like Dicky; not in a bad way, but in the
operator way; Christian's more of a quiet guy, and it was very interesting to
watch him hang out with Dicky and inhale Dicky...people would come on the set and
be like, ‘Oh, I thought that was Dicky.' Because he talked...and it kind of lead
him to talk to everyone all the time, because Dicky never shuts up...so Christian
was walking around talking to everybody and it's like, good luck trying to make
that happen when he's not Dicky...and then Micky, Micky as they said never says
MW: I'm quiet...
DR: Sometimes...and yes, you have a lot in
common with Micky, but it doesn't fit my comparison (laughter).
MW: I'm just fuckin' with you... I hardly ever
shut up; my wife tells me to shut up all the time.