David O'Russell talks about bring legends to life on screen | The Fan Carpet Ltd • The Fan Carpet: The RED Carpet for FANS • The Fan Carpet: Fansites Network • The Fan Carpet: Slate • The Fan Carpet: Theatre Spotlight • The Fan Carpet: Arena • The Fan Carpet: International

David O’Russell talks about bring legends to life on screen

The Fighter
26 January 2011

THE FIGHTER is the inspirational true story of two boxing legends. Dicky Ecklund (CHRISTIAN BALE) is a former boxing legend whose life has become shattered by drug abuse whilst Micky Ward (MARK WAHLBERG), his half brother, has become the town’s fighter and fading hope for a champion.  But with Micky losing fight after punishing fight, it takes iron-willed Charlene (AMY ADAMS), to help him split with his family, pursue his own interests and train without his criminal brother.


What is the movie about?

Bleach blonde mother with seven bleach blonde sisters who all form a gang, and they train two brothers, one who used to be a star locally, who’s become a criminal, the other who’s the younger brother who’s trained by the older brother and the mother who wants to rise up. The red headed bar tender who’s sexy comes in and everybody reacts to that big time, that’s Amy Adams, she comes in and says to the younger brother, you need a better way and he says “how can you say that about my family!”, and there’s the movie. To have all those people in ways that you see the mistakes they’re making, but you still love them, and can laugh at them but still have them break your heart, that’s to me the movie.


What made you want to make a movie based on this family?

The brothers, with this crazy dynamic of older brother, younger brother, and they are both fighters and they have this really crazy relationship, and the older brother almost seems to be the favourite of the mother, all that made me want to do it.


What do you make of the way the actors went about portraying their characters?

Every actor works differently you know, so it was really an honour and sort of very humbling to be able to work with this variety of actors. Mark is sort of more from the Spencer Tracy school, “acting’s good, don’t let them catch you doing it”, so he is going to do the subtle performance, that is the guy who’s the centre of the storm, who’s reacting to the storm and emotionally anchoring the movie. Spinning around him is the asteroid of Christian Bale, at the other end of the spectrum completely! He inhaled the character of Dicky, he lost 30 pounds, he shaved his head so he had a bald spot, put these horrible teeth in, and become this chaos maker who’s charming and talented and bedevilling. Then Amy Adams breaks type, she shows up to break type saying “you know I don’t want to be enchanted in this one, I want to be the girl who can throw a punch”, and that girl Charlene did throw a punch with the sisters and she did know how to stick up for herself and she helps Micky stick up for himself in his life, he needed a little help against all the odds in the family. Melissa Leo is the mother who always fought for the fact that listen I see how this movie is portraying me, as a little bit like the mother’s making all the bad mistakes but I also want to be the mother who loved all her children, nine children, which Mark comes from the same family, nine children, so Melissa fought for that, so that makes you love the characters, to me that’s what matters.



What did you think Mark brings to the role of Micky?

Mark trained for as many years to want to fight like Micky, and to look real is a huge accomplishment, but in addition to that, to be like what he is like in his own family, Mark Wahlberg is in his own family of nine children from a working class background, the one kind that had to deal with an older brother, Donny Wahlberg, who was the favourite of the mother and who was the first successful one, I mean the parallels are kind of amazing. So this is an even more intense version of that, where he came equipped knowing what it’s like to have this brother who’s your hero, who’s your ticket to the world who has to train you, in this case to fight, but who also is kind of being destructive and then tearing you down, so that’s what Mark brings to it.


How were the real Micky and Dicky involved in the movie?

Well if anyone is having a real story told about them, that’s going to be a little prickly isn’t it? You’re going to be a little concerned of how that’s being told and I wanted to always say we were always coming from a place of loving these characters. Which happened to be the truth, sometimes you have to tell people that and it’s not the truth. In this case it is the truth. I didn’t know how I would feel about the Wards and the Ecklands when I met them and I really love them so that enables me to tell an even better story. But the sisters will come up and say hey that girl’s not as pretty as me, why is she playing me. Dicky more than anybody had a lot of controversial stuff that he did that is in the movie. I said “it can’t be any worse than the documentary HBO did about you that made you the scandal of Lowell, so we’re only going to go up from there that I’m portraying you in a sympathetic light that shows you getting past that! So let’s not fixate on that!” Micky of course loved the picture, I think Micky knew that he won a championship and he knew he was the one who came through it, and that Mark being sort of the godfather of the picture, I think Micky Ward knew he was in good hands.


What do you want people to take away from this movie?

My primary wish as a film maker is to grab you by the throat and the heart from the beginning and for you to feel like “wow, who are these people” and to be surprised and taken through a ride that you didn’t expect, and to walk out of there having felt a lot of emotion and a lot of love for these people.



The Fighter Film Page

THE FIGHTER is released in the UK on the 2nd of February