The country awaits with bated breath for this weekend’s Paramount Pictures release, The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale as Micky and Dicky Ward. Predicted to sweep awards season, the movie offers far more than your average boxing flick, and should please both commercial and critical audiences. We were fortunate enough to sit down with the film’s director, David O. Russell to get his two cents on what went into making this film.
Check out the interview below…
It’s been a long and rocky road for The Fighter. Now that it’s opening this weekend do you feel like you can breathe a sigh of relief?
David O. Russell: It’s a real blessing, I’m really happy to be here. I feel very lucky to be here with this much talent and this much raw material. As soon as I saw the raw material that Mark was talking to me about I just thought, “Oh my God this is amazing, this material is amazing.”
This is your third time collaborating with Mark…
DR: When I first met him he was a 26-year old kid mumbling off of Boogie Nights, mumbling in a hotel meeting. By the time we made this movie he was like, “Boardwalk Empire” builder. There’s nothing better than having a collaborator that you have a great short hand with and a great comfort with – shepherding the project along. That’s the best thing that you can have when there’s many cooks in the kitchen – it makes life much easier.
You, Mark and Christian worked very closely with the Ward family. What was that like?
DR: I didn’t know what to expect when I first saw the family. I thought they might be some very harsh people that I’d want to spend 10 minutes with. I remember hearing about Micky Ward and then when I saw him and heard him talk I thought he sounded much rougher than I expected. I expected some sweet talking Oscar De La Hoya type. The fact is, the people are so unbelievably lovable. That’s what goes into the movie.
Who’s more like their character, Mark or Christian?
DR: In a funny way, I think Christian is more like Micky and Mark is more like Dicky. In the talky-talk way. Christian’s more of a quiet guy, and it was interesting to watch him hang out with Dicky, inhale Dicky – people would come up on set and be, like, “Oh, I thought that was Dicky.” Micky never says two words, he’ll take five punches to give one, and he’ll let everybody say everything and he won’t say nothing. He’ll let Dicky to all the talking – it was an interesting role for each of these guys.
You’ve got an incredibly strong supporting cast, particularly Melissa Leo and Amy Adams. How did you make those casting choices? Specifically Amy, given that this is a very out-of-type role for her.
DR: I’d been speaking with Amy – we’d have lunch every couple of years and talk about working together, and I knew she was eager to break type for herself. In the sense that she’d 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 she was going to step up. There’s nothing better a director can have than someone who is very eager . Actually, Mark recommended Melissa to me off of Frozen River. I haven’t seen it and thought she was phenomenal – I was very excited to transform her.
Can you talk about the different characteristics they had to pull off for their roles?
DR: Both of these women talk like dudes, my mother did too. They come from a very deep power place. The beautiful thing that they each brought to the part that really makes them succeed so beautifully is that Melissa consistently fought for the compassion for Alice. Melissa always said, we gotta love Alice. Alice made mistakes but loves all of her children. And I thought that was beautiful, likewise for Amy. Charlene is a tough bitch, and Amy is very fierce – she has that fierceness in her. But Amy also brings a great deal of emotion in her eyes. You have that great cocktail that I find so interesting.
What about the inspirations for each character. What did the actors pull from?
DR: Christian and I initially agreed that Dicky should be someone you love. Mark and I knew Micky was someone you love because he’s taking the heat the whole movie. It’s a question of how you can plug into Mark’s emotions, understanding why he put up with it, why he needed it, it’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 on his corner, and he got the inspiration from an older brother – you can’t get better inspiration than that.
These characters aren’t easy to tackle. They clearly required actors who were willing to put in the homework, and willing to “transform” themselves. Can you comment on that?
DR: One of the things that made this film so beautiful – when Mark said he’d do anything for the picture – everyone brought that to the film. That’s a rocket ship. Amy came and said she was ready to fight, and we were choreographing fight scenes in Whole Foods at 11 o’clock at night. Mark’s willing to fight and do anything it takes in the ring, do anything it takes emotionally, and Amy, Melissa – transformed themselves completely. There was just an unstoppable “I’ll go there.” Christian already had the weight off and was shaving the bald spot before we set foot into pre-production. That’s crazy willingness.
The film has a nationwide release Friday, December 10.
GO SEE IT!