Director David O. Russell, and stars Amy Adams and Christian Bale talk about their film The Fighter, which is released in cinemas today.
Director David O. Russell
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 attracted you to playing the role of Charlene?
Well initially it was David O Russell, he sent me twenty pages of the script, they were sort of writing Charlene and kind of beefing her up a little bit and he asked if I’d be interested in playing Charlene. I mean how could I say no, first half it was David O. Russell who I’d met and really had a great time talking to, and then knowing it was Christian Bale, Mark Wahlberg, Melissa Leo, I was the last one to come on out of that group and I’d love them all, I’d met them at different times of my life and I just was very excited! Charlene is a girl who has to work really hard in her life for what she has and has maybe made some mistakes, and when we meet her she’s kind of pulling herself back up and she meets Micky and sees in him something just so remarkable and so much potential and she sees his family just really pulling him down and she really wants to encourage him to be his own man and stand up and be the man she knows he can be.
How was it working with Mark Wahlberg?
You know I never felt the producer hand of Mark Wahlberg, I think because we worked so closely, our characters, most of my scenes were with him and very intimate scenes so, I never really felt that side. I mean the filming was a great experience and there was a lot of energy, a lot of love, a lot of passion, a lot of hard work and I could only think that that has to do with him being one of the producers as he really just put so much of him into the film, not only as a producer, as an actor, and being in Lowell, he knows that area, he put so much time into making everybody from that town feel a part of the movie. He did a great job. The Fighter is so much more than just a movie about boxing. It has a love story, it has family drama, because it’s true, its real life, it’s telling people the real story and in that there’s humour, there’s laughter and there’s tears and the boxing just adds an element of energy that make s you really excited when you watch the film.
What will people take away from this movie?
I think everyone’s going to feel something different but hopefully, they all had a really good time, and they walk away wanting to see it again. That’s what I keep hearing, is like ‘oh my gosh, I just want to go back and see it from the beginning!’ From the response that I’ve had, we’ve had some teenage girls see the film and just go crazy for it and then we’ve had young men. I just think, pretty much everybody. It’s probably not suitable for a really young audience, there’s some adult language, but aside from that I think everybody should go see the film.
What was it like training with the real Micky and Dicky?
Just essential, you know, I mean Mark was always leagues ahead because he’d been training for this for so long anyway; he has his own boxing ring in his house. For me it just was a wonderful opportunity to hang out with Micky and Dicky, get to know them, get to understand their fighting styles to use it as a means of dropping the weight that I needed to lose in order to look like a welter weight and then a crack head. I just enjoyed it immensely, I enjoyed their company.
How did you transform to get into your role?
Same with anyone you know, you kind of start off and you go, ‘yeah I like this story’ and then you go ‘holy crap, how am going to do it, I’ve forgotten how to do this’. I never took any classes, I just go like ‘I better wing this one again and make it up!’ Slowly, you find ways brick by brick of building it up, and it feels like hard work and you feel like you’re going to fail everybody. Then eventually it’s just kind of happening and it’s slipping in, then you forget that you went through the hard work and you think it was all easy.
What are the main themes that emerge in The Fighter?
The Fighter is about brotherly love, it’s about loyalty, about family, family dysfunctions, the need to change, the pain of change, but ultimately, the triumph of people who love each other, managing to find a healthy way to unite and that they’re unstoppable at that point.
The Fighter is released on 2nd February 2011