Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and David O. Russell talk tough about ‘The Fighter’

By Todd Gilchrist David O. Russell’s new film “The Fighter” may be based on a the true story about an underdog boxer who fights back against the odds to become a champion, but it’s not without the personalities of the performers that this film would at all feel like a knockout. Stars Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale make a fascinating pair as real-life brothers Micky and Dicky Eklund, and it’s Amy Adams’ character (and Wahlberg’s love interest) that galvanizes their relationship as Dicky deals with crack addiction. Hollywood News recently sat down with Bale, Wahlberg, Adams, and director Russell to discuss the development of their characters and that chemistry they share on screen in “The Fighter,” which seems destined to be more than a contender on screen, but one in the end-of-year Oscar race as well.

Hollywood News: 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.

Hollywood News: This question is for Christian.

Bale: David will answer that one.

Hollywood News: Okay, well you guys tell me how you lose weight. What is your regimen for it, and when you do it, does it help put you in that sort of edgy, jittery place that you needed to be to play Dicky?

Bale: No, I felt so good and calm, and with playing Dicky, and I was just runnin’ like crazy. I could just run for hours on end and I felt really healthy, you know. And you know, I don’t know. Usually I always say, “Oh, I do a lot of coke whenever I lose weight.” I’m not sure if it’s so funny for this movie, to say that (laughs). You know. But there’s not a whole lot of secrets to it. But one really good thing is to have this particular water, Aqua Hydrate [which Wahlberg endorses]. Mark?

Wahlberg: Finally, some honesty.

Bale: I found that helps to lose weight, immensely. And run a lot. I’ll be gettin’ cash from you later, Mark, right?

Hollywood News: 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.

Hollywood News: 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.

Hollywood News: 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.

Hollywood News: Continuing with that. Amy, you aren’t 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. And Melissa – and Melissa – actually, Mark recommended Melissa to me off of “Frozen River” and I – and I – I hadn’t seen it and I watched it and I thought she was phenomenal.

Adams: 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.

Adams: Thank you, David.

Hollywood News: Mark, I was reading that you still have the boxing ring at your house. Are you maintaining your workout regimen? And also, you’re going to be on 60 Minutes this Sunday. Are there any big revelations that you’re gonna tell Laura Logan that we should probably know today?

Wahlberg: I think, aside from the movie itself and the story of the making of the movie and how similar Micky’s life is to mine, the story has been told. I mean, you know, 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 and to the story, and you know, then – you know, nine kids in both families and growing up thirty minutes from each other. I’m hoping that it’s not the same old story. But you know, I did have a nice time working with them and they really – the reason why we did it is because of their reaction to the film. That was the only reason for doing it. I mean, David’s talked me in to doing stuff like that in the past, whether it’s 20/20 or Dateline, or this and that. But you know, I love this movie and I would have done anything to get the movie made, and do anything to support and promote the movie. I just – you know, it’s that important to me. And we’ll – we’ll see what happens.

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, but my wife is like, you know, “You – you’re starting to look really bad.” You know, “I’m like a former supermodel, Victoria’s Secret Model; I mean, if you want to hold on to me, you’ve gotta do something.” So I’m back in the gym.

Hollywood News: Amy, in the movie, your character gets labeled as an MTV girl. What’s your opinion on that label, and do you think it’s fair?

Wahlberg: Wild.

Hollywood News: Did it guide your research in any way?

Adams: Well, that was their opinion of her. She was no MTV girl. [But] I think that MTV then was very different.

Wahlberg: She’s more of a VH1 girl.

Adams: Yeah. That’s right. That’s right.

Wahlberg: With a little sprinkle of BET.

Wahlberg: She’s like hip-hop.

Adams: A dash of Lifetime, just a dash.

Wahlberg: Some Fuse.

Adams: I think, you know, MTV was very different then – they actually showed music videos, which I liked. But I – I think it meant that she was wild, that she was like –

Wahlberg: Spring break.

Adams: Spring break, yeah.

Wahlberg: Titties out. Threesomes.

Adams: She’s a party girl.

Wahlberg: That’s what Micky liked.

Adams: That’s what those sisters said, right? They were like, “She – yeah, she’s trash.”

Wahlberg: Yeah.

Adams: “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. Nah, she was just a girl trying to make good, you know. Trying to deal with what she had.

Wahlberg: She’s a sweetheart. I mean, she –

Adams: She is a sweetheart. She was – you know what – what struck me about Charlene, is that you had all these huge personalities, and she never once was like, “Let me tell you my side of the story.” She never did. She always – she was content to sit in the background. As a matter of fact, I think you guys had to really convince her to put herself 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.

Hollywood News: For Mark and Amy – the chemistry with your characters is so there. But how much work goes into that, before you guys start shooting?

Wahlberg: It was instant for me. It was like, “Whoa.” She’s a sweetheart. You know what? David always says that she doesn’t seem like the girl who could 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 you know, I saw that immediately. You know, they’re not quite as pretty as Amy, the girls in my neighborhood. But I just – I was such a huge fan of hers. We’d actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie, and it was a bad movie that I did. She dodged the bullet. And then we got the chance to work together again. And I was very happy about that because I thought she would bring something very special to the table, and again, showing a side of her that I certainly knew she was capable of doing but she hadn’t gotten to show yet.

Adams: And with Mark, I do – it was – it was pretty instant. It was pretty – it was so easy to work with you and – you know that – and you guys saw him, I mean, for the women in here, you saw him. I mean, like how hard is it to pretend that you’re attracted to that. Like, “Whoa, gosh I’m such a good actress.” So with that being said, with all respect to your wife and my – my significant other, Mark has a great quality as an actor and that was able to show, he was able to show that in – with Micky, this vulnerability. And a man who’s powerful and strong yet is able to show tenderness and vulnerability – that’s really sexy. So –

Bale: And he’s got a full set of teeth in his head, as well.

Wahlberg: Which his always – it’s always a plus.

Adams: I love teeth. Girls don’t notice that. Yeah. But you know, David – David didn’t really give us much option. Because I remember it was the first day, and like there wasn’t a kiss planned. And he’s like, “Okay. And now you kiss.” And we’re like, “We do?” “Yeah, you kiss.” And it was, “Well, hi, sorry.” You know –

Wahlberg: Romance.

Adams: David’s like, “Deeper, deeper.” Oh. So –

Wahlberg: Romance, romance, romance, romance.

Adams: Yeah.

Russell: And you’d be surprised how many women Dicky has at his beck and call, without the teeth. You know, the funny thing is, in life that I think in a funny way, I think Christian is more like Micky and Mark is more like Dicky – not in a bad way, but in the operator way and in the talky-talk way, Christian is more of a quiet guy. And it was very interesting to watch him hang out with Dicky, inhale Dicky, have them hang out together. And people would come up on the set and it would be like, “Oh, I thought that was Dicky.” And – because he talked – he would – and then it – it kind of let him talk to everybody all the time. Because Dicky doesn’t – never shuts up. And you know, so they saw Christian walking around talking to everybody, which you know, good luck, try making that happen when he’s not Dicky. And then – and then Micky, you know, Micky, as a said, you know, Micky never says two words. Micky will just take it. He’ll take five punches to give one, and he’ll – and he’ll – let everybody say everything and he won’t say nothing. You know. And he’ll let Dicky do all the talking. So that was – that was a very interesting role for each of these guys, I thought.

Wahlberg: I’m quiet, yeah.

Russell: Sometimes, huh? Yes, you are also – you have a lot in common with Micky. It’s a little bit of a paradox, but it doesn’t fit my comparison, that doesn’t work.

Wahlberg: I can hardly ever shut up. My wife tells me to shut up all the time.

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