Oscar nominations could go to Mark Wahlberg and co-star Christian Bale for their performances in a new drama directed by David O. Russell and based on the true story of a boxing champion from a working-class Boston neighborhood. Here's a look at The Fighter.
"This is my younger brother. I taught him everything he knows ..…I'm still his trainer."
Dickie Ecklund and his half-brother Micky Ward were local heroes in Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1980s. Dickie, "the pride of Lowell," had a brief, promising boxing career, but his addiction to drugs knocked him out of contention. Then the spotlight moves to Micky. With Dickie as his trainer and their mother Alice as manager, Micky steps into the ring, but he seems constantly mismatched and destined to lose every fight.
"Look at the size of that guy! He's got 20 pounds on me, Dickie."
"If you don't fight nobody gets paid."
Battered and bruised and more than a little disillusioned, Micky, encouraged by his girlfriend Charlene, decides he has to stand up to his family and get out of the game.
"I'm quitting, Charlene. I'm done fighting. I don't need it any more."
"It's sad that you let them take it away from you."
"I was embarrassed. I told everybody I was going to win that fight and get back on track. I'm sick of being a disappointment."
But then he gets another chance ….. with a condition attached: his family has to stay out of his career:
Micky gets his title shot, but not until he reconciles with his family and gets Dickie back in his corner.
Mark Wahlberg stars as Micky Ward and, growing up in Massachusetts not far from where the brothers live, he knew their story would make he good film; but Wahlberg had to learn how to fight .. not only in the boxing ring, but also in the studio executive suites .. to get the film made.
"I had already promised Micky, Dickie, Alice, Charlene and everybody else involved that we were going to get this movie made; and it seemed, at first glance, like it was a 'no-brainer' " Wahlberg explains, "amazing parts, what a wonderful story, a really new and interesting world that you're not familiar with ..…and it just wasn't meant to be so I just had to grab hold of it and force it to happen through sheer will and determination, very much like Micky's journey to winning the title. He just had to go and make it happen."
Amy Adams plays the sassy, outspoken Charlene who finds herself caught between Micky and his family:
"She was just a girl trying to make good ..…trying to deal with what she had," says Adams. "You know what struck me about Charlene was you had all these huge personalities and she never once [said] 'let me tell you my side of the story.' She never did. 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."
Christian Bale plays Dickie who has to overcome his self-destructive habits before he can really become the support that his brother needs.
"I think that he was an absolute source of inspiration initially and then I think he became an absolute confusion for his younger brother because it is an immensely loyal family and they are immensely loyal brothers," Bale says. "Once Dickie was able to say it is no longer his time, it's Micky's time now …and then convince the rest of the family of that, which took some doing …after that Dickie was no end of help for Micky [and] I don't think it could have happened without the one or the other. This movie wouldn't exist without that beautiful relationship between the two brothers."
Although the film recreates some key bouts from early in Micky Ward's career, director David O. Russell says the family's struggle is really what The Fighter is about.
"Christian and I initially agreed that Dickie should be somebody that you love," Russell says. "Mark and I knew that Micky was somebody that you love because he is taking all the heat for the whole movie that 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 is 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. "
"Micky has a chance to do something that I never did and he needs me."
"Okay, I'll see you in Micky's corner."
Micky Ward won the IBF light welterweight championship in 2000. He retired from the ring in 2003. The Fighter features Melissa Leo as the overbearing, but well-meaning mother Alice; former police officer Mickey O'Keefe plays himself as Micky's trainer during his career comeback. Much of the film was shot on location around Micky and Dickie's hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts.