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article imageMark Wahlberg's battle to get 'The Fighter' made into a hit film Special

By Earl Dittman     Mar 20, 2011 in Entertainment
Although it would take close to five years before a single frame was shot, actor/producer Mark Wahlberg would finally get the true story of Irish-American, welterweight champ Micky Ward made into the hit motion picture 'The Fighter' (now on Blu-ray/DVD).
Even with The Fighter bio-pic taking nearly half-a-decade to make it into neighborhood multiplexes, in retrospect, all of those involved with the film agree that the wait was more than worth it. Not only did The Fighter pick up seven Oscar nominations (including one for Best Picture), but it would win several critics and industry awards, and Christian Bale's co-starring performance (as the troubled half-brother, Dicky), would score the British-born actor Golden Globe and SAG awards plus a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. But the real winner behind the success of The Fighter was Mark Wahlberg (the former rap/pop star Marky Mark) who would spend all of his waking hours during those five years -- between starring in his own movies like The Lovely Bones, Shooter, Max Payne, The Happening -- making sure the true story of pugilist Micky Ward was faithfully brought to cinematic life. "I love so many boxing films, and what I wanted to do was to tell Micky's story and create the most realistic boxing seen in a movie," admits Wahlberg, the star, producer and co-writer of The Fighter. "There are so many great boxing movies already. But Raging Bull is so different than Rocky. Also, Daniel Day-Lewis was very good in a lot of ways in The Boxer. And let’s not forget Hilary Swank (in Million Dollar Baby). She looked good in there, starting out with no knowledge about a boxing ring. She’d never hit a speed bag, but she had heart and desire. She was fearless, and was willing to get out there and go for it. And towards the end, she started looking pretty damn good. However, we wanted to make one that was our own, but with a little bit of the dark side of Raging Bull and the determination of Rocky. If you see Micky Ward in any of his great fights, they play like Rocky because of his style of fighting."
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in  The Fighter
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in 'The Fighter'
Paramount
Directed by David O. Russell (Three Kings), and also starring Melissa Leo and Amy Ryan, The Fighter chronicles the life story of blue collar boxer "Irish" Micky Ward and his dark horse welterweight wins in the ring -- title fights that would help to unite his broken family and bring much-needed pride to his working-class Lowell, Massachusetts neighborhood. Playing Micky Ward in the film, Wahlberg spent a great deal of time with the real-life boxing legend. Not only did the actor get to know everything about Ward as a boxer, but he also discovered a lot about the inner emotions that has made Ward the man he is today. "Micky is the most humble guy I’ve met in my life," confesses Wahlberg, one of the producers of Entourage and Boardwalk Empire. "He doesn’t feel bad that he only made a couple of seven-figure paydays when he was champ. He’s a Teamster now in Boston, and takes pride in what he does, and has his own gym where he trains people. He’s a warm, caring guy. Then you get in the ring with him. You think, 'He’s my friend, I’m playing him in this movie, this will be fun.' I’m very much like that, too. The guy who tells the story through his eyes is a much more difficult part to play, harder than the part that has the flash, and is big and in your face. That was Micky."
Mark Wahlberg sat down with select members of the press in Los Angeles, just weeks before the film's December, 2011 opening to discuss why it was so tough getting The Fighter to the big screen, how he continued to stay in shape (throughout the five years) to play a boxer, even when the release of the film looked in danger and Wahlberg reveals the biggest lessons he learned in making the bio-pic.
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in  The Fighter
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in 'The Fighter'
Paramount
Why did you want to do The Fighter? “I wanted to make a boxing movie, and talked about a movie where I’d play Vinnie Curto and Bob De Niro would play his trainer, Angelo Dundee. I tried to make The Black Dahlia with Brian De Palma because there was an element of boxing in it. I’d already built a ring in my backyard by then.”
You actually met Mickey Ward long before you were a successful actor and producer, didn't you? “Yeah, I first met Micky when I was eighteen years old, and was a huge fan. I thought, 'This is the movie I should make. John Herzfeld and I want to Lowell to see Micky and Dicky and talked about the possibility. But we found they’d already sold the rights ten times over, and it had become such a cluster f**k that it seemed there was no way we’d be able to sort it out. Then five years ago, Brad Weston called me, said he had a script to send me. 'It’s about Irish Micky Ward the boxer,' he said, 'Do you know him?' I was blown away by the script and thought, 'We’re getting this done.' So I started training the day I got back from vacation. That’s how this whole thing began. Then we went from one co-star to another, different writers, directors, the whole thing.”
Did you grow up on the same type of tough neighborhood that Micky and Dicky did? “There were so many comparisons to my life, my story, my upbringing, and to their stories. I am the youngest of nine kids. My brother (New Kid On The Block member Donnie) was much more successful and was looked at as the chosen one, while I was the one always in trouble. And I had to play Micky. Dicky was a flashier role, but it wasn’t about that for me. It was about being believable as a guy who could win the welterweight title, and not look like an actor who could maybe box a little bit. And those four-and-a-half-years turned out to be the best thing for me. But if somebody had come to me and said, 'You’re going to have to train that long to make a movie,' I’d have said, 'I’m fairly athletic and willing to work hard, I can do this in six months.' And I never stopped training, even when I was making other movies. I assured them they would be portrayed in the light they deserved, that I cared about them, and was so proud of what they were able to do, in circumstances like that. That’s the only way I know how to do things. Like when I was doing The Perfect Storm and portraying Bobby Shatford, I went to his family, and stayed with them. I wanted them to feel like we were going to protect him.”
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in  The Fighter
Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale in 'The Fighter'
Paramount
What were some of the reactions from Micky and Dicky when they saw the film for the first time? “I showed it to them, twice. First time, it was me and (director) David (O.Russell), Christian (Bale) and a couple other people at Paramount. I realized how difficult it must be to see your life up there on the big screen, condensed to under two hours. And I said, 'Come see it with an audience.' We did that in New Jersey and that was an experience. This movie is so down and dirty and real, but it has a lot of humor and emotion, and an amazing payoff at the end. To see the crowd’s reaction, I really felt proud. Micky got it the first time he saw it. For Dicky, it was harder to swallow. The fact is, he blew it. He was able to help his brother, but felt like he’d ruined his own opportunity. That’s something that is never easy to fully accept. There was always one role for me to play, and that was the champ. I wasn’t giving up the belt. And look, who else was going to play that part and be as believable as a guy who could win the welterweight title?”
When did you fear that this movie wasn’t going to happen? “I really couldn’t look at it like that. I’d already told Micky that we were going to get it done, and I was getting three or four phone calls a week from him. I knew it meant everything to him, and to Dicky, to have their story told. So this movie had to get made. I had to figure out. At Paramount, they had a certain idea of how they wanted the movie to be made, the filmmaker, the costar and the budget. And we went down the road with a couple other people, and it didn’t work out. So I went to the studio and said, 'I think I can figure out a way to get this movie done. Can you let me take it for a little while, and then bring it back to you?' And they entrusted me with that. I thought I had figured out a way to make the best possible version of this movie, and I was able to go and get that done.”
Mark Wahlberg in  The Fighter
Mark Wahlberg in 'The Fighter'
Paramount
How? “From a practical standpoint, if you work out for two years and then you don’t do it again for six months, you’re back to square one. It’s not like riding a bike, where you get right back on it. That training process was as expensive as it was time consuming. It wasn’t like somebody else was footing the bill. I was dragging these guys around with me, everywhere we went, putting them up in apartments when I was in different cities, on different locations, making films and promoting films. There were times we were so desperate to make the movie that we almost made the wrong version of the movie. And for whatever reason, we were protected. I was able to get (director) David O. Russell. And after spending a lot of time with David, I just thought he could make a version of this movie we hadn’t been looking to make before. It would still be very real, but it would have more heart, humor and emotion.”
What was it about Christian Bale's performance that surprised you the most? “I wasn’t really surprised. I’d seen The Machinist and Rescue Dawn, and knew that he was willing to go there. It was such a big commitment to the role, and a risky move in some ways. But I just knew he would be willing to go there.”
What was the biggest lesson you learned while trying to get The Fighter made? “I’ll tell you, I’ve learned not to count my chickens before they hatch. You have no idea. This movie was pretty much a go, back at the beginning. So I’m at a past junket and when you ask what’s next, I say, 'I’m going to do The Fighter with so and so.' Then, you’re promoting the next movie and the question is, 'So when are you doing The Fighter?' And you’re just like, 'Oh, no!' You say, 'We didn’t do it yet, but we’re going to get it done.' And then it became this ongoing joke. Every time I promoted a movie, I’d see someone else I’d talked to about the movie with such enthusiasm. And now, I don’t like to talk about things until I’m on the set. By far. I’ve never had anything like this. I hope I never have to go through anything like this again, even though the results were extremely positive. It was nerve wracking, physically and mentally exhausting, right down to the final hours. But that’s symbolic of who Micky was, the guy who never gave up, who never quit. Playing him, I literally got into that head space. I’m like that anyway. I’d never be in the position I’m in if my attitude had been, if it happens, great and if it doesn’t, okay. I’m not one of those guys where they just opened the gate and said, come in and do whatever you want.”
Mark Wahlberg in  The Fighter
Mark Wahlberg in 'The Fighter'
Paramount
Where do you see yourself right now? “My life has changed in a more dramatic and different direction than the storyline of Entourage. I’m married with four kids. With Entourage or Boardwalk Empire, what I do depends on what’s called for. Putting out fires. Getting people to take part. One of the things on Boardwalk was convincing Marty Scorsese that doing television could actually be a great thing. And that HBO would be a wonderful experience for him.”
What is it about The Fighter that has made you most proud? “Just getting it made, in what I think is the best possible version of the movie.
Untitled
Paramount
Getting David to direct, getting Christian onboard. The first time I screened the movie, I was just looking but not really watching. I was just so shocked we’d actually gotten it done. And I needed to see it again right away, because I hadn’t paid attention to whether it was any good or not. Then I watched it and thought, 'Wow, we’ve really got something here.' And keeping my word with Micky was great, and having Paramount say, 'You were right, we love the way you did it.' It’s as much their movie as mine. We all went down this road, along with David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman. And Relativity was willing to step up to the plate and believe in it and me. So just to go through all that, and then see people respond to the drama and the fights and feel that buzz build. This doesn’t happen that often. And I’ve been on the other side, where you had the best intentions going in, and things just don’t work out the way you want.. This time, we were blessed.”
The Fighter Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Bonus Features: The featurettes "The Warrior’s Code: Filming The Fighter" and "Keeping The Faith"; Deleted Scenes (some with optional commentary); Feature film with commentary by director David O. Russell; Theatrical Trailer and Digital Copy.
ALSO AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY AND/OR DVD:
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Lionsgate
The Switch
In the romantic comedy, The Switch, Jennifer Aniston plays Kassie, a single, care-free woman who decides it's about time for her to be a mommy. Wally, her platonic best friend, portrayed by Jason Bateman, is totally against the idea and doesn't think a sperm donor (Patrick Wilson) should be the father of her child. At the last minute, a switch might have been made with the donation and Wally could end up being the real daddy after all. Seven years later, all is revealed, and Wally wants to get to know the boy that might be his son. Unconventional and offbeat, Jennifer Aniston says the film has to say about the modern-day traditional family unit. "The point of the movie is, 'What is it that defines family?'' the actress said recently. "It isn’t necessarily the traditional mother, father, two children and a dog named Spot. It's like love is love and family is how what is around you and who is in your immediate sort of sphere. That Wally, whether he was the father or not, was the family. What I love about the film is that it’s saying it’s not the traditional sort of stereotype of what family as a society, what we’ve been taught -- it’s evolved. I don’t think it’s selfish. I think it’s actually quite beautiful because there are children that don’t have homes that can have a home and be loved. That’s extremely important." Blu-ray Bonus Features: Deleted Scenes and Alternate Ending with Introductions by the Directors Josh Gordon and Will Speck; "The Switch Conceived" behind-the-scenes featurette and Bloopers.
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Warner Bros.
Hereafter
In the Clint Eastwood directed film, Hereafter, George (Matt Damon) is a working-class American who seems to have some sort of intimate connection to those who have passed away; Marie (Cecile de France), is a French journalist who experiences a near-death event that changes her views towards reality and the young British schoolboy Marcus (Frankie/George McLaren) is a London-native who has questions that need answers -- but they are from the persons that who is very close to him -- who just so happen to be dead, Hereafter follows their searches for the truth, how their paths diverge and how they are affected about what they discover what may or may not exist in the time after death. "I liked the script immediately," Eastwood says of his decision to direct Hereafter. "Most religions seem to ponder the afterlife, but I thought this was interesting because it wasn’t really a religious project. It had a spirituality about it, but it was not necessarily tied in with any particular, organized thought. I think everybody, whether you believe in the afterlife or the chance of a near-death experience and you come back and you see some semblance of it, whether that has happened or not I don’t know, but certainly I think everyone’s thought about it at some point or another in time. And it’s a fantasy that if there is anything out there like that it would be just terrific, but that remains to be seen." Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack Bonus Features: "The Eastwood Factor": 90 minute documentary, first time in HD; featurettes with Clint Eastwood and Matt Damon exploring the world of skeptics, psychics and mediums, and the possibility of life after death; The featurettes "Tsunami! Recreating a Disaster," "Is There Life After Death?," "Clint on Casting," "Delving into the Hereafter," "Twin Bonding," "French Speaking French," "Why The White Light?," "Hereafter's Locations - "Casting" the Silent Characters" and "The Eastwood Experience" and DVD & Digital Copies of the film on Disc. For previews and an exclusive look into Hereafter, visit the Official Site at http//hereafter.warnerbros.com/dvd/
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BBC
Doctor Who: The Seeds Of Doom - Doctor Who: The Ark
"Everyone has his or her favorite Doctor Who," explains David Tennant, the English actor who portrayed the tenth and most popular galaxy-traveling Time Lord in the British-produced series Doctor Who, the longest-running science fiction television series in the world (1963-89 and 2005-present). "Your favorite was usually the Doctor you grew up watching. Depending on when you were born, you either wanted to be Tom Baker or Sylvester McCoy. I hope no one wanted to me. (laughs) Of course, having been a Doctor myself, they are all my favorite. They each bring something special to the Doctor, in their very own way." In Doctor Who: The Ark, the 23th episode of the series, which aired during William Hartnell's years as the Time Lord (1963-66), the Doctor must find the cure for the common cold. It's Earth's final days, and the TARDIS is filled with the last remaining members of the human race, the Doctor and his companion Dodo. After landing on a massive spaceship that will act as their home, until Dodo's sneezes and sniffles become a plague to those without the internal defenses to fight the germs off. It's up to Doctor Who to come up with a solution to save them all. The Ark Bonus features: Audio Commentary from Peter Purvus, director Michael Imison and Toby Hadoke; the featurettes "All Well That Ends Well," "One Hit Wonder" and "Riverside Story" (Purvis returns to Riverside Studios where he shot numerous '60s episodes); Photo Gallery; Production Notes; Subtitle Option; PDF Materials and Radio Times Listings.
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BBC
Featuring Tom Baker as Doctor Who (1974-1981), Episode 85 of the show The Seeds Of Doom finds the Doctor and his traveling partner Sarah Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) investigating pods of the parasitic Krynoids, one of the most dangerous life forms in every known universe. Real trouble begins when one of the pods makes its way to Earth, to the English country home of an insane botanist who is hoping for the pod to hatch and infect the whole world. The Seeds Of Doom Bonus Features: Audio Commentary by actors Tom Baker, John Challis, Kenneth Gilbert and Michael McStay, producer Phillip Henchcliffe, writer Robert Banks-Stewart, designer Roger Murray-Leach and Joggs Camfield (son of director Douglas Camfield; the featurettes "Podstock - Making Of," "Playing In The Green Cathedral," "Stripped For Action," "Now and Then" and "So What Do You Do Exactly?" Trailer and Continuity; Photo Gallery; Isolated Music Score; PDF Materials - including Radio Times Listings, Douglas Camfield's Paper Edit, Subtitle Option and Production Notes.
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Image
Colin and Brad: Two Man Group
The hosts of the Emmy Award-winning series Whose Line Is It Anyway? -- Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood -- are also two critically-acclaimed stand-up comedians. "It's like we live double lives," admits Sherwood, one-half of the hosting/comedy duo. "It might mean longer hours, but we enjoy every minute if them. We get to do exactly what we love to do." Although Colin and Brad have toured North America with their laugh-filled show, this is the first time the two have recorded their interactive and completely improvised live show for DVD-viewers to enjoy within the comforts of their homes. Always using volunteer members of their live audience to help them create their on-the-spot, outrageous comedy skits, Colin and Brad ensure their fans they are in for an evening of overall, riotous fun. Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood have been labeled the Masters of Improv comedy, and Two Man Group should demonstrate to most lovers of improvised comedy why they indeed deserve the title. (Only on DVD) Bonus Features: "The DOs and DON'Ts of Improv" featurette and Interview with Brad and Colin.
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Warner Bros.
Batman: The Brave and the Bold: Season One, Part Two
"Throughout the years, Batman has taken on so many personas, but he's always remained dependable when it comes to putting the criminals where they belong," confesses recent Oscar-winner Christian Bale, who has portrayed Batman in the last two live-action movies -- Batman Returns and The Dark Knight. "Batman and Superman are easily considered the two greatest superheroes. But what makes Batman even more special is that he is human. He is a mortal and creates the technology to help fight the villains." In the final 13 episodes of Season One of Batman's Animated Adventures, the hero we've come to know as the Dark Knight uses a little help from his heroic, iconic friends such as Aquaman, Plastic Man, Blue Beetle, Red Tornado, Green Arrow, Wildcat, Deadman, Bronze Tiger and Atom to assist him in putting an end to the evil deeds of criminals like the Music Meister, Bat-Mite, Gentleman Ghost and Equinox. In one episode of the series, the Caped Crusader even finds himself in a parallel world, where he must battle himself as he becomes the evil Owlman. A clever, cutting-edge series, Batman: The Brave and the Bold utilizes hi-tech animation (with a little old-school flair) for Batman's continuing fight to save Gotham City and the world. (Only On DVD) For exclusive clips and previews from Batman: The Bold and the Brave click to its Official Site at http://familyentertainment.kidswb.com/product/batman-the-brave-and-the-bold-season-one-part-two
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Fox
A Shine Of Rainbows
Director Vic Sarin's touching tale about one family who learn, the hard way, the true meaning of love and acceptance. Set on a seemingly magical Irish island, the big-hearted Marie O'Donnell (Gladiator star Connie Nielsen) takes in and adopts an orphan boy named Tomas, in the hopes of him forgetting his past and becoming a part of her family on the cave-filled, seal-inhabited island. However, her husband Alec (Aidan Quinn from Legends Of The Fall) is unhappy with her decision to adopt Tomas and refuses to acknowledge him as his son. Alec's strange decision has an unexpected affect on the young boy -- and residents of the island -- who all begin to look within themselves for hope and answers. "It's always great to do the big, epic, blockbuster movies," veteran actor Aidan Quinn admits. "But I have found that some of the most fulfilling films for me to do are the small movies with the big messages. They challenge you, and if your performance works, those are the films that usually make you the most proud to be an actor." (Only on DVD) Bonus Feature: "So Many Colours: The Making Of A Shine Of Rainbows" featurette.
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Vivendi/The Weinstein Company
Battle of the Warriors
"It has taken a great deal of time," begins Asian action superstar Jet Li, "but people who love fight films are finally taking martial arts choreography and the the movies from Hong Kong very seriously. It's great to see it finally happening." With sweeping, epic films such as Jet Li's Hero, Hong Kong fight films could no longer be ignored and are now considered some of the most artistically exciting, visually-dynamic and highly-bankable film genres of our generation. Yimou Zhang, who directed the groundbreaking Jet Li's Hero, is also the cinematic mastermind behind the latest sword and valor epic Battle of the Warriors (based on the popular Japanese manga series Bokkon). Featuring House of Flying Daggers star Andy Lau in the lead role, Lau portrays a mysterious loner who the people of a tiny kingdom turn to for help when it becomes apparent that their homes will be laid to waste and they will all be killed by a massive, deadly army heading their way. Set in 370 B.C., the film is full of stunning period costumes, ferocious battle sequences and exciting cinematography. Bonus Features: Feature-Length Audio Commentary by Hong Kong Cinema Expert Bey Logan and "The Making of Battle of the Warriors" featurette.
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CBS/Paramount
Peanuts Double Feature
When it comes to classic animation, many people automatically think of the mouse. But the most popular, and well-loved (the world over) comic book characters have to be Charlie Brown, his pet beagle Snoopy, his piano-prodigy pal Linus and Lucy, the thorn in Charlie's side and Linus' pessimistic sister -- a group of legends better known as Peanuts. Created as a syndicated daily newspaper comic strip in 1950 by the talented and late illustrator/cartoonist Charles M. Shultz, the adventures of the Peanuts gang would (at its peak) reach a readership of 355 million in 75 countries and has been translated into 21 different languages. Of course it was only a matter of time before Charlie Brown and the gang made it onto the big screen with their animated, feature-length motion picture debut A Boy Named Charlie Brown. A hit with the millions of Peanuts' fans, A Boy Named Charlie Brown (a look into the lives of Peanuts characters) along with its motion picture follow-up Snoopy Come Home (in which the beloved pup turns up missing), both films would not only turn the gang into movie stars, but also TV stars (because of these two movies and many more special made especially for television) and, of course, household names -- from Toronto to Tel Aviv. Filled with the signature animation of Charles M. Shultz and the memorable musical score by Richard and Robert Sherman, this collectable DVD double pack re-introduces fans to the Peanuts' first two forays into film and reminds us all why we love them so much. (Only on DVD)
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Lionsgate
Hemingway's Garden Of Eden
Based on Ernest Hemingway's final novel -- and adapted for the screen by James Scott Linville) Garden Of Eden is a sexually-charged and deeply erotic tale about a young newlywed couple who begin to explore the various facets of human sexuality. Starring Jack Huston as an American novelist who falls for Catherine, a sexy secrective, temptress (portrayed by Mena Suvari) who fulfills his every desire. "Doing intimate, love scenes can sometimes be the toughest part of doing a movie -- even harder than some of the action sequences," jokes actor Jack Huston, the grandson of legendary, iconic filmmaker John Huston. "Sometimes you can be have naked and the set is filled with an entire crew of man and women. That can certainly give you some kind of anxiety performance," he adds with a laugh. Anxious to begin a life together in which they can fill each other's most wildest fantasies, Catherine introduced the exotic beauty Marita (Caterina Murino) to her husband and soon the trio embark on a dangerous sensual journey filled with equal parts excitement and jealousy. (Only on DVD)
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