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article imageOp-Ed: Eckhart praises entire cast-crew in 'Bleed For This' movie Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Oct 17, 2016 in Entertainment
San Rafael - The downpour of rain did not keep the crowds away from attending the 'Spotlight' event at the 39th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival on Oct. 15.
The film 'Bleed For This' was featured Saturday night and lead actor Aaron Eckhart was there to be honored; bringing a bit of Hollywood 'premier-like' glamour to quaint Mill Valley.
Even though his easy-going, approachable demeanor was very gracious to the press, security was strict about taking photos and lingering too close past the line of the red carpet. This reporter had not been to the Mill Valley Film Festival before, and it was, to be honest, a spur of the moment decision to attend. Michele Spitz of A Woman Of Her Word audio description and voice over is a member of the MVFF andwas eager to share this one-of-a-kind film festival with Digital Journal. The MVFF is centered in Mill Valley but showings like the one on Saturday are held at nearby venues like The Rafael Theater in San Rafael, where 'Bleed For This' was shown.
Founded in 1977 by film buffs Mark Fishkin, Rita Cahill and Lois Cole, that initial three-day local festival has grown to an 11-day international extravaganza that is now hosted by the California Film Institute. Eckhart's appearance represents nearly 40 years of the MVFF ability to attract major stars and celebrities, welcoming submissions from over 200 filmmakers. It has transformed from homespun gathering to a treasured institution attracting attendees from around the world.
The rain on Saturday night Oct. 15 did not keep the lines from forming down the block to get into th...
The rain on Saturday night Oct. 15 did not keep the lines from forming down the block to get into the Rafael Theater in Mill Valley to see actor Aaron Eckhart in the new film yet to be officially released, "Bleed For This."
The MVFF presented Eckhart with an award (The MVFF Award) "in the Spotlight" recognizing and celebrating the work of distinguished artists and innovators in the filmmaking community. He was moved by the honor and thanked everyone. Even though he has become an established star in blockbuster movies like 'Erin Brockovich,' and 'The Dark Knight' (Batman movie), he remains a Bay Area soul and the audience that night felt at ease with him and he with them.
The fact that the annual film festival is a high-caliber event doesn't take away from its charm. "I love coming to this film festival; it is so civilized," said Spitz. People greeted one another warmly and the ambiance was friendly. "Many of the people you see in the audience here tonight I have seen for each night of the festival. We are like a little community," she added.
The movie 'Bleed For This' pulled at the audience's heart-strings, just a bit, as it told the true-life story of boxer Vincent Pazienza (or AKA Vinny Paz). In 1987 he won his first boxing title as a world lightweight champion. Yet four years later in 1991, he almost became permanently paralyzed when he severely injured his neck in a car accident.
Aaron Eckhart was the guest of the  Spotlight  event on Saturday night Oct. 15 as part of the 11-day...
Aaron Eckhart was the guest of the "Spotlight" event on Saturday night Oct. 15 as part of the 11-day Mill Valley Film Festival - its 39th Annual festival held since 1977.
When doctors and everyone else said his boxing days were over, Paz refused to accept the dire diagnosis. With the "halo brace" constricting his everyday movement, he secretly began an exercise routine to rebuild his strength. Eckhart portrays trainer Kevin Rooney who also coached and trained heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. Like the main character of Paz, Rooney is also making a comeback of sorts as he struggles with alcohol, following the peak of his own boxing career and his success as Tyson's trainer.
The Mill Valley Film Festival presented actor Aaron Eckhart with an award at the  Spotlight event  o...
The Mill Valley Film Festival presented actor Aaron Eckhart with an award at the 'Spotlight event' on Saturday Oct 15.
Courtesy of John Zeiter, Jr.
Eckhart, like the rest of the cast, threw himself into the role. After showing the film, during the 'Question and Answer' session, Eckhart told the audience he admired the story of a comeback kid who beat the odds amidst a life-threatening obstacle. "This is perhaps the greatest sports story never told." While the 48-year-old actor from Cupertino, CA shines in the film, undoubtedly as the star, he told the audience that the entire cast and crew are the stars. "Some see this as a boxing movie, I describe it as a family movie."
Paz agreed as he said it was all about family. And, that he would not have been able to achieve the success nor survive the accident if it were not for his family.
Written and directed by Ben Younger, Eckhart explained that it was the influence of producer Martin Scorsese who helped to make the boxing elements come together and serve the story of the film. "Scorsese, Ben Younger, their genius," said Paz. "And, Bruce Cohen and all of the crew — everybody," he added, "they worked on this film as if it was their own."
Unlike the boxing movies we know such as "Rocky," Younger's film has a subtle intensity. The film is gritty but subdued exploration of an Italian-American family of Rhode Island, dealing with adversity. The typical 'godfather' and 'mafia-like' East Coast styles are recognizable. But decidedly unlike those styles is the understated love and devotion placed in the background of the gruff and aggressive ambitions of boxing. "I saw the movie 'Rocky' when I was 15 and I was determined to be a boxer. But this is from my actual life, nothing is exaggerated," said Paz.
Honored guest  actor Aaron Eckhart was present for the  Spotlight  event at the 39th Annual Mill Val...
Honored guest, actor Aaron Eckhart was present for the "Spotlight" event at the 39th Annual Mill Valley Film Festival in Mill Valley, CA on Oct. 15, 2016
Oh and there is no rousing theme song or blaring anthem in "Bleed For This." Unlike 'Rocky' it's tone is very low-key. That is one thing that appealed to me and makes this boxing movie exceptional.
Irish actor Ciarán Hinds portrays Paz's father and Katey Sagal is the mother. When I talked with Paz by phone, he mentioned several times, the tremendous job the entire cast and crew did to make his life story alive on the screen. "I was surprised and amazed," he said.
What was so striking to me with regards to Hinds and Sagal's performances was how well both these actors worked in this story. Usually, Hinds is in a BBC production, like that of a Jane Austin novel or as the dashing but fiendish villian in the Lara Croft Tomb Raider movie. Yet here in 'Bleed For This' he dives into a role that leaves no trace of British airs.
Local realtor John Zeiter  Jr. attended the  Spotlight event  and was impressed.  It was a great fil...
Local realtor John Zeiter, Jr. attended the 'Spotlight event' and was impressed. "It was a great film," he said. He got a chance to meet and chat with "Bleed For This" star Aaron Eckhart.
Courtesy of John Zeiter, Jr.
And as for Sagal of 'Married...with Children' fame, she is the anchoring matriarch keeping her family together. The bombastic wise-cracking wife to Ed O'Neill we knew on the popular 80's sitcom is gone. Sagal portrays a wife and mother with a strength and down-to-earth devotion that speaks louder than any dialogue. Paz noted that he was shocked because he did not realize it was Sagal. And yet, very impressed, because she captured the essence. "I was really lucky to have such great parents," Paz said. "My mom and my dad were the heart and rock of my life."
Eckhart mentioned that the hardest part about preparing for this role wasn't so much the gaining of 40 pounds. "I have purposely gained and lost weight for movie-roles before. The hardest part was that Rhode Island accent."
All of the actors were very much an extension of the place and the time of the story — 1980's Cranston, Rhode Island. The life of the East Coast echoes the hopes and dreams of this working-class family in every way. And as Eckhart said, he worked very hard to get the accent and the way of speaking just right. Paz told me that Eckhart's performance was so authentic that, "I thought of Aaron as Kevin, he did an amazing job bringing to Kevin life."
Actual photo of championship boxer Vinny Paz from 1991 when he was placed in a halo brace after bein...
Actual photo of championship boxer Vinny Paz from 1991 when he was placed in a halo brace after being in a near-fatal car crash.
Courtesy of Vinny Paz
The audience on Saturday night was very pleased with the film. Interestingly, the actor who portrays Paz — Miles Teller — was born in 1987, the year Paz won his first championship. Teller's performance is fitting. The central aspect of his role is linked to the strength of the entire cast. You can't understand Paz's determination without recognizing where he came from, how he was raised, the people in his life, etc.
At times, Teller reminded me of actor John Cusack and in some of the scenes at certain angles, he looked a bit like a young Richard Gere (of 'An Officer and A Gentleman' days) — the cool, cocky and yet thoughtful young man eager to make his own way in the world. Teller portrays a character who is tough, steadfast, but also vulnerable. And here again, the vulnerability is expressed very subtly amid the intensity — just as with the rest of the cast.
The Mill Valley Film Festival concludes today. For more information visit The Mill Valley Film Festival web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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