David O. Russell's sports biopic The Fighter is based on the real-life tale of world champion welterweight boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward, his older half-brother and trainer Dicky Eklund, and his girlfriend Charlene. In the roles of Dicky and Charlene, the film stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams (alongside Mark Wahlberg as Mickey), and the two actors sat down with Buzzine in Beverly Hills for an in-depth interview about boxing, brotherhood, and first kisses.
Izumi Hasegawa: Mr. Dicky Eklund seems like someone who would take a very active interest in the filming of this movie. Was it necessary, at any point, to do Eklund management--to have him as a resource but perhaps not...
Christian Bale: There were a couple of times I had to physically restrain Dicky from landing one right on David [O. Russell]. We had some initial interesting times when we were rehearsing in Mark [Wahlberg]'s house, where Mark very nicely put up Mickey [Ward] and Dicky--they actually lived at his house for some time. 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 were a couple of times he would say, "I'm gonna go and I'm gonna get him," and that's a serious thing coming from a pro boxer. So there were a couple of times I'd be going, "No, no, no." And then we'd talk and David would talk with him, and I'm not sure if you ever had to stop him from coming and laying one on me. That could well have happened as well. But it was an interesting time. But he actually came around seemed to really understand it. After we showed him the movie, he didn't punch any of us. I talk to him almost daily. I think that's a great achievement--to make the story of someone's life...
IH: How do you lose weight? It seems like you've done this many times--this rapid extreme weight loss. 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?
CB: 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. 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. But there's not a whole lot of secrets to it. One really good thing is to have this particular water, Aqua Hydrate. [Laughs] I found that helps to lose weight immensely. And run a lot. I'll be gettin' cash from you later.
IH: What is your take on Dicky, and do you think he is ultimately a good influence for his brother?
CB: I think he was an absolute source of inspiration initially, and then I think he probably became an absolute confusion for his younger brother. It's an immensely loyal family and they're immensely loyal brothers, but as you see in the movie, it took Charlene to convince Mickey that it wasn't him abandoning his family to be able to remove himself for a little while in order to change the dynamics. I also think Dicky had immense pressure from the family in the expectations they had of him at such a young age, and through his success, the whole family would have success. I think very much that's a part as well of what was drawing him to self-destruction. Once Dicky was able to initiate and say it's no longer his time, it's Mickey's time now, and then convince the rest of the family of that, which took some doing, then Dicky was no end of help for Mickey. I don't think it could have happened without one or the other. This movie wouldn't exist without that beautiful relationship between the two brothers. Mark was a great deal of help--he would never say anything, but he'd just get a certain look on his face when you said something that you just knew wasn't it. But also Dicky's got his own thing goin' on. He calls it Dickinese, 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.
EI: Amy, you did a great job in one of the fight scene in the film--very convincing fighting with his sister. Tell us about that...
Amy Adams: 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. 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. When I was younger, my sister thought it was funny to pretend to fight–to punch me in the face 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, but it was fun. I had a good time.
IH: Could you comment on your preparation to do the film?
AA: David's belief that I could be Charlene [Fleming] was like half of the preparation. But just knowing that he knew I could do it 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."
IH: Can you talk a bit about the drug issues in this film and how it doesn't focus on that...?
CB: I think also a lot of other people would overemphasize the druggie nature, the addiction, as though that was something fascinating to see. We felt like we've seen that in so many movies, and you don't meet Dicky and Mickey--it's not what you think about. Of course it's part of his past, but you didn't want to obsess on that. David's got this great sort of tandem earnestness and complete silliness going on at the same time, which is great. He's got a very big heart. It would be very funny. There'd be times when he was often crying with laughter, and also just flat out cryin'. I remember often, at Mark's place, you'd be listening to stories or telling a story, or listening to Dicky or whatever, listening to Mickey. It was either they had David's sides splitting with laughter and he was balling his eyes out with that, and then it would segue into tragedy and he'd be balling his eyes out. You could really see how much he felt it and really enjoyed the company of these guys and was going through a whole roller coaster of emotions, which is usually what actors are gonna be doing. But David was right in there feeling every little bit of it as much as any of us.
IH: In the movie, Amy's character gets labeled as an MTV girl...
AA: That's right.
IH: What's your opinion on that label, and do you think it's fair? Also, did it guide your research in any way?
AA: Well, that was their opinion of her. She was no MTV girl. I think MTV then was very different--they actually showed music videos, which I liked. But I think it meant that she was wild, that she was like a party girl. That's what those sisters said, right? They were like, "She was trash." I think she still gets accused of it here and there. Do I think it's fair? From Charlene's perspective, no. She was just a girl trying to make good, trying to deal with what she had. She is a sweetheart. 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 was content to sit in the background. As a matter of fact, I think they had to really convince her to put herself on tape so I could watch her. She was not about drawing attention to herself. She was really happy that Mickey's story was being told, and she was really supportive of that. So I don't think it was fair.
IH: The chemistry with you and Mark's characters is so there. How much work goes into that before you guys start shooting?
AA: It was pretty instant. It was so easy to work with him and...for the women in here, you saw him. I mean, l 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 his wife and my significant other, Mark has a great quality as an actor and he was able to show that with Mickey, this vulnerability. And a man who's powerful and strong yet is able to show tenderness and vulnerability–that's really sexy.
CB: And he's got a full set of teeth in his head as well.
AA: I love teeth. But David didn't really give us much option. I remember it was the first day, and 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." David's like, "Deeper, deeper..."
Relativity Media's 'The Fighter' opens in theaters on Friday, December 10, 2010.