Fighter: Director David O. Russell

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David O. Russell is the director of "The Fighter," the biopic of boxer Micky Ward, starring Mark Wahlberg. The film, which also stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams, is being released by Paramount on December 10.

Russell saw The Fighter as a love story.  He approached it not only as Micky and Dicky’s story as brothers, but also as the story of Micky’s quest to reconcile his tight-knit family to the woman he loves, and he put the collision course between Charlene and the family at the center of the narrative.   “The Fighter is about people who are really human, all too human, like every one of us,” he says.  “These are the best types of film characters and they are also authentic Lowell characters. Lowell is a very particular working class town outside of Boston and this family is a large presence there. They have a very particular way of living and being. The mother is this bleached blonde force of nature with the cigarettes and the glass in her hand, managing her sons’ careers over two decades.  Then you have Dicky, who is the biggest hero out of Lowell since Jack Kerouac, who is this warm, charismatic, loose kind of guy who’s also a little outrageous.  And then here comes his younger brother, Micky who is quiet and disciplined and can’t quite figure out how to separate himself from his family.”


He continues:  “I wanted to tell the story of these people and their world.  They are in some ways heartbreaking, in some ways hilarious, yet always very, very real.”


On Wahlberg playing Micky Ward


“Mark inhabited Micky,” says David O. Russell.  “He moved like him, dressed like him and got his style of fighting down perfectly.  More than that, I think he also he really understood him.  Like Micky, Mark’s family has been through everything  – all kinds of heartbreak.  Like Micky, he doesn’t give up, ever. He has that same intensity to him.  It’s a quiet, frightening intensity that when he breaks it out, is extremely powerful.”


He goes on:  “Mark has been a fighter, he has also been in and out of jail in the past, so he brought all that realness, all that heart and all that experience to the character of Micky.  Mark set the bar very high with how much commitment he had to give the role and how much love he had for these people.  It elevated everything everyone else did, whether you were the makeup artist or the director.”


Christian Bale plays Dicky Eklund


“Christian was perfect because he is one of those chameleon actors who transforms himself,” says Russell.  “He spent a lot of time with the real Dicky Eklund and he became him.”


“Christian’s a very quiet guy, but by channelling Dicky, he was able to become this extremely colorful, intense guy who enjoys talking to people everywhere.  I mean Dicky is friends with everybody on the street of Lowell, everywhere. He’s like the mayor. Christian became that guy.”  


On Amy Adams as Charlene


Says Russell of the role: “Amy’s character is a woman who can lay you out with a straight right. She’s hard as nails and that’s what it took to help Micky.  It took someone as tough as she was to help pull him away from this amazing, insane, very powerful force of his family, which was as destructive as it was constructive.”


He continues: “Amy was playing against type.  She even changed the tone of her voice.  Amy is normally a very warm person, but once she started to become Charlene, she wouldn’t smile and she was not friendly.  One day I said to her ‘What’s wrong?’ and she said ‘Nothing. I’m just in character.’  She was in character all the time. She was amazing and her character became so intimidating and powerful – this tough, confident girl who has had a lot of messed up things happen in her past, but is willing to be called out on them.”


Capturing Micky's fighting style


“We wanted to capture what made Micky so unusual,” says Russell. “There are very few fighters who drop people with a body shot like that. He had a very particular fighting style, which really represented his personality.  He was a steadfast, disciplined, never give up kind of fighter, who could take a lot of punishment and he was also that kind of person.”  


“We wanted the audience to be able to sense and smell the sweat,” the director concludes.  “We didn’t want it to feel stylized.  We wanted it to feel real.”