Mark Wahlberg on Fighting to Make The Fighter
11.23.10 by Ryan
Mark Wahlberg's latest movie The Fighter is already getting plenty of positive attention prior to its December release, but as Wahlberg revealed to 60 Minutes, the project was a real labor of love for the actor. Not only does Wahlberg star as welterweight fighter "Irish" Micky Ward, but Wahlberg produced the true story, spending four years training while the movie struggled to be made. The situation was a stressful one for Wahlberg, who continued to train despite not knowing if the movie would ever step in front of the cameras.
There were certainly times where I would wake up at 4:30 in the morning, you know, my trainer would ring the bell. And, "Oh God." I'm like, "I better get this movie made." You know, "Kill somebody if I don't get this movie made."
Wahlberg admitted that he was drawn to the project because he was "such a huge Micky Ward fan" which to him was "like the name Larry Bird — just a local sports hero."
Wahlberg's commitment to creating realistic boxing for the movie meant he literally had to take some punches. "It doesn't tickle," Wahlberg told 60 Minutes correspondent Lara Logan. "I almost got my nose broken a couple of times. Because when we shot the fights, the goal for me was always to make it as real as possible."
More difficult than the fight scenes was getting The Fighter produced. Originally set for Darren Aronofsky, the director left the project to make The Wrestler, with David O. Russell eventually taking over the director's chair (Aronofsky remained as executive producer). Then, Matt Damon and, later, Brad Pitt would both accept and vacate the role of Ward's half-brother and trainer Dicky Ecklund, which eventually went to Christian Bale. In a previous interview with Deadline, Wahlberg said the revolving door that surrounded the movie meant he had to take it upon himself to figure out how to get the movie made the way he wanted.
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. This movie had to get made. So I had to figure [it] out. At Paramount, they had a certain idea of how they wanted the movie to be made, the filmmaker, the costar and the budget. We went down the road with a couple other people and it didn’t work out. 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 for a little while, and then bring it back to you? 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.
There were times we were so desperate to make the movie that we almost made the wrong version of the movie. For whatever reason, we were protected. I was able to get David O Russell. 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.
Wahlberg said it was the most adversity he'd ever faced in trying to make a movie.
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.