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Turning Into Cinderella Man
In addition to the research and preparation for embodying the character of Braddock, Crowe would need to undergo a great deal of physical training to portray a man who possessed not only the courage but the physical prowess and pugilistic skills to take on the greatest fighters of his time. Crowe began the process by immersing himself in the archives of photographs and film reels that still exist of Braddock in his fighting heyday. He spent hours meticulously analyzing the fighter's every movement and facial expression in the ring, dissecting his character's uncanny drive and persistence from the outside in.

At the same time, Crowe also began to study the art of boxing—the sport known as "the sweet science” for its multifaceted mix of grace, grit and strategy—with trainer Angelo Dundee, who for 21 years trained the greatest champion of them all, Muhammad Ali. The next task was to whip Crowe into the highly conditioned shape of a hungry pro boxer. But because Crowe was devoted to absolute authenticity, he didn't want to use today's far more sophisticated training methods; rather, he wanted to use the same bare-bones methods Jim Braddock would have used. From research, Crowe learned that boxers in the 1930s rarely trained with weights, giving them a less cut physique than current boxers, so his program studiously avoided pumping iron. Instead, the emphasis was put on cardio and endless days and nights of sparring, sparring and more sparring in the ring—which eventually transformed the actor from 228 pounds of Master and Commander's Captain Jack Aubrey to Braddock's fighting weight of 178.

Taking advantage of the actor's natural athleticism, Dundee brought in trainer Wayne Gordon, himself a former Olympic boxer, to design a regimen that included kayaking, swimming, running, biking, hiking mountains, skipping rope and working a bag – all designed to build a naturally strong (but not overly muscular) body built for power and endurance. Crowe trained with typical intensity, dropping numerous pounds to better emulate Braddock's physique—the physique some said was too light and too battered to ever even hope for a regional win, let alone a heavyweight championship.

To better capture Braddock's unique pugilistic style, Crowe also worked on choreography with Angelo Dundee, who was lucky enough to have witnessed Braddock fight in person on several occasions. The trainer taught Russell to use the left hook that Braddock developed to overcome the weakness of his right hand and even how to carry his body as if he were several inches taller, as Braddock was.

As the details came together, Crowe's complete transformation took Dundee aback. "I think I would have to go so far as to say Russell is Jim Braddock,” says the venerable trainer.

"I'm amazed the way Russell picked up his mannerisms, his smoothness, the legs, the way he slides, that slip, slide, block, slide, jab—boom! Like Jim, he has just about the greatest left hook I've ever seen. He's got the speed, the rhythm, the determination and especially the will. Best of all, he has learned to think like a fighter. One thing about Braddock is that he was a smart fighter, and Russell uses his noodle just like Braddock did. I do think if he wasn't an actor, Russell could have been a great fighter.”

Despite having worked with Crowe before, Ron Howard was also surprised by how Crowe used his physical changes to demonstrate Braddock's transformation as a man. "What Russell has done so well is to let Braddock evolve during the course of the movie—as both a fighter and as a person. Russell draws from what he discerns and then reflects that back in a very detailed way. It's the root of his immense talent. He has great instincts about what makes his character tick and how to express it. The fights needed to be a reflection of Braddock's character and Russell was able to do that. Once again as an artist he pro

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