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THE FIGHTER

About The Characters
When it came to casting Micky Ward – the underdog boxer dubbed "Irish Thunder” for his sudden blasts of power as he won an astonishing string of fights in a match's final moments – there was never any doubt that Mark Wahlberg would take the role.

Wahlberg had been passionate about making a film about the up-and-down and then triumphant relationship of boxing brothers Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund for years and, in fact, had already personally approached the two about doing a movie. He not only stars in The Fighter, but also serves as a producer.

Long before the film received its "green light,” Wahlberg went into hardcore training. For three years, he brought his athletic trainer with him on all his other film projects and was constantly working out. "That often meant getting up at four o'clock in the morning,” he says, "going to the gym for two hours, taking a shower, then going to do another job, all while hitting the mitts in the trailer in between takes.”

Adds producer Ryan Kavanaugh, "Mark has been incredibly passionate about this movie for years and years. Mark lived with it for so long and believed in it so deeply. He became Micky Ward in every way.”

Working with trainer Bo Cleary, Wahlberg was paired with real sparring partners so he could take his skills to the next level. Wahlberg summarizes: "Every day I lived and breathed boxing to become Micky Ward. I knew the kind of expectations Micky had and mine were just as high. I wanted to be believable in every aspect of the role, including the boxing. I didn't want to rely on editing or choreography. I wanted to look and be the part, for real.”

The result was that by the time shooting started, Wahlberg was in near-professional boxing condition. He also was ready to dive into Micky's inner world, one torn by his loyalty to his family and his need to step out into the world as his own man.

"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.”

The real Micky Ward was thrilled that an actor with the charisma and acting chops of Wahlberg would play him. "I also liked that he's a local guy from Dorchester and he knew my history. He's from the streets,” says Ward. Ward, winner of the World Championship title in 2000 against Shea Neary and winner of two "Fights of the Year” for beating Arturo Gatti and one "Fight of the Year” for beating Emanuel Burton, says that he was greatly impressed by Wahlberg's level of commitment in preparing for the role. "He really did his homework,” Ward notes. "Through his dedication and perseverance, Mark helped to make this movie happen. I just can't thank him enough.”

Most of all, Ward was taken aback by Wahlberg's dedication to getting into fighting shape and learning all he could about Ward's distinctive boxing techniques. "He had my moves in the ring down,” muses Ward. "I tap to the head and throw that left hook to the liver and I think he actually hurt a few of his guys in the gym doing that. I was sitting there going ‘ooh, that hurts.'”

Ward even stepped into the ring with Wahlberg himself in a few practice bouts. "He punches hard and he knows where to get you, too,” Ward proclaims of the man who learned to emulate his style. "He watched me too good! I was sore the next couple of days. I got him back, but he was ready for it. He knew me so well, he knew what was coming.”

While Wahlberg seemed destined to play the role of Micky Ward, next began the search for an actor who could match him as Dicky Eklund. David O. Russell and Mark Wahlberg both agreed the role would require an actor of unusual dexterity, someone able to get to the heart of a tricky character who is appealingly funny and talented yet also a broken hero in search of redemption.

There were multiple levels to Dicky. As a fighter, he was known for his iron tenacity, his strategy and his stunning speed. Among friends in Lowell, he was known for his charisma, friendliness and humor. On the streets, he had become caught up in a violent life of addiction, one that ultimately led to a 10-15 year jail sentence as his life spiralled downward. Christian Bale, renowned for his ability to penetrate the most intense of characters, from the shadowy superhero Batman in The Dark Knight to John Conner in Terminator Salvation, brought all of these qualities to bear on his performance.

"I'd seen Christian do some pretty amazing things physically and emotionally as an actor,” says Wahlberg. "I thought he would be incredible,” says Wahlberg .

"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 took one look at the material and he loved it,” recalls David Hoberman. "He really wanted to invest himself in this role, which we knew is what it would take to show Dicky's full journey.”

Dicky Eklund and Micky Ward were also pleased with the choice. "When Christian came on board, Dicky was so happy,” recalls Ward. "If you had just met Dicky and you had seen Christian, you'd think it was the same person. He played him to a tee. It was incredible to watch.”

Bale was drawn to Eklund's inner landscape, full of equal parts charm and demons, and couldn't wait to meet him. "Dicky's one hell of a character,” he comments. "I was very happy to get to know him. He had such an extraordinary talent, which I don't think he fully appreciated himself, but he was also drawn to extremes. He had extreme ups and extreme downs. Dicky was so naturally gifted that he was able to go drinking all night and then jump in the ring in the morning, but that catches up to you after awhile, and it was hard for him to fulfill on his potential. He could have been champ. Yet, he always had a big heart.”

He was also was riveted by the script's portrait of Dicky and Micky's complex but undefeated sibling relationship. "The two brothers were absolute opposites,” he says. "Micky was all about hard work and discipline. They were such total opposites that Micky was a prison guard at the same Billerica Jail that Dicky served time in. Yet they were also as closely bonded as only brothers can be. They really needed each other. They were on such different paths in their lives, but ultimately, they couldn't do what they each needed to do without the other.”

Bale began prepping for the role by transforming his physical appearance dropping almost 30 pounds to reveal a sinewy fighter's physique whittled away by hard living. He, too, began intensive boxing training, working with the real Dicky Eklund to learn his unique moves. A newcomer to the ring, Bale also says he had to learn to think like a pugilist.

"In the ring, you have to learn to calm your mind, because you've got to stop going into that animalistic fight mode when someone is trying to hit you. You've got to calm yourself and get

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