Inspired by a true story, The Fighter spotlights the boxing careers of “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his half-brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), and their crazy family. Managed by his overbearing mother Alice, played by Melissa Leo, Micky is getting pummeled in the ring at every event. When his iron-willed new girlfriend Charlene (Amy Adams) begins to take charge, she insists that Micky break away from his family to purse his own interests and there are fireworks between Alice and Charlene.
But in real life Amy Adams and Melissa Leo are friends, as they acknowledged at the press day for the movie.
How did you prepare for your roles?
Melissa Leo The first stepping off place was David Russell’s (the director) belief that I could be his Alice. I thought, ‘Well golly, I’m only a couple of years older than (Mark and Christian), and I’m not such a pushy gal by my reckoning. You really think so, David?’ I don’t know how to describe it except he had a palpable belief that I could be his Alice.
He then gave me the opportunity to meet Alice Ward and upon meeting her saw immediately my maternal grandmother in Alice, and knew then that, ‘Oh, I have her in here somewhere.’
Amy Adams I’ll just echo what Melissa said. David’s belief that I could be Charlene was half of the preparation.
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 lowers her voice), ‘She’s down here; she’s low.’
Everyone was so much fun and so generous and supportive. I had such a great time working with Mark and everyone brought to much to his or her character. Christian’s just unbelievable and inspiring and Melissa, we’re close far beyond the set.
Can you talk about Alice’s relationship with Charlene?
Melissa Leo The relationship between Alice and Charlene is so interesting. I think it’s one of those things that happen when a son ends up being with a woman who is very much like his mother. When that happens, the mother and the wife don’t have an easy time of it.
Amy, you were convincing fighting with the actresses who play Mark’s sisters.
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 of boxing lessons with Mark’s trainer, who was fantastic. Then we just did some fight choreography. My biggest concern was not hurting anybody. 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 punch me in the face, because my mom was concerned about my teeth falling out, 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.
In the movie your character is labeled as an MTV girl – what do you think of that label and do you think it’s fair?
Amy Adams That was (the family’s) opinion of her, she was no MTV girl. I think that 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 his sisters said. I think she still gets accused of it.
She was just a girl trying to make good, trying to deal with what she had. 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 this story.’ She was content to sit in the background.
I think (David) 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 Micky’s story was being told, and she was very supportive of that.
Was it fun to domineer Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale?
Melissa Leo With Christian, I watched him become Dicky, using mannerisms that he never would have dreamt of himself, while incorporating himself into Dicky as well. It was a joy to play with, banter with and love him fiercely as my favorite son. With Mark, I felt an enormous respect, but never felt like I really got to fully know him. I think that’s akin to how Alice feels about Micky. She loves him, but she thinks he doesn’t need her in the way that her older son does.
Getting to know Christian and Mark was an awesome part to this job. More different actors you couldn’t find, but each brings incredible talents all his own. They were perfect as brothers, so alike and so different.
You and Mark had a great chemistry, how much work went into that?
Amy Adams With Mark, it was pretty instant. How hard is it to pretend that you’re attracted to that? Like, ‘Oh gosh, I’m such a good actress.’ With that being said, with all respect to his wife and my significant other, Mark has a great quality as an actor and he’s able to show that with Micky, a man who’s powerful and strong yet is able to show tenderness and vulnerability. That’s really sexy.