What started out as a low-budget documentary project five years ago has now escalated into a major motion picture from Paramount Studios. “The Fighter” directed by David O. Russell, will portray the life and boxing career of famous former boxing champion Micky Ward, who will be played by Mark Wahlberg.
“This film has been in the works for over five years,” said Ward. “It started as a little documentary about me and my brother getting out of jail and training me. Then going over to London and winning the WBU Light Welterweight title (by TKO 8 over Shea Neary in 2000). I know the WBU is not recognized as one of the top three titles but what are you gonna do? It’s still a world title. With that and the three Arturo Gatti fights and all that went on, the film got going. And this is what it tuned into.”
Wahlberg, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his supporting role in “Departed,” trained at Freddie Roach’s Wildcard Gym in Los Angeles to prepare for the acting job he’s long sought. “I’ve been dying to do a boxing movie my whole career,” Wahlberg said in a previous interview. “I’ve been close to doing two and they kinda fell apart. But this is something I’m very excited about.” Brad Pitt and then Matt Damon were originally projected to play the part of Ward’s older half-brother and trainer Dickie Eklund, but Christian Bale eventually landed the role. Eminem, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo also star in “The Fighter.” Filming took place in Lowell, MA last summer and and has been completed, except for final editing.
The Micky Ward story is another classic ‘underdog conquers the world’ saga, but with a different twist. Ward’s older half-brother was troubled but talented Dickie Eklund, who once boxed the legendary Sugar Ray Leonard when he was just 21. When the prospects of his ring career began to take a turn for the worse, Eklund got involved in a life of crime and drug use. But he eventually turns it around and helps teach younger brother Micky how to become a world champion.
Ward says he actually didn’t play much of a part of the film-making process. “I really had nothing to do with it. The writer asked me some questions, that’s about it” says the 44-year-old Ward. “I had to be there for most of the boxing scenes. The acting was all up to them, you know?”
Ward, who was known for his devastating left hook to the body, has seen some of the film’s footage and isn’t complaining. “I looked good, I looked really good,” he chuckles. “Mark’s a great guy. I knew him before this. He’s a good kid.”
David O. Russell, the director of the film, also directed George Clooney in “Three Kings”, “Spanking The Monkey”, Flirting With Disaster”, “Hairway To The Stars”, and “I Love Huckabees.”
To have his life story chronicled onto the silver screen is the ultimate honor for a professional athlete and Ward says he’s not concerned with how the film performs with audiences at the box office. “It doesn’t really matter to me. Hopefully, they like it,” says the man who boxed professionally from 1985 to 2003 and shared a ring with such champions as Zab Judah, Frankie Warren, Jesse Leija, Charles Murray, Vince Phillips and Gatti. “I have no expectations. I hope it brings good things. I just go with the flow, just like when I was a fighter. Roll with the punches. I just hope everybody likes it.”