LOS ANGELES — A Hollywood producer in search of a project would be hard pressed to find a life more dramatic and extreme than that of Mark Wahlberg. The Dorchester native has evolved from juvenile delinquent to rapper to underwear model to Oscar-nominated actor. And now he's a Hollywood producer himself.
So for his first big production, he chose a story almost as outlandish as his own, that of "Irish" Micky Ward, the Pride of Lowell, whose rise from hard-luck kid to world champion is related in The Fighter. Even with Wahlberg in the starring role, and with David O. Russell as director and Christian Bale as Micky's ne'er-do-well brother, Dicky, the project took five years to put together. I spoke with Wahlberg at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, and he explained how it came about.
Why did this take so long to make?
I don't know; I felt like it was pretty much a no-brainer, but there were a lot of different things, a lot of moving parts. The studio saw it a certain way, with a certain cast and filmmaker, and things just seemed to come together and then would eventually fall apart. And so I said, "Okay, we've gotta find another way." I was already committed to making it; I had promised Micky, Dicky . . . their family, that I was gonna get it done, so we had to get it done.
You were training every day for five years while this was going on. You could probably start a boxing career right now.
Micky and Dicky tried to get me to go in and take four or six rounds with somebody because they felt like I was ready, but I just . . . you know . . . I was doing it for the movie, and I didn't want to go in and pull a Mickey Rourke.
Yeah, his face didn't work out too well after that.
No. He wasn't very good, either.
Are you still hitting the speed bag?
I do still have the ring [built in the gym in his home]. But as far as the regimen . . . my new regimen consists of a bottle of red wine and a lot of food. So I'm enjoying myself, and my wife [Rhea Durham] is like, "You know . . . you're starting to look really bad . . . you know, I'm like a former Victoria's Secret model, a supermodel, you wanna hold onto me, you've gotta do something." [Laughs] So I'm back in the gym.
How did David O. Russell get involved?
We've been friends for a long time; we made two other movies together [I (Heart) Huckabees and Three Kings]. He knew I was making this movie, and he knew that Darren Aronofsky was no longer the director and that we were talking to other filmmakers, and he took it upon himself to get a hold of the script, and he called me at night to talk about what he thought needed to be better. I was interested in hearing what he said, and it just dawned on me that this is probably the best guy to make this movie. David was trying to bring a sense of humor and emotion that I don't think anybody else was capable of.