Wahlberg talks up ‘The Fighter’

Posted by · 4:25 pm · July 20th, 2010

When I remarked in a post yesterday that the upcoming awards season looks a little short on the high-profile biopic contenders so beloved of Academy voters, I had a feeling I was forgetting something obvious. And so I was: “The Fighter,” David O. Russell’s biopic of against-the-odds boxing champ “Irish” Micky Ward, starring Mark Wahlberg in the title role.

In Friday’s episode of Oscar Talk, Kris expressed his high hopes for the film, singling out Christian Bale (as Ward’s half-brother and trainer Dicky Eklund) as a rumored standout. His faith is reflected in the updated predictions to your right, including potential bids in the two top races, as well as three acting categories. (Melissa Leo is currently tapped for Best Supporting Actress, but Amy Adams could be in the mix too.)

Anne Thompson responded somewhat skeptically to Kris’s enthusiasm, suggesting that Russell’s film (should it turn out well, of course) is in a position to take some in the industry by surprise — always a good place to be from an awards-campaign standpoint. Meanwhile, it would appear that the film’s minders are opting not to build up buzz via the fall festival track: in this Collider interview, Wahlberg explains that they’ll likely skip Toronto and the rest, choosing instead to “go out and go big” with a December release.

Wahlberg certainly isn’t coy about hyping the film, however. In the same interview, he claims it’s “the best film that [he’s] been in” — fighting words from the star of “Boogie Nights” and “The Departed.” Needless to say, any such quote from a star should be taken with a fistful of salt, but good things tend to happen when Wahlberg and Russell team up. “Three Kings” is grand, obviously, but for my money, “I Heart Huckabees” remains the actor’s career-best work. (The director’s too, for that matter.)

If they can go one better this time — and if the Best Actor category continues to want for plausible on-paper winners, as it currently does — it seems to me the run of Oscar acting champs in biopics might not be broken this season after all.

For the beleaguered Russell, who recently washed his hands of the long-troubled production of “Nailed,” the choice to direct a simple, character-centered sports drama after a run of difficult projects follows a strikingly similar template to the career revival of one Darren Aronofsky; comparisons to “The Wrestler” seem inevitable, and the film will have to be something special to withstand them. Like Kris, I’m keeping a keen if guarded eye on this one.

[Photo: Collider]

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18 responses so far

  • 1 7-20-2010 at 4:38 pm

    Drew said...

    The fact that they’re skipping the fall festivals isn’t really a great sign to me. Traditionally, that’s how movies like The Fighter build up their buzz, and in some ways they definitley need it. I’m not sure if Up in the Air or The Wrestler would’ve gotten there awards contention regocnition had theynot debuted at the fest circuits. Unless they’re hoping for the male-equivelant of something like The Blindside, which was really a left-field success, I’m still skeptical of it’s chances. From what I have heard though, the film played particuarly well at a test-screening earlier in the year.

  • 2 7-20-2010 at 4:57 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    If the film plays, then I don’t see the lack of festival exposure being an issue. It wasn’t for “Million Dollar Baby,” though that admittedly had the Clint factor going for it.

    Also, long-building festival buzz can backfire: I think one can argue that “Up in the Air” peaked too early last year.

  • 3 7-20-2010 at 5:24 pm

    Mr. F said...

    I think that skipping the festivals is a great strategy. Like many said last year, “Up in the Air” lost the buzz because it became the front runner way too early, and it took two more months for it to be released to the majority of the public. And to keep the buzz going it needed to be discovered by the audiences. But by the time it came out, Avatar was all that people seemed to think about.

  • 4 7-20-2010 at 6:04 pm

    Chad Hartigan said...

    Wahlberg in Huckabees was in my top 10 performances of the last decade.

  • 5 7-20-2010 at 7:34 pm

    tony rock said...

    People like to rag on Wahlberg for being a bad actor, but the guy has been consistently good whenever paired with a talented filmmaker (Russell, Scorsese, PTA). His performance in Boogie Nights is very underrated in my opinion. Just watch the classic drug deal scene.

  • 6 7-20-2010 at 7:42 pm

    Jacob S. said...

    I love Wahlberg. He has some pretty good breadth, too. He’s good in action roles, serious roles, and in comedy as well. His presence in “The Other Guys” actually has me looking forward to it despite Will Ferrel going downhill for the past few years.

  • 7 7-20-2010 at 8:01 pm

    Filmoholic said...

    “fighting words from the star of “Boogie Nights” and “The Departed.”

    The Departed, yes, but Boogie Nights is kind of a derivative mess. I like it, but it’s PTA’s weakest effort.

    While I’m not expecting something as good as The Wrestler, I’m looking froward to The Fighter.

  • 8 7-20-2010 at 8:26 pm

    SJG said...

    I used to detest Mark Wahlberg, because unfortunately the first movie I saw him in was “Planet of the Apes” and that was the first I’d been exposed to him since he was Marky Mark when I was a little kid, so I’ve been thoroughly shocked to find out what a great actor he actually is.

    I feel like he’s still living down the stigma of his youth and many people don’t take him as seriously as he deserves, so I really hope he hits this one out of the park. It would be nice to see Mark Wahlberg with an Oscar… or at the very least another nomination to his name.

  • 9 7-20-2010 at 9:35 pm

    /3rtfu11 said...

    I hate his nomination for The Departed. He was superior in Boogie Nights but the ’97 Oscars were awful wins in the acting categories except for Kim Basinger.

    David O Russell has a monopoly on bringing out his most natural performances.

  • 10 7-20-2010 at 10:23 pm

    caro said...

    the first & second screen test was very very good for the movie and the actors(every one thought Bale was incredible and the “girls ” great great)

  • 11 7-21-2010 at 12:34 am

    the other mike said...

    actually recall some of his fights with the late Arturo Gatti, these guys were warriors.

  • 12 7-21-2010 at 9:07 am

    Robert Hamer said...

    @ /3rtfu11: You hated Wahlberg’s nomination for being awesome in The Departed? Please tell me you’re saying that because you wanted to see Alec Baldwin and not “Crazy Jack” up there instead.

  • 13 7-21-2010 at 9:56 am

    /3rtfu11 said...

    For Robert

    It wasn’t a best in show nomination. He’s simply being recognized for having the crowd pleasing scene at the end of a Scorsese picture. I like Mark as an actor especially with David O Russell. Scorsese didn’t get anything special out of him except another angry – yelling character.

  • 14 7-21-2010 at 10:21 am

    j said...

    Right now I’m team Colin Firth all the way, though I would be delighted to see Sean Penn join the 6 lead noms club.

  • 15 7-21-2010 at 1:30 pm

    Simon Warrasch said...

    Mark Whalberg was amazing in Boogie Nights! And i think that he will be nominated next year for “The Fighter”.

    Best Leading Actor:

    Mark Whalberg – The Fighter
    James Franco – 127 Hours
    Andy Serkis – Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

    Winner: James Franco – 127 Hours

  • 16 7-21-2010 at 1:48 pm

    Simon Warrasch said...

    My TOP 5:

    1. Andy Serkis – Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll
    2. Javier Bardem – Biutiful
    3. James Franco – 127 Hours
    4. Colin Firth – The King’s Speech
    5. Mark Whalberg – The Fighter


    Leonardo Di Caprio – Inception
    Jeff Bridges – True Grit
    Jake Gyllenhaal – Love and other Drugs

  • 17 7-21-2010 at 1:53 pm

    Simon Warrasch said...

    And Ryan Gosling in Blue Valentine! Of Course!

  • 18 7-21-2010 at 3:33 pm

    Sound Designer Dan said...

    Does anyone know if this movie has a scene with Ward fighting Arturo Gatti for the first time? As a boxing fan, it’s probably the one greatest fights I’ve ever seen.