Fact and Fiction in THE FIGHTER

     January 7, 2011

On my way home from taking my dad to see The Fighter yesterday (which marked my third time seeing the film in case you were wondering), we had a conversation regarding the authenticity of David O. Russell’s flick. Turns out Rope of Silicon’s Brad Brevet shared a similar curiosity and scoured the internet for facts. His findings, particularly in regards to the boxing matches themselves, are pretty cool and further increase my respect for the-sure-to-be-nominated boxing film. While naturally some dramatic liberties were taken, most of the fight sequences, namely the final bout with Shea Neary are quite accurately recreated – even down to the play-by-play commentaries. Those of you who are interested can check out the article here, and the Shea fight here. Also of interest (thanks to some snooping of my own) is the match between Ward and Sanchez, and Dicky Eklund’s much touted go with Sugar Ray Leonard.  Oh the power of YouTube. Hit the jump for more.

For the record, I have to admit that I’m a huge admirer of O. Russell’s film. Beautifully shot, wonderfully acted and impeccably told, The Fighter is one of the great films of 2010 (if not the greatest). Yet, films that are “Based on a true story” often leave me wanting once the “true” facts are taken into consideration. The other day I listened to Bill Paxton’s commentary for The Greatest Game Ever Played and was disappointed at the absurd amount of liberties he took to tell his story. I understand the need to create dramatic intensity, but if the story is good enough to be adapted for the big screen then why not let it speak for itself?

That’s exactly the approach O. Russell and his team took for The Fighter, which goes to painstaking lengths to replicate what really happened, while fudging only minor details (Ward’s mother was not at the final fight, for example) for the sake of the dramatic tension. For more info, check out the book “Irish Thunder: The Hard Life & Times of Micky Ward” by ESPN’s Bob Halloran.   And of course the HBO documentary High On Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell, which figure prominently in the film.

For those who are still unaware of The Fighter, here is the synopsis:

Dicky Ecklund (CHRISTIAN BALE) is a former boxing hero that squandered his talents and threw away his shot at greatness. Micky Ward (MARK WAHLBERG), his half brother, is the struggling journeyman boxer who spent his life living in his big brother’s shadow. The Fighter is inspired by the true story of two brothers who, against all the odds, come together to train for a historic title bout that will unite their fractured family, redeem their pasts and, at last, give their hard-luck town what it’s been waiting for: pride. The story unfolds on the gritty, blue-collar streets of Lowell, Mass, where Dicky was once known as “The Pride of Lowell” having gone the distance with the world champion Sugar Ray Leonard. However, after losing that fight, like the town of Lowell, Dicky’s fallen on hard times.

His boxing days are behind him and his life has become shattered by drug abuse. Younger brother Micky, meanwhile, has become the family’s fighter and fading hope for a champion. But despite all of his work, Micky’s career is failing and he loses fight after punishing fight. Dicky and Micky’s tougher-than-nails mother, Alice (MELISSA LEO), manages his career and Dicky serves as his highly unreliable trainer. When Micky’s latest fight nearly kills him, it looks like it could all be over – until his iron-willed new girlfriend, Charlene (AMY ADAMS), convinces him to do the unthinkable: split with his family, pursue his own interests and train without his increasingly volatile and criminal brother. Now Micky has the chance of a lifetime as he earns a shot at the World Championship. But when his brother and dysfunctional family reenter his life, they must all reconcile their pasts and become more than just a family in name. With Micky and Dicky reunited, this becomes more than just a fight – it’s an all-out comeback for these brothers, their family, and their city. When it’s over, Micky will have become a champion, a hometown legend, and the new “Pride of Lowell”. The Fighter is a moving and often humorous drama about fighting for the people you love.

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