'The Fighter' Q&A: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale

Fri, Dec 10

HOLLYWOOD -- This after-party for what might seem to be a typical Hollywood movie premiere is in full swing. Loud men in suits and louder ones in pink shirts jockey for position at the two open bars, where the guy from "Minority Report" inexplicably serves drinks, while actor/boxer Tony Danza regales guests with tales of his 15 fights and actor/bachelor Jeremy Piven does what Jeremy Piven has been doing for years at these things, yakking it up with a bevy of beauties who might otherwise be mistaken for his daughters.

But tucked into a corner of this club adjacent to Grauman's Chinese Theater, amidst the Hollywood hoopla that even managed to lure low-key locals such as Will Ferrell and Mark Hamill, there is a genuine and rather emotional six-years-in-the-making celebration. Unusually heartfelt hugs and sighs of relief are tell-tale signs. And doing most of the blubbering: Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and two boxers from Lowell, Mass -- none of whom you'd want to mess with in a bar.

This is the premiere of "The Fighter," the inspirational bio-drama about junior welterweight champ "Irish" Micky Ward (Wahlberg), Arturo Gatti's partner-in-pain, and Ward's crack-addicted, ex-con trainer and half-brother, Dickie Eklund (Bale). One of Hollywood's most buzzed-about projects for years, "The Fighter" was born in 2004, when producers David Hoberman and Todd Lieberman ("Wild Hogs," "The Proposal") put the project into development at Paramount, where it would languish as Darren Aronofsky ("The Wrestler") circled the director's chair and Brad Pitt and Matt Damon toyed with the Eklund role. The one constant was Wahlberg, who signed on to play Ward -- his fellow Massachusetts native and a childhood sports hero -- in 2005, began training for the role soon after and never could quite let the project go.

The final product justifies their commitment. "The Fighter," which is directed by David O. Russell ("Three Kings") and covers Ward's ascension to his title shot with Shea Neary, is expected to make serious noise at the Academy Awards -- and if Bale doesn't take home the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his film-stealing performance, he'll have only his infamous viral tirade on the set of "Terminator: Salvation" to thank.

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