In Los Angeles for a press conference to promote the Paramount Pictures release, Bale - who has certainly deserved an Oscar nod before The Fighter but never made the cut - discussed getting the Lowell, Massachusetts accent right, getting into the role, and meeting the real Dicky.
Christian Bale's Portion of The Fighter Press ConferenceDicky Eklund seems like someone who would take a very active interest in the filming of this movie. Was it at any point necessary to do Eklund management, to have him as a resource but perhaps not allow him to interfere?
Christian Bale: "There were a couple of times I had to physically restrain Dicky from going and landing one right on David [Russell]. We had some initial interesting times when we were rehearsing in Mark’s house, where Mark very nicely put up Micky and Dicky, and actually they lived at his house for some time. And there were some script changes going on, and Dicky wasn’t initially totally understanding that sometimes in putting a whole life into two hours, a little bit of license has to be taken in mixing things up. He wanted everything initially to be absolutely how it was portrayed. And if it wasn’t, there was a couple of times he would say, 'I’m gonna go and I’m gonna get him,' and, you know, that’s just the thing coming from a pro boxer. So there’s a couple of times I’d be going, 'No, no, no.' And then we’d talk and David would talk with him and I’m not sure if [David] ever had to stop him from coming and laying one on me, you know? That could well have happened as well. But it was interesting; it was an interesting time. But he actually came around and, you know, seemed to really understand it. And after we showed him the movie, he didn’t punch any of us. And I talk to him almost daily, you know, so I think that’s a great achievement, to make the story of someone’s life and do that with."
You've done this many times, this rapid extreme weight loss. What is your regimen for it, and when you do it, does it help put you in that sort of edgy, jittery place that you needed to be to play Dicky?
Christian Bale: "No, I felt so good and calm, and with playing Dicky, and I was just running like crazy. I could just run for hours on end and I felt really healthy, you know? I don’t know. Usually I always say, 'Oh, I do a lot of coke whenever I lose weight.' I’m not sure if it’s so funny for this movie, to say that."
What is your take on Dicky and do you think he is ultimately a good influence on his brother?
Christian Bale: "I think that he was an absolute source of inspiration initially. And then I think he probably became an absolute confusion for his younger brother, because they’re...it’s an immensely loyal family and they’re immensely loyal brothers. But as you see in the movie, it took Charlene to convince Micky that it wasn’t him abandoning his family to be able to remove himself for a little while in order to change the dynamics. And then once that had been recognized and once Dicky, who also I think had had immense pressure from the family in the expectations they had of him at such a young age, and that through his success, the whole family would have success. And, really, I think very much that’s a part as well of what was drawing him to self-destruction. Once Dicky was able to initiate and say it’s no longer his time, it’s Micky’s time now, and then convince the rest of the family of that - which took some doing - then after that, Dicky was no end of help for Micky. I don’t think that it could have happened without the one or the other. You know, this movie wouldn’t exist without that beautiful relationship between the two brothers."
How difficult was the accent? What kind of coaching did you have? Did Mark Wahlberg help you?
Christian Bale: "Mark was a great deal of help. He would never say anything but he’d just get a certain look on his face when you said something, that you just knew that wasn’t it. But also, I approached Dicky’s accent as – I mean, Dicky’s got his own thing going on, you know? He’s got – he calls it Dickinese himself. And I think everyone will agree that I really had to tone down his natural rhythm and voice because I understand him completely now because my ears are in with it. But if I’d done it exactly like Dicky, we would have needed subtitles, probably."
What do you value the most about director David O Russell?
Christian Bale: "I think also a lot of the other people, they would overemphasize the druggie nature, the addiction, as though that was something fascinating to see. And we felt like we’ve seen that in so many movies, and you don’t meet Dicky and Micky - and it’s not what you think about. You know, of course it’s part of his past, but you didn’t want to obsess on that. And David’s got this great sort of tandem earnestness and complete silliness going on at the same time."
"And also David’s got – he’s got a very big heart. It would be very funny. There’d be times when he was often crying with laughter, and also just flat out crying. [...]They’d often be at Mark’s place and you’d be listening to stories or telling a story, or listening to Dicky or whatever, listening to Micky. And it was either they had his sides splitting with laughter and he was balling his eyes out with that; and then it would segue into tragedy and he’d be balling his eyes out. You could really see how much he felt it and really enjoyed the company of these guys and was going through a whole rollercoaster of emotions, you know, which is usually what actors are going to be doing. But David was right in there feeling every little bit of it, as much as any of us."