Mark Wahlberg’s ready to get back into the ring for a second round of “The Fighter."
“Before I made the first one I knew that the second one was in the pipeline,” Wahlberg tells PopcornBiz of the planned second film in the saga of real-life prizefighter Ward and his colorful family, this time focusing on the legendarily brutal trilogy of fights against opponent Arturo Gatti.
“We wanted to end the first one with Micky winning the title, but Micky and Gatti are joined together at the end because of their three great fights,” says Wahlberg. “And people say, 'Okay, well, there's the three great fights, but dramatically what happened in his life to make it interesting enough for a movie?' Every single day of their lives and their family is interesting – more interesting than any movie being made and any television show on the air. So we always felt like there was one more to be made. As long as the first one accomplished what we set out to, which was make the most realistic boxing in a movie ever and make something that was really inspiring and real that people could identify with, then we'd be good.”
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Wahlberg says the notion of continuing Ward’s working-class underdog tale on screen was something he’d been planning all along, but his lengthy struggle to get the first “Fighter” made led him to play his big-picture vision close to the vest. “I always had it in mind,” he says. “Listen, I was telling these guys that we were going to make a great movie, it was going to win awards, it was going to be a big hit for four and a half years. And we couldn't get the movie off the ground. So I wasn't going to then say, 'By the way, and then we're going to do a second one. It's going to be even better and bigger.' That was not a smart move.”
Wahlberg famously bonded with Ward early on, due to their shared inner-city Massachusetts roots and large Irish-Catholic clans, and the two have remained tight since making the film, which earned Oscars for Christian Bale as Ward’s drug-addicted half-brother Dicky Ecklund and Melissa Leo as their hard-driving mother Alice (who just passed away this April at the age of 79).
“He just came and visited me on the set,” says Wahlberg, who had Ward in tow with him at Spike TV’s Guys Choice Awards. “I'm shooting a movie in Boston right now. We talk all the time. When he's not inspiring the world on the motivational speaking circuit, he comes by and sees me on the set."
Wahlberg, who trained rigorously in the ring for over four years while trying to get the film off the ground ("It's not like you just show up a couple weeks beforehand and make it real") and continues to keep in fighting shape in preparation for a second film, says he wants to get the cameras rolling ASAP. “I'd like to do it sooner rather than later, because I'm already training,” he says. “I already sustained another injury. I shattered my knuckle. We're still training every day."
The actor also says that while he doesn’t have official commitments from Bale, Leo, Amy Adams or director David O. Russell, he’ll use his considerable muscle to make a reunion happen. “We've talked about it,” he says. “They have to. It's non-negotiable.”