Mark Wahlberg on 'The Fighter 2': 'We're talking about one more run at it' -- EXCLUSIVE


Image Credit: Jojo Whilden

The making of The Fighter is nearly as unlikely as the story of its hero, Micky Ward, the late-blooming scrapper who won a light-welterwight title after years of frustrated dreams. While directors and A-list co-stars bobbed and weaved, Mark Wahlberg kept the project on its feet for years, ultimately recruiting the right talent to land seven Academy Award nominations — including Christian Bale’s and Melissa Leo’s Oscar-winning performances — and earning $93 million (and counting) in domestic box office. With today’s release of The Fighter on DVD and Blu-ray, Wahlberg took time from the New Orleans set of his current film, Contraband, to look back at his most personal film. The savvy actor-producer has finally moved on to other projects: Seth MacFarlane’s Ted starts in May and another pairing with Fighter director David O. Russell that he hopes will be Uncharted is slated for late summer. But if you think the Micky Ward story is completely in Wahlberg’s rearview mirror, well, maybe you’re a little punch-drunk.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: This is story that’s been part of your life for close to a decade. Does this DVD finally feel like closure for you?
MARK WAHLBERG: It was a miracle that we got the movie made, and it was a miracle that it didn’t go straight to DVD. I thought about that on the ride home [from the Oscars]. It was a good feeling, you know? Before we made the movie, I thought we could make a great movie. But I still didn’t imagine it would go on to do all those things: to be that successful at the box office, winning those awards, getting all those nominations. So it definitely exceeded expectations.

If you could go back to when this whole adventure started, knowing what you know now — knowing all the people who would sign on and then drop out — is there anything you’d do differently? Or is this the way that it had to happen?
It is, because it mirrors Micky’s struggle to get his family to be in his corner where they would be productive and to go out and do the impossible and win the title. I’ve enjoyed everything that’s happened, and it was well worth the struggle to get it made.

The awards season can be grueling, but it’s got to be nice to get dressed up to have people celebrate your work. Was there a highlight for you?
All of it certainly, but being at the Oscars and having some of the people that I admire come up to me and talk about how they loved the movie, how proud they thought that I should be.

What was the nicest thing someone you really respected said about the film?
There were many things. Robert De Niro, going on and on and on about my performance — how difficult it is to play a part like [Micky Ward], such a quiet and internal performance. Warren Beatty saying that it reminded him of him when he was younger.

I’m glad De Niro said that, because Hollywood has a tendency to underrate portrayals that might be deemed too normal, which is unfair because playing normal is often the most difficult job in a film. Is that something you gave much thought to?
I remember Micky calling me and apologizing. He was upset that I didn’t get nominated [for best actor]. I was like, “It’s all good, dude.” He was like, “No, if I had been crazier in real life, you woulda gotten it.” [Laughs] I was like, “Dude, don’t worry about it.”

Lots of people said no to this project, so no one would blame you for taking the opportunity during awards season to toss around a few I-told-you-sos?
Well, I wasn’t throwing them at the people who didn’t do the project. I just threw them at the people who did, because I told them it was going to be something special. It was nice to be right.

You’ve earned the right to enjoy the film’s success.
Well, I certainly took some time off and enjoyed the fruits of my labor and stuffed my face, drank a lot of wine, and then had a lot of people say, “Dude, you don’t look the same.” [When I first] showed up on the set of this movie, they were like, “Dude, you can’t show up to work looking like that. They’re expecting you to be in shape like you were for The Fighter.”

This is for Contraband?
Yeah, it’s a remake of an Icelandic film, and I play a guy who was a world-class smuggler and who’s left that world behind for his wife and children. My younger brother-in-law gets in trouble in the merchant marine world and has some very shady people after him, so I go back for one last run to fix this problem for him. We’ve been having a lot of fun, shooting it down-and-dirty very much like The Fighter. But it’s very different from my performance in The Fighter. There’s a lot of energy, excitement, and humor.

And you’re back in fighting shape now?
I weigh about 185. But it’s still solid. Ready to throw down. I got bit by the bug, and now I’m trying to plant the idea in everyone’s head that we should do — not five or six Fighters like Rocky — but one more because the big thing that Micky Ward was famous for was his three epic battles with Arturo Gatti. So we’re talking about possibly taking one more run at it.

I assume a sequel would include much of the same cast?
Yeah. Everybody had such an amazing experience making the movie that I can’t imagine they wouldn’t want to go back. But it’s still kind in the early stages.

I’m not the guy who has to take a punch, but just the thought of resuming all that punishing fitness work makes me ache.
Well, I’ve got my sparring partner sitting right in front of me. We did about ten rounds yesterday. And in between shooting this movie that I’m doing, we had a couple of hours off while they shot another couple of scenes, so we flew back to the hotel, got in our boxing gear, boxed, took a shower, and went back to the set.

So I take it that boxing ring you built at your home isn’t going anywhere?
No. I can’t get rid of it. We’ll replace it with an octagon for mixed martial arts.

Are Micky and Dickie excited about the idea of a sequel?
They’re both thrilled by the possibility. I just keep getting the phone calls.

From them?
From Micky, yeah. Saying, “Make sure you get it done.”

Comments (41 total) Add your comment
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  • kedarisfat

    This reminds me of when he said there were going to be sequels to The Departed.

    • FromChicago

      Mark: don’t do it. Don’t ruin a good thing. Where else can this story go? And please don’t do a Prequel.

    • anne

      who was left for a sequel in that one? The crews who cleaned up after the killings?

      • steve

        what killings ?………get back to your bible-study, princess !

  • sam

    NO. The Fighter was awesome and the story was told beautifully. Don’t mess it up with a COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY sequel.

    • agreed

      if it ain’t broke….

    • AK

      I’ve seen enough boxing movies to last a lifetime. “The Fighter” was already perfectly unnecessary. But a sequel?! Does he want to turn this into the next crappy “Rocky” franchise?

  • Mac

    The Fighter 2: Wahlberg Wants An Oscar

    • bruno

      best comment ever.

    • Bruno MacDonald’s

      The Fighter 2: Marky Mark’s Electric Boogaloo

  • Danny

    Yes … and Wahlberg’s name missing from the 2010 Best Actor nominees was a glaring omission. Perhaps if there’s a sequel, that wrong will be corrected. Christian Bale and Melissa Leo had the showier roles, but Wahlberg and Amy Adams were the heart and soul.

    • anne

      He has turned in so many solid performances, I think it’s just a matter of time before he gets his statue.

      • JS

        I assume this post is a joke. Wahlberg is a terrible actor, and he dragged The Fighter down (I don’t care if he’s the one that got it made-that doesn’t give him an pass for his acting performance).

  • Micky

    I say that if the story is strong enough and the cast is available, do it. I enjoyed the first one and would really love to see a continuation of the story.

  • harry

    The Fighter 2, make it happen!

  • RR

    What possible motivation would Christian Bale have to return to this role? None I can think of. Wahlberg is such an idiot-this is like when he was talking about a potential Departed sequel, except even dumber. It will never happen.

    • Nick

      Agree completely. Bale has no incentive to return to an Oscar winning role. Especially since you can assume a movie centered around the ward/gatti fights will force the family drama to take a back seat

      • Vince from NYC

        How about money and loyalty? There’s a couple of incentives for ya..

      • RR

        The cast took a massive paycut to get the film made. I’ve read reports that Bale got around 1 million (if that). EW last week said Bale’s studio asking price post-Oscar will easily be 12 million. They can’t afford his full salary, and he has not reason to risk his health again for a film that shouldn’t be made.

    • PNK

      Agree, Bale should not do it.

    • kyle taylor

      There is no doubt that a method actor like Christian Bale would be reluctant to return. Seeing how much he invested in the role to achieve the gold, it would be hard to imagine him doing a sequel. Melissa Leo would probably get a much higher paycheque to advance her starpower in a beautifully established role.
      Mark Wahlberg is not hunting for an oscar but instead is probably just as much gratified in producing quality entertainment. Unable to secure a nomination he is still the biggest winner given the commercial and critical success of his film.
      Getting the same director is always hard, but Russell has a nice history with Wahlberg and Amy Adams might get a second shot at glory too.
      With all this said you might think don’t fix what isn’t broken. The film was great don’t tamper with its essence. However, it would be imprudent to think that continuing the Micky Ward story would be a mistake. Perhaps critically the movie will not match its predecessor. I hope that this is not the case.
      It would really come down to how the family interacts during the bigger moments in Ward’s career that did not play out in the movie. Commercially, the chance of replicating in film one of the greatest boxing trilogies ever is always an option. Especially if the project is a follow up to an original academy-award winning production. The film would easily make anywhere from 100 to 175 million based on the audience’s anticipation of possibly seeing three epic battles.
      This isn’t Rocky as that was fiction and mostly all of the sequels were fuelled with pure testosterone and no substance. This isn’t like Raging Bull as that story was completely told in a single film. Instead this film could challenge itself to showcase a continued struggle of the internal and external battles that one man had to overcome in order to achieve greatness.

  • Jack Lean II

    Such a good vibration,
    Feel it, feel it,
    come on, come on…

    With deepest apologies to songwriters everywhere from Markey Mark and the Funky Bunch.

  • dave

    “the fighter 2″ makes perfect sense, when “the fighter” finished it felt like only half the story had been told. which is true. a sequel would complete the whole story. theyve only told half of his life and acheivements. why stop there? but that would have to be it! no “fighter 3″ detailing how it took ten years to make his life story lol. im all for a sequel and hope it gets made.

  • Laura

    I really don’t think a sequel is a good idea. LOVED LOVED LOVED the movie but I think it’s great as its own.

  • Jeremy

    I find it funny a few of you are being so catty about him mentioning a possible Departed sequel when the source material had a few. Although the change to the end of the American version would have meant it would have to be done differently

    • kerri

      it was always suposed to be a prequel not a sequel

  • Robbie

    A follow-up would be ok, on how the three fights between Ward and Gatti became one of the greatest boxing matches ever.

  • dan

    99% of me agrees that a sequel would be a bad idea. But that other 1% has seen the amazing real life Gatti-Ward fights and kinda wants to see what they’d do with them.

  • mike

    Walberg was awesome in the Fighter. Anyone that may doubt that should watch a few Ward fights and interviews, Mark nailed it… I like the idea of a movie that focuses around the 3 Gatti fights, ans the bond that those guys formed in and out of the ring.

  • PNK

    Not a good idea. How could Bale repeat that awesome performance? I don’t see it happening, and would be a letdown.

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