Christian Bale has dropped dramatic weight for roles before — most notably in The Machinist and Rescue Dawn — so shedding pounds for The Fighter, in which he plays manic boxer Dickie Eklund, who wrestled for years with a crack addiction, wasn’t necessarily new territory.
This time, though, Bale’s been watching his tongue. “Usually I always say, ‘Oh, I do a lot of coke whenever I lose weight,’” Bale says. “I’m not sure if it’s so funny for this movie to say that.”
In reality, he got thin by running — and running and running.
“I was just running like crazy. I could just run for hours on end and I felt really healthy,” he says.
Building up that stamina was important to playing the fast-talking, live-wire Eklund. Onscreen, Bale is a perpetual motion machine, Dickie’s out-of-control energy threatening to derail the boxing career of younger brother, Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg).
Bale found a great resource in his co-star, who also produced the film, especially since Bale needed to master Wahlberg’s native Boston accent.
“Mark was a great deal of help,” Bale says. “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.”
Of course, he also had Eklund himself to rely on, as the man he was playing was present for much of the production, though he insists he couldn’t completely mimic his real-life counterpart.
“Dickie’s got his own thing going on, you know? He calls it ‘Dickie-nese,’” Bale says. “If I’d done it exactly like Dickie, we would have needed subtitles, probably.”
But having Eklund around while trying to recreate his story wasn’t always easy, Bale admits.
“There were a couple of times I had to physically restrain Dickie from going and landing one right on (director) David (O. Russell),” Bale says. “There were some script changes going on, and Dickie wasn’t initially totally understanding that sometimes in putting a whole life into two hours, a little bit of license has to be taken and 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 hit him.’”
But as for the finished product, Eklund’s reaction to the film says everything. “After we showed him the movie, he didn’t punch any of us,” Bale says with a laugh.