Monday, February 27, 2023

Recasting 2010 (supporting): "The Fighter"

As I ended my last post in this project with a reference to director David O. Russell, we continue with a film he directed that ended up being the first in a series of three over a four year period that totally killed it with Oscar voters, particularly those in the acting branch. The Fighter (2010) earned three acting nods, Silver Linings Playbook four, and American Hustle four. That's a pretty incredible stat. Melissa Leo's fantastic performance in The Fighter was one of three of the above mentioned nominations that ended up taking home the gold (Christian Bale in the same movie in supporting, and Jennifer Lawrence in Lead for Silver Linings were the other). It's Leo's role for which I've chosen to imagine recasting Meryl. And even though this is another role originally portrayed by an actor over ten years younger than Meryl, it's actually more of a stretch for Leo than it would've been for Meryl. Leo is only eleven and fourteen years older than the two actors who play her sons (Mark Wahlberg and Bale, respectively). 

The film takes place near Boston, in Lowell, Massachusetts, and is a biopic of former boxers Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his half-brother Dicky (Bale). Dicky struggles with crack addiction and is supposed to be helping Micky train. Their mother, Alice (Leo) serves as Micky's manager, who's been struggling as of late to win fights. When Micky has a shot at a title fight, Dicky sort of goes AWOL and Micky drops him, much to Alice's disapproval, who has Dicky on a pedestal. All the while this is going on, HBO is filming a documentary of Dicky, which he thinks is about his boxing career, when in reality, it's about crack abuse.

Much of the meaty material in this movie is basically the family fighting with each other. It's the kind of scenario where all they really have is each other, and even if one or all of them are a total and complete mess, there's a sort of co-dependence that ends up getting people hurt. 

It would've been fun to hear Meryl do the accent. I had hoped that we'd get to hear her do a Boston-ish accent in The Good House, but sadly that never panned out. The role of Alice feels like a mixture of Lee from Marvin's Room, Sister Aloysius from Doubt and Violet from August: Osage County. She's got street smarts and she's brassy and pushy without being a total nightmare.  

Amy Adams does a great job in this movie as well, playing against type as Micky's girlfriend. One of my all-time favorite movie line deliveries comes after Adams's character, Charlene, gets into a fight with Micky's sister(s). Toward the end of the scene, you can hear one of the sisters yell "Fuck you, Chaw-lene." I don't know what it is about it but it just cracks me up big time. It's a great scene for Alice as well so I'll share (the line is at 1:24). 

Still laugh-out-loud funny to me. 

In addition to its acting accolades, The Fighter scored seven total Oscar nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director. The film was a box office hit as well, earning a worldwide total of $129 million against a $24 million budget. It was a great few years for Russell, and I wouldn't have minded seeing Meryl in on the action, especially since the aforementioned trio of films are so "people" based in their stories. It wouldn't surprise me, however, that if Meryl had had a chance to participate in some way, she would've stayed clear based on Russel's reputation for being combative or even abusive to his actors and crew. Who knows, maybe Meryl could've been the one to finally set him straight. 


  1. I remember watching this movie on the eve of The Oscars in 2011 with my friend as we had to stay up super late in the UK for the show! Although it's a well-made and well-acted movie (especially by Leo, Adams and Bale) we just didn't like the subject matter or the constant fighting. I remember it being very shouty and grim. I wouldn't necessarily choose to watch this again.

    I remember being disappointed Bonham Carter didn't win Best Supporting Actress for The King's Speech but Leo was very worthy, thanks for the clip above as a refresher. Shame about her Oscar speech, she can't have been that shocked she won!

    For my choice I think I'll go for the role of Nina's mother as played by Barbara Hershey in "Black Swan". The relationship dynamic between the two is interesting and rather unpleasant. I think we may have watched this movie on the same evening and were impressed by the direction, score, overall tone of the movie.

    Although the role didn't garner much attention I think Meryl would have certainly brought her magic to the ensemble and while not necessarily improving it per se, doing something very interesting with the role of a darkly controlling stage mom.

    1. I totally can see what you mean about the film not necessarily being one that's enjoyable to return to. The fighting and antagonizing is maddening at times.

      I think if I had liked Black Swan more Hershey would've been on my radar more. I didn't dislike it, but for me to chose a role that otherwise "minor," there would've had to be a special reason. Sort of like my choice for next week! But OMG the fingernail cutting scene with Hershey and Portman makes me cringe just thinking about it.