Bale cracks his role

How the actor got into the skin of his character in upcoming drama The Fighter

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Published: Sun 28 Nov 2010, 11:31 AM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 1:04 PM

AS CHRISTIAN BALE reluctantly soaks in the acclaim for his role in the upcoming drama The Fighter, one of the people he should thank is his daughter.

It was at an event for her school that Bale ran into Mark Wahlberg, whose daughter is a fellow student. Wahlberg had spent years developing his true-story movie about boxer ‘Irish’ Micky Ward and his offbeat, often overbearing family. Wahlberg knew he needed the perfect actor to portray Ward’s half-brother and trainer, Dickie Eklund, a once-great pugilist who had lost his career to a crippling addiction to crack.

“The first time I saw Christian,” Wahlberg recalls of their chance encounter, “I was like, ‘Holy f---! I’ve figured it out.’”

Before long, Wahlberg and Bale were spending time in Lowell, where Ward and Eklund still live, getting to know the brothers and their family. While the script continued to develop, Ward and Eklund spent weeks in Los Angeles, staying in Wahlberg’s guest house. “We would meet up every day,” Bale reveals, “just to train and spar and hang out together.”

The commitment paid off; in the film, opening on December 10, Bale is almost unrecognisable as Eklund. The character’s body ravaged by drugs, Bale is gaunt and pale, his teeth are fake, and his thinning hair reveals a sizable bald spot on the back of his head. But the performance transcends mere physical transformation, digging deeply into the soul of a man who lost his shot at glory. Hiding his whip-smart intelligence behind hollow eyes, Bale perfectly captures Eklund’s jealousy, selfishness, and unwavering love for his brother - sometimes in the same moment.

Bale is now back up to his normal weight, and sports a thick beard and long hair that remind you he once played Jesus in a 1999 TV movie. He hasn’t cut his hair since filming wrapped on The Fighter, saying he likes to grow it out between roles in case he needs a certain style for his next character.

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