We're still sifting through a lot of the info that was spilled on the red carpet of the 83rd Academy Awards, but one tidbit that was dug up by Extra's Mario Lopez has certainly piqued our curiosity.
In talking with Mark Wahlberg, star of The Fighter, it was revealed that there may in fact be a sequel to David O. Russell's Oscar-nominated film about the life of boxer "Irish" Mickey Ward in the works.
Now The Fighter was a unique piece of cinema that came as a surprise hit in the 2010 lineup. In my 5-star review of the film, I praised director David O. Russell for taking what could've been your standard sports drama about a boxer (Micky Ward, played by Wahlberg) who overcomes both personal and athletic challenges in order to become a champion. The film was a fantastic character piece that netted two Oscars for supporting actors Christian Bale (as Micky's half-brother, boxer Dicky Eklund) and Melissa Leo (as Micky's mother/manager Alice), respectively.
However, for all the things that The Fighter was, I don't think anybody ever saw it as being a potential franchise with more than one installment. But if Wahlberg's words to Lopez are anything to judge by, we could be in for at least one more film about Micky Ward's rise to fame in the boxing world. Check out what Wahlberg had to say to Extra:
Now some people may be quick to jump to the conclusion that this is yet another example of Hollywood's total lack of originality - making prequels, sequels, reboots and remakes to just about every film ever released - but I beg to differ. True boxing fans know that Micky Ward's real claim to fame in the ring was his rivalry with Arturo Gatti - a rivalry which led to a trilogy of fights that were arguably the most epic events in boxing to take place in the early 2000s.
Between 2002 and 2003, Ward and Gatti faced each other three times: Ward won the first fight by decision, Gatti won the second fight by decision, and despite a near KO by Ward in the third fight, Gatti managed to win by decision. Both men ended up in trauma units after fights #1 and #3, had massive amounts of respect for one another, and their battles have become the stuff of boxing legend. The Gatti/Ward rivalry also made Micky Ward rich, netting him about $3 million when all was said and done.
As you can see then, there is still a chapter of the Micky Ward story that would make for a fantastic movie. I'm not sure what was going on in Micky's personal life during his bouts with Gatti, but I'm sure with the colorful characters we met in The Fighter surrounding him, there was some meaty drama that ensued.
Of all the actors in David O. Russell's film, Wahlberg has the greatest motivation to return for a sequel. As Micky Ward, he was required to play the strong, stoic center in a storm of chaos, and his performance wasn't nearly as praised as those of his co-stars (even I criticized Wahlberg for being somewhat upstaged by the other actors around him). In chronicling the Gatti/Ward fights, Wahlberg would have a chance to show off a lot more fire and depth - the only question is, who else would come back for the ride?
You won't find a single sequel on David O. Russell's resume of films, and before now I would've said there would be no way that he'd return. However, Russell and Wahlberg have clearly bonded and are reportedly working on several new film projects, including the true-life crime story Cocaine Cowboys, and the big-screen adaptation of the popular video game, Uncharted. The latter film in particular is likely being set up as a tentpole franchise, so even if Russell hasn't done a sequel before, he may come to that fork in the path if Uncharted is a success. Maybe he'll break his trend early by making The Fighter 2? One has only to look to The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II for inspiration about Oscar-caliber ensemble films that get sequels.
Actresses Amy Adams and Melissa Leo certainly owe something to Russell and Wahlberg for the recognition they received for The Fighter (Wahlberg worked tirelessly as a producer to get the movie made). I would expect Leo in particular to be back full-force, considering she went from relative unknown to Oscar-winner in a mere span of months. The real wildcard is Christian Bale: he won an Oscar for playing Dicky Eklund and has tremendous loyalty to the actors and director who helped him get it, as well as loyalty to Dicky and Micky's story. However, Bale also seems like the type of actor who would view his role as a one-time journey that reached completion; it's hard for me to envision him slimming down to "Dicky weight" for another go at it - though that's not to say it couldn't happen...
With Wahlberg's busy schedule both acting and producing, and Russell's busy schedule directing, no word on when The Fighter 2 would even go into production. At this point we'll keep you informed about whether the project actually comes to fruition.