OSCAR: Stealth AFI Premiere For 'The Fighter'

Paramount and the AFI Festival pulled off a sneak awards season manuever Tuesday night with a previously unannounced screening of Oscar hopeful, The Fighter. Billed as a “secret screening” on the ticket but also labeled a “World Premiere”  in a Tuesday morning press release, the studio and fest held back any information until the day of the show which played Grauman’s Chinese at 9:30 PM to a packed house. (A Par spokesperson later emailed me that 100 people were turned away). The film directed by David O. Russell stars Mark Wahlberg as fighter “Irish” Micky Ward and Christian Bale as his troubled brother Dicky: it opens on December 10 and until now has been one of the last largely unseen mysteries of the season. A plethora of producers and production companies are on the credits, including Relativity Media, Mandeville Films, David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, Ryan Kavanaugh, Dorothy Aufiero, Paul Tamasy and Wahlberg. Bob and Harvey Weinstein have exec producer credits.

The original campaign strategy for The Fighter was to skip the fall fest circuit and, until today, it was holding firm to that. But the AFI coup was probably too irresistible an opportunity for Paramount to make a big splash — even though it was largely just a public screening and only Wahlberg from the film’s cast was there to make opening remarks.  Tickets were free and this felt more like a “people’s premiere.” The press release even mentioned that “all attendees are invited to walk the red carpet.” I asked Par to hold me a seat, and AFI said they would do a lockdown on the venue once the film rolled. I arrived there exactly at 9:30 PM but they had already closed the doors and were turning away a long line of people. In the spirit of the movie, I fought my way past security guys into the theater where I grabbed what seemed like the last remaining seat.

Just then Wahlberg came out. “I haven’t seen a crowd like this since I performed with the Funky Bunch,” quipped the actor/producer who has spent years on this passion project. “I can’t believe I got this made, and I am so proud of it. I would go through cheating, lying, and stealing to do it. And if there’s anyone out there who doesn’t like it, I will come to your house and do hard labor.”

Fortunately for Wahlberg, the crowd ate it up and seemed to be with it, and him, all the way. The supporting cast is rich, too, including choice roles for Melissa Leo as Micky’s mother/manager, and Amy Adams as his tough bartender girlfriend. Bale is terrific. He’ll go up for supporting actor, while Wahlberg will go for lead. All have real shots for this vivid and colorful crowd pleaser. Although it could be classified as a boxing picture, it’s a character study of two very different brothers and spends much of its time defining that rocky relationship. Actors playing boxers have a good track record at the Academy Awards, with winners like Wallace Beery in 1931’s The Champ to Robert DeNiro as Jake LaMotta in 1980’s Raging Bull. Those nominated for stepping into the ring include Kirk Douglas in Champion (1949), Sylvester Stallone in Rocky (1976), James Earl Jones in The Great White Hope (1970), and John Garfield in Body And Soul (1947), to name a few.

With The Fighter now finally unveiled for the masses, and press screenings starting this week on both coasts, there are very few mysteries left in the season. Par’s other holiday entry, the Coen Brothers’ True Grit (Dec. 22) is still to be seen and just about the last that could provide fresh Oscar meat, at least in the major categories. Otherwise, the lineup is fairly clear with no surprises on the horizon – unless Yogi Bear (Dec 17) is better than anyone dreamed.

  1. The Oscar meat has been pretty rancid the past few years and how does the industry respond-make it 10 nominations instead of 5 because pics are so fantastic as of late. Not. It’s a sleaze attempt to get the statuette on more DVD boxes in a time when it’s all about product and nothing about art.

    Proof? Name half of last years “unforgettable” nominees? I never caught their public comment for upping the noms (I don’t think greed was probably mentioned) but it is fitting that as films become more vapid and computer game like the H-wood powers would try this Orwellian ruse.

    1. I agree whole heartedly. It is now up to the members of AMPAS – who were never polled on the matter – to reverse this insipid devaluation of a nomination pushed through by unimaginative marketers who have invaded the Board. The last time there were 10 nominations – 70 years ago – there was no TV or cable and the industry was fairly new. The bureaucracy does not want to take a vote; they would lose.

  2. So, Amy Adams could be a classic case of last minute entry turned instant frontrunner. She is popular AND has 2 previous nominations, she plays against the type and the film has now decent shots at main categories. A best picture nod always helps an acting contender.
    In case Anne Hathaway goes supporting, as well, the category could be very interesting, although it is all over the place at the moment : Helena Bonham Carter is a lock, basically that’s all we know.

    1. nice try (amy’s agent’s assitant?) but that oscar is melissa leo’s. amy will be lucky to be nominated.

  3. Yo Pete, it felt like “a people’s premiere” because it was mostly SAG members in attendance. The e-mail invite went out to us yesterday for those of us who knew where to sign up for it.

    I actually saw the film back in Jan as part of Par’s marketing research test and do believe this film is wonderful in its entirety. Granted, I’m biased being from Boston. Still, the cast and their performances were perfect!

    1. Re-read your SAG invite, SAG Actor. That invite wasn’t for AFI – it was for a SAG screening tonight.

    2. It was a SAG crowd, the guild was in cahoots with Paramount and AFI. As proof, enjoyed the SAG-only reception right across the street in the Roosevelt. They’re not going for best picture but they clearly want acting noms and especially for Bale, who was so transformed as to be nearly unrecognizable.

  4. Best movie of the year. SO much heart and so well directed and shot. Christian Bale is amazing, Melissa Leo is amazing – and everyone involved in this deserves a huge pat on the back. More character study than boxing film, this movie just grabs you and doesn’t let go. I was so happy to see this last night and really really love the movie.

    1. Always good to hear from Par publicists but you might try cutting the PR speak if you want to make a realistic impression…

      1. Appreciate you think I’m a shill… :) But don’t work for Paramount and not a publicist. Just a fan who really really loved the film. Just a great subject combined with perfect choices for the roles. And O Russell does the material proud.

      2. So, everyone who likes a movie works for the company that distributes it? Weird. They must have a lot of time on their hands inbetween releasing and marketing and publicizing movies.

  5. The Fighter is a definite “Must Watch”. I enjoyed it from beginning to the end. Christian Bale’s subtle transformation is a thing of beauty.

  6. This is an opportunity to urge everyone to watch Gatti/Ward I and II. Now those are things of beauty – especially I.

  7. Loved the movie and think this review is right on. It’s a boxing movie, it’s an inspirational movie, but more importantly it’s a story about a family in the way the Godfather was a story about family and not just about the mafia. Amy Adams is incredible and you’ve never seen her in a role like this. Christian Bale should get nominated. He’s completely transformed in this role and I didn’t even realize it was him in the opening scene. David O. Russell is back in that he’s created a movie that is both hilarious and emotional much like he did with Three Kings. Although this isn’t a comedy like Three Kings, it’s not completely unlike it in tone. Love this movie and think everyone should check it out. It’s worth it.

  8. I LOVED the movie last night and it was really cool that Mark Wahlberg introduced the film. I didn’t know that was going to happen — my friend was from out of town and she freaked out that she saw not only Mark Wahlberg but also Robert Duvall and Josh Brolin in the room — she totally wants to move to LA now — LOL — wait til she gets a load of the traffic. Anyway, Me and my two friends LOVED the movie. While I’m not anyone that special (as some of you on here seem to be “in the know”), I do love the Academy Awards and I strongly believe that this film, its cast and its filmmakers will be wearing gowns and tuxedos next February and deservedly so. I haven’t enjoyed a movie this much — TRULY ENJOYED — for a long, long time. Definitely see it.

  9. You people are funny. If anybody says any part of this movie was great they instantly become an agent/publicist/studio exec. L O effing L.

  10. Just saw on the web that someone posted 13 tweets about the movie from folks who attended the AFI event. The tweets are mostly positive but some suggest that the pic might be average to good, and, perhaps, not the Oscar lock that seems to be abuzz in the air. Still, a good showing will dispel notions that this is Rocky-lite or Re-Raging Bull …

    13 Tweets From The “Secret” World Premiere of David O. Russell’s “The Fighter”

    Here’s 13 tweets:

    @geoffberkshire: So much for David O. Russell making a “traditional” drama. The Fighter is something much better than that. Bold, excellent work

    @muthmedia: THE FIGHTER was spectacular. Wahlberg was Wahlberg; Bale was amazing. The story bobbed/weaved (heh), but I really enjoyed it. @AFIFEST

    @theworriedshoes: THE FIGHTER is awfully familiar stuff. Russell gets some good things in around the margins, and the cast is good, but I didn’t care.

    @JordanCronk: THE FIGHTER (Russell; 2010): Tired, cliched, faux-triumphant. Pretty sure RAGING BULL’S place in the canon is secure. #AFIFEST

    @cowboytrey: The Fighter is porbably Christian Bale’s movie. Mark Wahlberg is a symbol that other more fleshed out characters fight over. Still, good.

    @toolizzit2quit: just watched “The Fighter”. Christian Bale WILL win the Oscar next year. I call it second. @reverseDERF was 1st

    @LivingInCinema: Wow, lots of enthusiasm for THE FIGHTER. Did I see a different movie?

    @AmyBoxoffice: “I haven’t seen a crowd like this since I performed with the Funky Bunch.” Mark Wahlberg’s opening words at AFI screening of THE FIGHTER.

    @YRFilms: The Fighter is rock solid. One of the best boxing films, definitely the most realistic. Great performances by Bale, Wahlberg, Leo and Adams.

    @s_oldham: The Fighter is all about the Wards, not the boxing. Surprisingly, the fights are the weakest parts of the film

    @carsonpatrick: The Fighter is an insanely good movie.

    @firstshowing: Boxing movies are always badass. The Fighter was great, liked it a lot. Christian Bale better win Oscar.

    @AndrewDignan: The Fighter (10 Russell B-) Ungainly and broadly executed (at times it plays like a white trash version of Precious) but DOR is 3/3 at coaxing vulnerable, sympathetic performances out of Wahlberg. Plus I am weirdly susceptible to Amy Adams’ muffin top.

  11. I was one of the “hundred” people that got turned away even though we all had tickets to see it!!! By the time AFI was done letting all the Paramount parasites in there was no seats for the festival goers with tickets… So I’d say the crowd was pretty bias…

    1. Um, Paramount had a grand total of 20 tickets to the AFI screening so what the hell are you talking about?

  12. For all you trolls on here who work for other studios who are manipulating the net to try and slam competitor’s movies, it’s OBVIOUS. Give it up.

    Don’t you believe in your own movies enough to let them stand on their own or is the only way you can attempt to elevate your own movies is by trying to tear down others?

    It’s beyond lame.

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