David O. Russell's The Fighter Was a 'Kooky' Experience, Says Melissa Leo

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In April, when David O. Russell signed on to direct Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg in the boxer biopic The Fighter, Hollywood did a bit of a double take. Russell and Bale were both coming off of leaked, angry tirades that had become YouTube sensations, and Russell's last film, the Jake Gyllenhaal/Jessica Biel comedy Nailed, fell apart without having been completed. How would all these talented hotheads get along?

Yesterday, Movieline spoke to Melissa Leo (who plays the mother of Bale and Wahlberg) at Sundance, and she opened up about the difficult shoot.

"It was hard work," she admitted. "It was hard filmmaking. When you get such big players in there and the director is not getting final cut, and in fact one of the actors is...It was Wahlberg's project. He'd had it for a long time. He's very quiet -- it's not like he was manipulative and push-and-shovey -- but it was complicated, hard work."

On its face, the project might seem more conventional than the films Russell is known for (I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings), but Leo says his approach was anything but.

"I don't know what to think about it! It's such a kooky way of shooting a film. It's all in O. Russell's head, and he knows it and he's talking to you while you're shooting. I have some pretty specific ways in which I work, and I kept trying to work the way I work, and he was like, 'Don't do that!' [The character] is probably a lot more frazzled than I meant her to be."

Still, says Leo (who's in Park City promoting Welcome to the Rileys and The Dry Land), "I can't wait to see the movie."

"It was a lot of powerful energy," she said carefully. "I don't think I've ever walked away from something feeling so confused -- although I never doubted for a minute that we were getting an amazing film in the can."

[Photo Credit: George Pimentel/Getty Images]



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