For 'The Fighter' he dropped 30 lbs.

Christian Bale wasn’t always a contender for “The Fighter.”

Over the years that star and producer Mark Wahlberg struggled to make the fact-based boxing film about unlikely champ Micky Ward, both Brad Pitt and Matt Damon were attached at various times to play Dicky Eklund, Ward’s half-brother, trainer and crackhead.

Yet watching Bale onscreen, it’s impossible to imagine anyone else so fully inhabiting the role. Physically transformed, thanks to a 30-pound weight loss and a fake set of decaying teeth, Bale’s Dicky is also an emotionally ravaged soul, a man haunted by the wasted promise of his own career in the ring but ultimately redeemed by his love for, and belief in, his younger brother.

Bale’s commitment to the film was complete, if not totally surprising. For “The Fighter,” the Welsh-born actor went straight to the source, learning to box by training with the real-life Dicky, a process that helped him to mimic the former pro boxer’s unique ring style and also allowed him to better understand his struggles.

“If it wasn’t for the crack he could have been a champion,” Bale recently told Esquire. “If there was a title for staying up all week partying, never sleeping, and then having a fight, he’d win that hands down. He’d be out drinking until eight hours before he stepped in the ring.”

Any concerns Bale had about having Dicky on set while he worked quickly melted away.

“I could never stand by quietly and watch an actor play me, but Dicky did,” Bale said, “and he really came to trust the portrayal I was giving of him.”

So much so that brother Micky has proclaimed of Bale’s performance, “I think he plays a better Dicky than Dicky.”

Just don’t dare tell Bale that his memorable turn seems likely to earn him his first Oscar nomination.

“Here’s the thing,” he said recently to Back Stage. “You should never talk about stuff like that because no matter what answer you give, you’re a cock. If you say you don’t care about any of that — well, why not? It’s flattering, it’s human. Or you can say, ‘I really want it.’ And who do you think you are? You just can’t talk about it either way.”

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