Karen Benardello gives a Red Carpet insight to Bleed for This: one of 2016’s underrated Gems
One of our great highlights in blogging any material at MovieViral is when a talented, known and valued writer like Karen Benardello comes to us and asks if a piece can be shared. We are always only too happy to oblige. Notice there is a world of difference between an arrangement such as that and ANY form of either exploitation or plagiarism. And if YOU are a writer /blogger that has written a pre-existing piece and you’d simply like us to share that: we will ALWAYS endeavour to do our very best to get it ‘out there’ more for YOU. Karen’s collaboration has been a great asset and continues to be so. Case in point: her red carpet visit to none other than BLEED FOR THIS (an underrated, curious gem of a film from 2016’s eclectic mix).
Take it away, Karen!..
Heroes are a vital component of supporting the ideals, and helping, their society, but are unfortunately often only remembered in the immediate aftermath of their courageous actions. But some idols so gallantly define the odds in their contributions to their community that they’re long remembered by the people whose lives they impacted. That’s certainly the case with famed former professional boxer, Vinny Paz (who was known by his birth name, Vinny Pazienza, when he won his five world titles). Even after surviving a tragic car accident, the boxer was able to bravely overcome his injuries in order to enter the ring again and prove his everlasting worthiness as a fighter.
Paz’s determination and struggles are chronicled in the new sports biopic, Bleed for This, which was written, directed and produced by Ben Younger, and executive produced by Martin Scorsese. Open Road Films is set to distribute the drama in theaters nationwide today.
Bleed for This follows Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza (Miles Teller), a local Providence boxer who shot to stardom in the 1980s after he won two world title fights. While he exudes charm and confidence in his ability to continue his fighting, Vinny’s boxing career reaches a new low when he’s barely able to make weight for his lightweight championship fight against Roger Mayweather in Las Vegas. After excessively gambling the night before the fight, Vinny loses the match. As a result, his trainer, Lou Duva (Ted Levine), tells him that he should retire.
But the World Lightweight champion refuses to give up on his dream, and decides to begin training with Kevin Rooney (Aaron Eckhart). The trainer’s also looking for his own redemption after Mike Tyson fired him following his DUI arrest. Much to the concern of Vinny’s father, Angelo (Ciarán Hinds), who helps his son manage his career, Kevin suggests that Vinny move up in weight class by two categories. But the idea ultimately works, as Vinny starts winning matches again.
Just as Vinny reclaims his respect in the boxing world, he becomes the victim of a tragic car accident, and the doctors warn him that he may never walk again. But the boxer is determined to return to his sport, so he decides to embark on a long recuperation. Much to the concern of his family, including his religious mother, Louise (Katey Sagal), as well as his doctors, Vinny decides to undergo a halo surgery. His doctors install a halo around his head, which includes a metal brace that attaches to his skull with the use of screws.
After his surgery, Vinny eventually persuades Kevin to begin training him again, even while he still has his brace on. The boxer defeats the odds a year after the accident, as he not only learns to walk again, but also returns to the ring. He heads back to Las Vegas for the chance to fight Roberto Duran for the super-middleweight championship belt.
Open Road and Men’s Fitness hosted the New York City premiere of Bleed for This this past Monday, November 14, at the AMC Lincoln Square Theater, to celebrate the true story of one of the most inspiring and unlikely comebacks in sports history. Several of the cast members attended the premiere, along with Younger and Scorcese. The writer-director, as well as Teller, Eckhart and Sagal, generously took the time to discuss the experience of making the biopic while they walked down the red carpet.
When Younger stopped to talk about writing and directing Bleed for This, he mentioned why he feels Paz’s story makes for such an inspirational boxing film. “It’s all about his comeback. He was a great boxer” before his accident. The filmmaker added that he feels the former world champion defied the odds, and proved that anyone can accomplish anything they set out to do, which is a vital reason why he wanted to make the drama.
“But I still don’t quite understand the man’s motivations,” Younger also admitted. “He won two world titles, so he could have hung his gloves up then. No one would have questioned his level of commitment. But instead he had a halo installed, even though every doctor told him not to do it. But I am intrigued by his commitment.”
Teller also took the time to discuss his part in bringing Paz’s life to the big screen, including what inspired him to portray the celebrated boxer. The actor explained that “This is a true story about a real man who’s a boxing legend. He had done something that had never been done before; he broke his neck, but continued to work out and then came back to win the title. I don’t know of any other comeback that rivals his.”
The BAFTA Award-nominated actor also mentioned how he was drawn to the fact that the film’s story also focuses on Paz’s relationships with his family, as well as “his coach, Kevin Rooney. This guy was fired by Tyson during the middle of his career. So both (Paz and Rooney) felt cast out and rejected. Then they achieved all of this success together, which makes this a beautiful human story. Anyone who has done anything with the odds against them knows what that feels like. So I think the movie is going to be very inspirational for a lot of people,” Teller added.
The director also noted that he always felt that Teller had the ability to play Paz on screen. “I knew he had it in him. He’s a real looking guy…We filmed in Cranston (Rhode Island, where Paz was born and raised, and stayed to train), and ‘not on a soundstage in Hollywood,’ Younger revealed.
“So I needed (an actor) who could walk down the street in a blue-collar neighborhood, and no one would turn their head and think, Who is that Hollywood type doing here? Miles looks like he has lived a real life, and I like that about him.”
The actor also quickly learned how to embraced the physicality he needed to play Paz, Younger also divulged.
“I had nothing to do with that! He was committed to his training. As soon as I saw how committed he was, I stepped away, and took care of all of the other million things that you have to worry about when you’re making a movie. Miles showed up, ready, able and willing,” the filmmaker shared. “He was technically proficient (in boxing) by the time we started shooting.”
While Teller quickly picked up the physicality to play a fighter like Paz in ‘Bleed for This,’ the actor didn’t have any previous experience with boxing. “I played baseball in high school. But they say throwing a pitch is similar to throwing a punch-it’s a lot of hips and legs. I also did a little bit of kickboxing in high school. The boxing training was intense, and took place over a couple of weeks, so I didn’t have a ton of time, especially compared to Paz, who trained his entire life. Darrell Foster, who trained Sugar Ray Leonard, was my boxing coach.”
The actor added that
“We had really good guys around us. We filmed the entire movie in 23 days, so we only had one day to film each scene.”
While Teller also revealed that he was surprised they didn’t have more time to film the fight sequences, he was happy with the way they turned out in the final cut of the film.
In terms of Paz’s relationship with his mother, particularly when it came to her feelings about his fighting, Sagal explained that Louise “was a mother who could never watch him box; she could only listen. She was a woman of faith and strong religious beliefs. She felt that God would protect her son if she stayed in constant prayer while she was boxing. That was her way of keeping control of a situation that was really uncontrollable.”
While the performer also noted that Louise had a different mindset than she does about religion, the Golden Globe Award-winning actress noted with a laugh that she “prays for my children all the time! So that aspect wasn’t difficult for me at all.”
Sagal added that she also differed from Louise because she enjoys boxing. The performer revealed that the real-life woman she portrayed in Bleed for This “wasn’t a fan of boxing at first. But she got with the program, since Vinny and Angelo were so dedicated to boxing.”
In order to showcase that commitment that Paz and his father held so dear about boxing, Younger received input from the film’s real-life inspiration while he was working on the script. “I relied heavily on him while I was developing the backstory and details, as well as the characters. His family is so colorful.”
The writer-director also added with a laugh that Paz also visited the set “for one day, but then saw how boring it was. It took us four hours to set up the lighting, and then we shot for 20 minutes, before he left.”
Eckhart revealed that he appreciates the fact that Younger was able to show that anyone can accomplish their dreams, no matter what situation they’re in, much like Paz did, in the biopic’s script. “This movie’s about living your dream against all odds, even if it means not listening to other people.”
The actor also mentioned that he had natural chemistry with Teller on the set of Bleed for This. The two previously co-starred together in the 2010 drama, Rabbit Hole, which marked the younger performer’s debut in a feature film. “Right away we were able to get into the boxer and trainer relationship. I started giving him water, toweling him off and whispering in his ear. I also started calling him champ right away.’’
“We did all of that during rehearsals, so that when he got to his fight choreography in front of the camera, we were in each other faces. He looked at me as a trainer, and it was all organic. We laid the foundation for that in the beginning,”
Eckhart further explained. “He’s a great actor, and we had a lot of fun making the movie. He put his heart and soul into the film.”
In order to train for his role of Kevin in the movie, the Golden Globe Award-nominated actor explained that he worked at “Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing gym in Los Angeles. I also went through Manny Pacquiano’s training camp.”
Paz then stepped in to say that Eckhart “is the best Kevin Rooney! He’s better than Kevin Rooney playing himself, believe me. I say that, even though Kevin and I were close.” The actor added that testament from the former boxer made him feel positive about his portrayal of the trainer. “Paz is the best, and it was a pleasure to have him there. Many of us can’t say that we’ve had movies made out of our lives, but this guy definitely deserves to have a movie made about him. I’m very proud to have been a part of it.”
Karen Benardello is a freelance contributor with expertise in covering many genres and events in film, worldwide. She has been published on a range of sites and platforms, including The Movie Network. Twitter follow: @kbenardello