How Miles Teller got fit for boxing biopic “Bleed For This”
THE RED BULLETIN: What’s the key to creating a convincing boxing scene?
DARRELL FOSTER: We teach real ﬁghting, not “picture fighting.” When actors show up on set on day one, they’re conﬁdent in their ability to fight. Often the director will call for things unrehearsed, so their ability to know the punch sequences allows us to create fights that are realistic on screen, even last-minute ones.
Teller’s better known for bookish roles. How did you teach him to box like a champ?
We moved directly to ring generalship—knowing who you are in the ring, owning the ring. The first thing I told him was, “You’re going to become Vinny Paz. You have to develop the attitude that it’s yours. The attitude that it’s ‘my house and you don’t belong.’ ” The transformation he made from “training day one” to “shoot day one” was incredible.
You also trained Will Smith for his performance in Ali.
Will had to go from 190 pounds to heavyweight, so training had to be an all-around physical transformation. He was on a professional ﬁghter’s daily regime. We started at 6 a.m. and ran five miles, then did intense boxing training. I brought in real heavyweight boxing pros to train with him. By the time the movie was about to shoot, Will could stand toe to toe with any of them. He learned the intricacies of Ali and could ﬁght for real. But it’s also the psychological aspects of what it means to be a real ﬁghter—the way we walk, hold our hands, the way we stand in public. A lot was character development.
When most people think boxing movies, they think Rocky. What’s your opinion?
The Rocky movies are about the story, about the underdog triumphing against life’s circumstances. The fight scenes are strictly theatrical—they’re fantasy. They are so preposterous that nobody takes them seriously as real ﬁghts.
Three actors who pushed themselves to the limit to portray boxers on screen
Robert De Niro, Raging Bull (1980)
There are many stories surrounding De Niro’s preparation for his classic performance as Jake LaMotta. Most surprising was that he fought three actual boxing bouts in Brooklyn, winning two, and LaMotta was his trainer.
Daniel Day-Lewis, The Boxer (1997)
“Daniel Day-Lewis in The Boxer is the best boxing performance I’ve seen,” Foster enthuses. High praise for the star, who spent 18 months training with former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan.
Jake Gyllenhaal, Southpaw (2015)
Having slimmed down for his previous film, Nightcrawler, Gyllenhaal underwent a brutal regime which included working alongside real fighters in Floyd Mayweather’s gym, resulting in one of cinema’s greatest physical transformations.