The Fighter, a boxing movie based on the true story of welterweight champion Micky Ward, played by Mark Wahlberg, opens this weekend. In the movie, Christian Bale plays Dickie Ecklund, Ward’s brother and trainer, a former boxer himself turned high-energy crackhead. For the part, Bale lost lots of weight and hair, and does the sort of attention-grabbing actor-ing that gets a guy Oscar buzz. But how does he compare to the real Dick Ecklund? In The Fighter, Bale’s character is being followed around by a film crew, making what he brags is a documentary about his comeback, but is actually a documentary about crack users. That also happened in real life: In 1995, HBO made a documentary, High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell, about three crackheads, of whom Dickie was one.
High on Crack Street, a pretty potent “just say no to drugs” look at some seriously hard-up people, is below (also: available here on DVD). (Ecklund first appears in the ring with Micky at the 7:55 mark. We suggest watching all that comes before just to meet Brenda, a pregnant, toothless crackhead prostitute who is not at all in The Fighter, but is the most devastating/sympathetic/compelling person in the documentary, and totally deserves a — much more depressing — movie of her own). The real life Ecklund is a bit quieter, less skinny, and, well, more cracked-out than Bale’s version of the character. Also missing from the documentary are the side-by-side interviews between Ward and Ecklund that figure into the movie (and that you can see in this trailer). But many of the details remain the same — the way Dickie trains Micky in the ring, how he behaves with his son, his court appearances. Also appearing in the documentary is Alice Ward, Dickie and Micky’s mother, who is played by Melissa Leo in the movie, and who appears to be a bit less intimidating in real life than Leo, if just as delusional.
Compare the above to Bale in the trailer for The Fighter: