Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Director Philippe Falardeau Fights Boxing Tropes with 'Chuck'

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Quebec Director Philippe Falardeau Fights Boxing Tropes with 'Chuck'

Article excerpt

Falardeau's 'Chuck' fights boxing tropes


TORONTO - In making a film about the real-life boxer who inspired Sylvester Stallone's Rocky character, Quebec director Philippe Falardeau wanted to deliver an emotional punch.

But he had to convince the man himself, former New Jersey heavyweight boxer Charles (Chuck) Wepner, over a steak dinner in Manhattan.

"I think I disappointed him by right off the bat telling him, 'Chuck, I don't think it's a boxing film,'" recalled Falardeau. "He stiffened and then I turned to his wife Linda and I said, 'I think it's finding redemption through love,' which I was kind of pushing a bit.

"But her eyes teared up and she certainly understood what that meant from her point of view. I knew I had her and she would take care of him.

"A week later he called me and said, 'Philippe, I don't know what you did to my wife that night, but she loves you and she keeps talking about you.'"

Opening Friday in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Sherbrooke, Que., "Chuck" stars Liev Schreiber as the boxer who went toe-to-toe with champions including Muhammad Ali, with whom he lasted a whopping 15 rounds.

Elisabeth Moss plays Wepner's first wife, Phyllis, and Naomi Watts plays his second and current wife, Linda. Co-stars include Ron Perlman as his manager-trainer, Jim Gaffigan as his best friend, Pooch Hall as Ali and Morgan Spector as Stallone.

Schreiber is also a co-writer on the film, which focuses more on Wepner's life outside of the ring than inside of it. Set in the '70s, it finds the fighter known as the Bayonne Bleeder nearing the end of his boxing career, when his fame went to his head.

Phyllis couldn't take his hard partying and cheating and left him. Linda, who had worked in some of the clubs he frequented, knew how to handle him. The two now work in liquor sales in New Jersey.

"It was not about the difficulty of where he came from, the upbringing, the violence in his childhood, which you often get when you deal with characters who are boxers," said Falardeau, whose 2011 drama "Monsieur Lazhar" was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign-language film. …

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