Boxing drama costars Teller, Eckhart inspired by Pacquiao, Roach | Inquirer Entertainment

Boxing drama costars Teller, Eckhart inspired by Pacquiao, Roach

By: - Columnist
/ 12:20 AM November 04, 2016

Miles Teller (left) and Aaron Eckhart

Miles Teller (left) and Aaron Eckhart

LOS ANGELES—While “Bleed for This” is a biopic about former world champion boxer Vinny Pazienza, the film’s consultant, Freddie Roach, inspired actors Miles Teller and Aaron Eckhart to talk about Manny Pacquiao and Roach himself.

Having Manny’s famous trainer on board the project allowed “Whiplash” star Miles (who plays the champ, also known as Vinny Paz) and Aaron (as Vinny’s trainer, Kevin Rooney) to watch in person the Philippine boxing legend, who was prepping for his fight against Timothy Bradley Jr. at the time (2014).


The opportunity to watch Manny and Freddie in action helped in their performances, both actors stressed.


“Bleed for This,” directed by Ben Younger and coproduced by Martin Scorsese and Bruce Cohen, tells the incredible true-to-life story of Vinny, a junior middleweight world champ who broke his neck in a near-fatal accident in 1991. The boxer, who earned the moniker “The Pazmanian Devil,” was told he may never walk and fight again.

Refusing to accept the dire diagnosis, Vinny embarked on a grueling workout regime. Thirteen months after the accident, Vinny beat Luis Santana in what is regarded as the greatest comeback in boxing history.

Miles said that while he was readying himself to portray the colorful Vinny, he made it a point not to meet him yet. But the boxer, known for his wild personality, made a gesture which made Miles laugh at the recollection.

Aaron Eckhart     Ruben V. Nepales

Aaron Eckhart. RUBEN V. NEPALES

“Vinny sent me a picture of himself in the mail,” Miles began. “It was a signed picture of him in his boxers. It said, ‘Miles, I’ll stuff a banana in your undies. You have to make it look bigger. Don’t f*** up my reputation, seriously. Paz.’”

Room of pride

“I cherish that photo,” said the actor who earned strong buzz as a drummer in “Whiplash.” “It’s framed in my house. Once I got to Providence (Rhode Island, where Vinny is from and the film’s location), Ben picked me up, and we went over and met Vinny. We just sat in his room. I call it his room of pride, because he’s got signed headshots of every (Playboy) Playmate, just every girl who signed, ‘Thanks for whatever, you will always be my champ…’


“And all of his belts. It’s rare to have a movie made about your life, let alone at age 54. It’s rarefied air. So, it’s such a special moment for Vinny and the fact that after he saw the movie, he cried and was so touched by it and tells people, ‘Ninety-nine percent of what you’re seeing is so authentic.’

Miles explained, “I didn’t meet Vinny during the preparation for the movie. I felt meeting him would dilute that period in Vinny’s life that I was trying to portray. Vinny at this point is 25 years older than the time that I was playing him. He talks differently now. His voice is more gravelly and his mannerisms are different. So, YouTube and the Internet really provided me with an overwhelming amount of material.”

Aaron, who has been boxing to keep fit for about 20 years now, reveled in sharing his stories about Manny and Freddie, even standing up at one point to show his fighting form. The Golden Globe-nominated actor (for “Thank You for Smoking”) is also noted for his Harvey Dent role in “The Dark Knight.”

Excerpts from our interviews with Miles and Aaron:

Miles Teller on what Manny and Vinny have in common, other than boxers who persevered and became champs: All these things—dedication, sacrifice and focus. Also, technique.

For Vinny, his intangible was, he had more heart than anyone. And the fact that Vinny broke his neck—for him to continue training with that, he was risking never being able to walk again.

Manny is more a technical fighter than Vinny.

Miles Teller      Ruben V. Nepales

Miles Teller. RUBEN V. NEPALES

Miles on watching Manny train in person: He’s fairly unassuming in real life, and then you watch him throw hands and the speed that he has, it was impressive to watch. The technique that these guys (Manny and Vinny) have, especially after learning a little about boxing, then watching somebody, a world-class guy like Manny doing the same thing I was trying to do, it was amazing.

Aaron Eckhart on getting a rare privilege to observe Manny train in LA and fight Timothy Bradley Jr. in Vegas, thanks to Freddie: Freddie Roach is a world champion boxing trainer. At the time, he was training Pacquiao on how to fight Bradley. He let me be a fly on the wall. So, two months before this fight, I’d go to Freddie’s gym every day. I would sit there and watch Manny being trained by Freddie—doing the mitts, the water, toweling off, the prefight, the postfight, how he talked to him, how he managed him.

Then, I went to Vegas, and I was with Manny and Freddie in the locker room before and after the fight. I was ringside next to Larry Merchant (boxing analyst). So, I really got a good education about that. Freddie taught me how to psych out the other boxers, the trainers and little tricks that he would do.

He waits in the lobby at night and watches the other boxer go to the elevator and his hotel room. So Freddie can go tell his fighter, “Listen, Manny, this guy got home at 11:30 last night. He’s tired.”

Or he can go to the other camp, the other trainer, and he says, “Hey, I saw your fighter get home at 11:30 last night.” Those little mind games and all that other stuff that is so fascinating.

Aaron on why boxers like Manny keep fighting: Manny has a lot of people depending on him here in America and also in the Philippines. This is the interesting thing about the fight game, fame, success, acting and all that—when you get to such a place where so many people depend on you, you have to do something that’s so singular. It’s finding the balance in the two.

So with success comes different problems. Manny is fighting again (versus Jessie Vargas on Sunday), so I was with Freddie yesterday at the Wild Card Gym.

Boxers live big lifestyles. Look at Vinny. And maybe Ben would say this too—Vinny made four million dollars, but lost six. Boxers have entourages.

Manny has a huge entourage. You get used to a certain lifestyle, and there’s no way that you can make that kind of money anywhere else and in one fight.

I think in this next fight, Manny is going to make 100 million bucks. And in the fight with Mayweather, he made 200 million or something like that. Then, you cut that in half, then in half again—and that’s how much Manny is getting. So that is not a true figure.

But I also think it’s the love of the game, because it’s not just the money.

Even today, Vinny, when he would come to our set, he is as much of a fighter as he ever was. He feels like he could take on anybody today. And you could see it in his eyes.

I am 48 and I look at young guys today. I am like, let’s go! Like in a movie, why can’t I be a boxer? I am too old for that. But my heart isn’t. And it feels the same way with a boxer.

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TAGS: Bleed for This, Boxing, Freddie Roach, Hollywood, Manny Pacquiao, Miles Teller, movie

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