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The sport of boxing may be dying (thanks to the popularity of the rival MMA), but boxing movies continue to attract crowds. Creed revived the Rocky franchise last year -- giving a voice to Ryan Coogler and a larger platform to his leading man Michael B. Jordan. And two boxing dramas will contend for audience eyeballs (and possible awards consideration) later on this year. One of them, The Bleeder, has Rocky ties, as it's the actual story of boxer Charles "Chuck" Wepner, a pro who got a shot as a bout with Muhammad Ali, and almost went the distance. His story inspired Sylvester Stallone, and it will be brought to theaters this fall with Liev Schreiber in the lead role.
As the film prepares to make its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, Schreiber, his co-star (and real-life spouse) Naomi Watts, and the creative team are making the rounds. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, The Bleeder director Philippe Falardeau talked about the extreme length they went through to get a realistic feel to his boxing matches... and by "they," I really mean Schreiber. Falardeau said:
Fortunately for us, and unfortunately for the insurance company, [Schreiber] said I'm going to take real punches, and he did, probably 800 of them. That made an enormous difference. I'm very proud of what we did with the boxing sequences. They're spectacular because they're raw and true
They didn't call Chuck Wepner "The Bleeder" for nothing. In his fight with Ali alone, Wepner took such a beating that the ref had to call it off at a 7-count in the 15th round. According to legend, Wepner actually knocked Ali down in the ninth, though some argue that Wepner simply managed to trip the champ by stepping on his feet. You can do that in boxing? Here, watch it happen, and judge for yourself!
Adding the Rocky theme music to that clip helps. Rocky was inspired by Chuck Wepner's fight with Muhammad Ali, and The Bleeder, out this fall, will tell the same story. And it sounds like Liev Schreiber -- intent on making the film as realistic as possible -- allowed himself to be hammered close to 800 times so his director could get realistic shots that mirror Raging Bull or the first Rocky. OK, maybe the movie won't be that good, but we can be optimistic, no?
The Bleeder stars Schreiber, Watts, Ron Perlman, Elisabeth Moss, Jim Gaffigan and Pooch Hall as Ali. It should opens in theaters later this year, with a plan to expand in 2017.