Films about boxing, boxers, wrestlers or fighters seem to come around and have their moment every couple of years. It’s because the sports-drama is always a sure thing and has yet to tire, but it’s also because audiences relate to the metaphorical fight; the fight to survive, to endure and to succeed. Damian Lee’s A Fighting Man is the story of an aging fighter (played by Dominic Purcell) who is seeking redemption in the ring and in life. I sat down with Purcell and discuss his training for the film, his secret comedic side and what’s next for him.
Boxing seems to come up in film every few years, we’ve seen it most recently with The Fighter, Warrior and now again with A Fighting Man. Why do you think it resonates so much with audiences and in the genre of sports-drama?
Well, I think fighting in general represents everyone’s struggle. We’re all fighting for something, the literal fight. I think people just relate in a metaphoric sense to what fighting is.
The film features some pretty intense fight scenes, what was it like preparing for the role physically?
It was very intense. Naturally I walk around with 190 pounds, for the role I wanted – because he’s a heavyweight, and they start with around 200 pounds. So I got up to 230 pounds, which required heavy lifting and eating as much food as possible. I trained for about six months.
You’ve worked extensively in film and television. How do you get a feel for a character when you spend a few months filming for a movie versus several years (or more) on TV?
Film is much more concentrated. TV is much more of a marathon. I found in the past that, starting off with all the intensity in TV because you nail the character and get it in and just through repetition and the episodes, the intensity lessens, which doesn’t really happen with film.
How long did it take you to film?
I was in training for several months but I’ve boxed my whole life. So boxing wasn’t that alien to me, but Isaac, he never boxed in his life. Never. And he had 6 weeks to train, to get his boxing down and did a remarkable job.
When reading scripts, what is it that speaks to you, what challenges you to do one film more than another? What spoke to you about A Fighting Man?
Well I worked with Damian Lee (the director), I did this film with Brendan Fraser and Damian directed it, and he had been sitting on this story for about 20 years. And then I came along… he thought I was perfect for the role and when he brought it to me, I thought it was just masterful. It was one of those situations everything just happened really fast. He pumped out the script in three weeks and then Sony green lit it right away and we were in production in four months.
How was it working with the cast?
Amazing. I just have so much respect that just bring it. Famke was great, James was great, Isaac was great. It was just a wonderful cast.
Many of your film and TV roles are dramas. Would you like to branch out into comedy? Is there a genre you are interested in trying that you haven’t yet?
You know, I think people laugh at me rather than laugh with me [laughs]. I have that kind of humor where I just say shit and people laugh. I know [Wentworth Miller] was telling me to do comedy for years because I had him in stitches for four years [working on Prison Break].
Did you still keep in touch with him?
Wentworth wrote the screenplay to Stoker. Would you like to eventually tackle writing, producing or directing?
No. I’m not a writer, I don’t have the patience or ability. Producing takes a special kind of mind to produce. Directing is something I could maybe do, but have no interested in doing.
Name a director you haven’t worked with yet but would like to – and why. Also name a few movies you’ve seen lately that you really enjoyed?
I mean, in any industry you’d always want to align yourself with the alite; the best. I’d love to work with Speilberg or Ridley Scott, but also directors that are young, hungry visionaries that I really like to worth with. It’s a chemistry thing. Damian and I are like soul brothers. We are producing and writing another movie that’ll be shooting in Toronto in a few months.
Since you’ve been on Prison Break, the way we watch TV has changed drastically. Do you think it’s more difficult to make a series a success or easier with use of the Internet, Amazon, Netflix etc.
I don’t watch a lot of TV, really. I love documentaries; I’m a huge sports fan. As far as going back to TV, it’s nothing I’d count out, but nothing has come my way that made me think “I have to do this”. Prison Break was one of those situations that came my way and I thought “f-ck, I have to do this”. I’m keeping myself open to possibilities.
A Fighting Man is now playing at the Carlton Cinemas in Toronto.