Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : July 23rd 2015 Contents B37
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Director Antoine Fuqua got a dis-
tressing call early in pre-production
for the boxing drama Southpaw.
It was Terry Claybon, a boxing
expert who s trained Fuqua for years.
He d just met with Jake Gyllenhaal to
see if the actor could fight and he
didn t have good news.
In Southpaw, out Friday, Gyllenhaal
needed to play a light heavyweight
boxing champ, Billy "The Great" Hope.
"He said, He s the wrong guy, you
picked the wrong guy, " said Fuqua.
Gyllenhaal could hardly be blamed.
He d never boxed and Fuqua was look-
ing for something specific.
As a lifetime boxing student and
devotee, the Training Day director
wanted realism in his movie. He d
never directed a film about the sport
he loved so dearly and he really didn t
want to make just another boxing
Between Rocky and Raging Bull and
a number of lesser imitators, the cin-
ema is a not so secret fan of the drama
and metaphors inherent in the brutal
"I thought, I need a guy who will
give me his heart, train seven days a
week, twice a day and eat, sleep, drink
and live like a fighter, " he said. And
his trusted trainer had just told him
Gyllenhaal wasn t it.
Sons of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter
had written the script about this
champ s fall from grace and struggle
to get his daughter back for rapper
Eminem. And Gyllenhaal wasn t the
only name tossed around when
Eminem dropped out.
Yet the possibility lingered. Not only
did Fuqua think that Gyllenhaal had
the physical size and expressive eyes
to make this fairly unlikable guy lov-
able, Harvey Weinstein was also keen
Gyllenhaal was prepared for the
challenge. The now 34-year-old actor
had just shed 30 pounds to play a
creepy freelance videographer in
Nightcrawler and he didn t hesitate
to throw himself into the ring.
Two weeks after that initial call,
Claybon had a much altered message.
"He said, you were right. This guy s
got heart. He s tough, " recalls Fuqua.
So they started building Billy Hope
Fuqua and Gyllenhaal trained side-
by-side twice a day, (nearly) every day
for months with Claybon. They did it
all: the tires, the sparring, the sprints,
the long runs and the sit-ups. Fuqua
eventually scaled back to once a day,
while Gyllenhaal soldiered on.
It didn t ease up on set, either. Fuqua
filmed the three-minute rounds
straight through, often opting for six-
minute takes without the help of body
doubles. He and cinematographer
Mauro Fiore even enlisted HBO Boxing
veterans Todd Palladino and Rick
Cypher to shoot the fights.
"We shot it like we would shoot a
real fight. We did real rounds. We
didn t even stop to light it. When he
was exhausted, when his lungs were
hurting, when he was spitting blood?
That was real," said Fuqua.
Gyllenhaal was devoted to getting
"There re a couple shots where he
really got hit in the ribs," said Fuqua. "I would go
out to stop it and he would wave me off. He wanted
to keep going."
Many of those real hits made the final cut.
"It just creates depth and adds richness to every-
thing. It never got to be too much," added Gyllenhaal
---even when he was vomiting in the corner.
Although his physical transformation was para-
mount, the actor also had to immerse himself in
the real world of boxing, stealing bits of personalities
or experiences from the stories he d heard from the
amateurs in the gym during the five-month prep.
"The effects it has on fighters are brutal," he said.
"Because of that, I m not just there to see a fight,
I m also there to watch and ask what is each fighter
fighting for---to find out what are they trying to
The only professional boxer Gyllenhaal personally
reached out to was Miguel Cotto, whose technique
and family life served as a big influence on the char-
"I love his fighting, his style, I love watching
him," said the actor.
Cotto even provided the unlikely inspiration for
a small, but powerful detail in Southpaw. Billy Hope
strides out to the ring to no music in a climactic
scene, which is exactly what Cotto did when he
fought Sergio Martinez in June 2014. Gyllenhaal
knew it was perfect for Billy s moment, and Fuqua
"It took me about a month and a half to come
out of this whole thing and this whole experience,"
said the actor, even though he s still training and
wishing he d had even more time to perfect his
boxing grace. But he doesn t like to dwell on the
blurred line between fiction and reality.
"To me, that s what the craft of acting is. If it
looks like magic, you re doing it the right way," said
And he s got the bruises to prove it. (AP)
Gyllenhaal, Fuqua sculpt a boxing great in Southpaw
Antoine Fuqua, left, and Jake Gyllenhaal, pose for a portrait in promotion of their new film
Southpaw. The movie releases in the US on July 24. AP PHOTO
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