The Knockturnal attended the New York City Premiere of “Bleed for This,” on Monday night at AMC Lincoln Center.
Bleed for This is a comeback film by Ben Younger from his 11-year hiatus, based on the miraculous true story of Vinny Paz (played by Miles Teller), who fought for his world title after a near-fatal car crash. We were able to talk to director and writer Ben Younger, actor Aaron Eckhart, and Producer Chad Verdi.
Ben Younger (Director/Writer)
What do you think it is about the subject of boxing that really attracts moviegoers?
BY: I can’t say why that genre never dies—but for me it wasn’t about boxing—it was about the comeback. The truth is that Vinny’s story deserved a film, just (based on) the mere fact that he has had 50 wins; but if he hadn’t had his accident I would not have gone near it.
You haven’t written or directed a film in about 11 years; did you think that your cinematic return paralleled Vinny’s comeback story?
BY: I do. Initially, I wasn’t thinking of directing the movie. But once I made that realization (of the parallel), that’s when I decided to do it. It was a unique way for me to come out (directorially) again. Normally I go from the beginning of doing this, but this one I kind of grew into it.
How was working with Chad and all of your other producers?
BY: Chad and I met, and I went ahead and wrote the script, brought Bruce Cohen on, and everybody else… it was great. Chad’s a consummate producer and I loved working with him. I’d make another movie with him in a heartbeat.
Chad Verdi (Producer)
Why were you initially attracted to this film, and what made you want to help produce it?
CV: This is my passion project. Not only did I produce it, but I also developed the project. Vinny and I have been friends for over thirty years—I was a huge boxing fan—and when he broke his neck and made that incredible comeback, I just thought it was a story that needed to be told. The only reason why I entered the film industry was because my wife Michelle was for this film. We made eight films prior to Bleed for This to make all the mistakes in order not to make those mistakes for this movie. I met the greatest filmmaker of all time, Martin Scorsese, and we became friends and now we’re involved in five projects—including Silence, that’s coming out. I hired Ben Younger, and he wrote a great script; and we’ve really been a family every step of the way.
Why did you hire Ben out of all the other young writers and directors?
CV:Ben needed a comeback. We met in LA and he really struck me as an individual who I understood this story. He told me this wasn’t Blindside, this wasn’t PG-13—this is R-rated and he told me he had a vision that transpired to end up being. I chose him because of his belief in the project and belief in Vinny.
This movie is very personal to you. Did you have a say in casting some of the others involved?
CV: Yes. When Ben put the list together and he chose Miles as his first pick, I said I bless this, I worship it. There’s a resemblance if you look at Vinny when he was 29 years old and Miles; they both suffered severe car injuries. Miles almost died and Vinny almost died. I just thought, at the end of the day these two people were meant to meet each other, and Miles was meant to play. No question about it.
Aaron Eckhart (Actor)
Can you tell us about your chemistry with Miles? How was that developed?
AE: Miles and I had worked together before in Rabbit Hole. Right away, we just got into a boxer-trainer relationship. I started giving him water, toweling him off, whispering in his ears, calling him ‘champ’ right away—all that during rehearsal while he was doing his choreography, so that when we got on camera, we were in each others’ space. He looked at me as a trainer; when I gave him water he opened his mouth, everything was organic. We laid the foundation for that from the beginning. He’s a great actor and we had a lot of fun making the movie—we put our heart and soul in the movie.
What was it about Vinny that drove him to this kind of a story—drove him to keep pushing?
AE: I don’t know. What keeps any of us going when times are tough? I mean the guy broke his neck, but he just believed in himself. He is a boxer through and through; there is no second option for him. He’s still a fighter, that’s who he is. I admire that because we get talked out of our dreams by people; by our parents or our peers or friends, and he never did. He broke his neck and five days later he’s in the gym, and he wins the title three times in a row. I mean, that’s incredible. If I had his drive I would be further along in life.
The film releases this Friday, November 18th.