Boxing biopic The Fighter - Melissa Leo profile
Actor plays Mickey Ward's mother in David O Russell film
14 September, 1960, New York
Leo is an actor whose early career was predominantly filled with small screen successes. She played Det Sgt Kay Howard on the TV series Homicide: Life on the Street for five seasons and was also a regular on All My Children. More recently, Leo has teamed up with the makers of The Wire to star in post-Katrina New Orleans’ drama Treme. Of later her movie career has sky rocketed with award winning appearances in 21 Grams and Frozen River.
What’s she up to now?
Leo is appearing in David O Russell’s biopic on boxer Mickey ‘Irish’ Ward. She plays the boxer’s mother who also doubles up as his manager. Leo gives a Golden Globe winning performance as the no-nonsense lady who tries to keep control of her nine adult children, seven daughters and two fighting boys.
‘I didn’t’ know too much about it. I’ve always been fascinated by the sport in some kind of way, whenever it would be on television it made me stop and watch what was going on. I think doing this film I learnt a little about why that might be: it’s an extraordinary man-to-man game that occurs today and is really rather ancient and heroic. There’s skill and strategy not just within the right but in the arrangements of fights too.’
On meeting the real Alice Ward
‘Meeting Alice herself was very important to me. I didn’t spend the kind of time with her that Christian [Bale] and certainly not the time that Mark [Wahlberg] spent with Micky, but I did have a handful of hours with Alice that were valuable to me. I felt quite distant from the role, how was I going to do this? And it was meeting her that made me feel I had something internal, with all this external hair and costumes and things going on. The internal part that I connected with is something that reminded me of my mum’s mother.
Aged 15 Leo went to acting school at Mountview Academy of Theatre Arts in Crouch End, London
The Fighter, general release, Fri 4 Feb.