The exclusive new poster for Southpaw, Antoine Fuqua’s boxing movie starring Jake Gyllenhaal, features the gleaming star in a tender embrace with Rachel McAdams, who plays his wife. But everyone who saw the film’s first trailer already knows that their romance will be rudely interrupted, and some people worried that the first clip gave too much of the story away.
“I was worried, and I spoke my mind about that,” says Fuqua (Training Day). “But the Weinstein people are great at [marketing], so I just put my trust in that. The audience sometimes, I guess, needs a little bit more context, especially this type of movie where it’s more of an emotional ride than people think—because it’s really a father/daughter story. So I had to roll with that. But, yeah, I was concerned about it, for sure. I still am.”
The film received a private screening at Cannes where Harvey Weinstein proclaimed that Gyllenhaal’s performance would get the Oscar nomination he so deserved for Nightcrawler. But Gyllenhaal wasn’t Fuqua’s first choice; Eminem was long attached to Kurt Sutter’s script before he decided that his music schedule prohibited him from making the movie at this time. Gyllenhall was the first actor the director then thought of who could deliver the chops, the drive, and the athletic ability of a boxer. But that’s a tall order for any actor, and though Fuqua never had any real doubts, others did.
“I sent him to the gym to audition for my trainer, Terry Claybon, and first day, Terry calls me and says, ‘Man, I think you picked the wrong dude,'” says Fuqua. “I said, ‘No, give him some more time.’ So he started working with him, and a few weeks later, he called me up again and said, ‘Oh, yeah.’ [Jake] started sparring with a few professional fighters we had in the gym with us, and he took some shots. I wanted to see what he would do. And he was in there. That’s when I knew he was going to do it.”
The boxing role required a high-degree of skill and athletic ability because Fuqua didn’t plan on building a champion fighter in post-production. “I’ve never seen a boxing movie shot the way I shot this one,” he says. “This one, you’re watching people getting punched in the face. The camera’s not cutting all the time. You’re watching people getting punched, and blood come out of their mouth. That’s part of what I was training Jake to do, which is, ‘We’re going to watch you fight.'”
Fuqua says he shot all the boxing first, to add to the realism of the film. “I said, ‘Whatever you look like after we get done fighting, is what you look like in this movie,” he explained. “‘If you got a black eye, you got a black eye.’ And that’s what we did. That’s why I love Jake. He gave me his heart. He trusted me, and I trusted him.”
Southpaw opens in theaters on July 24.