THE NEXT TIME Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci team up for a movie, it may be to play characters from a video game.
That's the dream of David O. Russell, who's currently working on a movie version of "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune." Mark Wahlberg is already on board as Nathan Drake, and Russell wants De Niro as Drake's father, Pesci as his uncle.
"I'm writing the project with Mark, and with De Niro and Pesci in mind," said Russell, who's pitched the idea to both men, whom he's admired as a longtime Martin Scorsese nut, and addicted fan of the movies "Goodfellas," "Casino" and the fight classic "Raging Bull."
Russell's own boxing movie, "The Fighter," opens tomorrow, with Wahlberg in the lead in the true story of "Irish" Micky Ward, a fighter whose greatest handicap was the drug addiction of his trainer/brother (Christian Bale).
"The Fighter" is deeply quirky (even funny) in the style common to Russell ("Three Kings," "Flirting With Disaster") and it's certainly nothing like Scorsese, though if you took Jake LaMotta and split him in two - separating the dogged fighter and the self-destructive man - you'd have a rough approximation of Ward and brother Dicky Eklund.
Russell, though, said Micky Ward has more in common with another movie fighter - Marlon Brando's character in "On the Waterfront."
"It's about the relationship of the brothers. The intensity of having a dream inside a web of relationships, and what it takes for you to get through that web, using whatever help you can get. It's about the double-edged sword of family, how they can help you, how they can hold you back."
It's also about addiction. Micky's half-brother, Dicky, was a former fighter whose own promising career (he knocked down Sugar Ray Leonard) was derailed by a fierce addiction to crack cocaine, the problem that makes him such a lousy trainer for Micky.
The movie's title refers just as much to Dicky's struggle with drugs, and I asked Russell if "Fighter" isn't really a story of addiction.
"I don't think so. There was an earlier version that Darren Aronofsky ["The Wrestler"] was going to do that was almost totally focused on addiction. This is not that movie."
Russell said he reshaped the "The Fighter" to focus on Micky's complex struggle to confront Dicky's problem, almost impossible in a fiercely protective family that preferred to pretend Dicky wasn't a junkie.
Micky eventually finds a way, with the help of a new girlfriend (Amy Adams).
"It was the hardest thing Micky ever had to do, because he was the last person to complain or say a negative thing about anybody. He'll take five punches to give one. He lived like he fights," Russell said.
There was still a whiff of family denial in the air when Wahlberg and Russell began shooting "The Fighter," with Ward and Eklund involved as advisers.
"Dicky freaked out about how he was going to be portrayed, just like anybody would, and had to be talked through it," said Russell.
Mainly by Wahlberg, who'd devoted seven years to the project, and burned though several directors and many putative co-stars. He had Ward and Eklund living in his home, and Russell, too, while the writer-director banged away on the script.
"We created a little community. There were some battles, but everybody learned to trust each other. Otherwise, we couldn't have done it."