Marstons Mills Man Lands Screen Time In ‘The Fighter’
By: James Kinsella
Keep your eyes open during the bar scene early in the current movie, “The Fighter,” and you will see a fighter.
Joseph Lavin of Marstons Mills, a former amateur boxer and sparring partner from New York City, is at the Lowell bar tended by the character played by Amy Adams.
Mr. Lavin, 52, is part of the fabric of a film already drawing rave reviews from critics.
He knows characters mentioned in the film from his days training at Gleeson’s gym, then just a short hop from Madison Square Garden, in the 1970s.
Now a retired ironworker, Mr. Lavin praises the realism of the film.“What I liked about it is that it was a true story,” he said. “Micky Ward [the boxer portrayed in the film] goes through a lot of adversity.”
In contrast, he said, the Rocky movies were entertaining, “but Hollywood.”
Mr. Lavin got involved in the film through happenstance.In the summer of 2009, he said, a cousin called him and told him about an open casting call for a boxing movie that was going to be cast in Lowell.
His initial reaction was that he was not going to bother driving to Lowell, but later changed his mind and decided to go.
He arrived to find a mob scene: 3,000 people had come to audition for the movie.
Mr. Lavin stood in one of the lines, when a woman—who he later learned was Angela Peri, the owner of Boston Casting, the company conducting the audition—told him to go into a nearby building and go downstairs.
“I didn’t know it, but I had just made the first cut,” Mr. Lavin said.
He went before a camera, answered a few questions, and was told he would hear from the company in a few days.
The call came. He went before the camera again. Again, he was told he would hear from them.
About six to eight weeks went by.
Mr. Lavin began to think it had come to naught when he got a call: Could he be in Lowell tomorrow?
He arrived to take part in two days of shooting, each day running from 10 to 12 hours, eventually edited down to a few minutes in the finished film.
A moviegoer can see Mr. Lavin at the bar in front of Ms. Adams as she derides another patron for a less-than-generous tip.
Mr. Lavin described Ms. Adams as very talented, and even more attractive in person than on the screen.
In a telephone interview, Ms. Peri said she chose Mr. Lavin for his rugged looks, a man who fit the part of a construction worker who would be sitting in a bar like Molly O’s, where the scene was filmed.
She said she had pushed for Mr. Lavin to be cast as one of the opposing fighters’ trainers in the film, but the director chose to go with other actors.
Ms. Peri calls Mr. Lavin “a terrific guy,” someone who on his own brought construction tools to a subsequent shoot in Brockton on a reality television show for the History Channel.
For Mr. Lavin, the Lowell shoot was an opportunity to be around actors such as Mark Wahlberg, who plays Lowell boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, as well as Christian Bale, who plays Dicky Eklund, Micky’s half-brother, a once-promising boxer who slid into and then battled out of crack cocaine addiction.
The shoot also was an opportunity to meet the real Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund, there to watch the movie being made about their lives.
He calls Mr. Ward, a light welterweight champion, “a great guy, a humble guy” who has given back to his home town of Lowell.
Mr. Lavin also pays tribute to Mr. Wahlberg, who he says trained hard to realistically portray Mr. Ward in the ring, and who was the driving force behind the film.
“He was waiting for years to get this off the ground,” Mr. Lavin said.
Mr. Lavin, who grew up in the Yorktown section of Manhattan, said he always was good at boxing.
When he was 15 years old, he decided to go to a boxing gym, Gleeson’s.
The first day he was there, he said, an old-timer offered to instruct him for $5 a lesson. The young Lavin declined, saying he would watch and learn as he went.
The older man watched him for a while, and then decided to help Mr. Lavin anyway.
He had come under the tutelage of Freddy Brown, best known as a cornerman for welterweight champion Roberto Duran.
In those years, he got to know Tony Danza, who was training as an amateur fighter and later became a well-known television actor.
Mr. Lavin called Mr. Danza “a great guy, and a great fighter.”
At 16, Mr. Lavin became a sparring partner for Vito Antuofermo, who would go on in 1979 to win the middleweight crown.
Mr. Lavin was later trained by Al Smith, the same man who trained Saoul Mamby, a junior welterweight champion.
In “The Fighter,” Micky Ward is scheduled to fight Mr. Mamby, only to learn that the latter has gotten sick.
Rather than just go back home, he steps into the ring against a boxer who outweighs him by 20 pounds, and proceeds to pay the price.
Mr. Lavin later fought as an amateur in New York City’s Golden Gloves competition before deciding to head off to college, setting boxing aside.
He later became an ironworker, working on jobs in cities such as Providence and Boston.
In 1989, he made the Cape his home, moving to Marstons Mills five years ago.
Mr. Lavin remains interested in boxing.
He said he wants to become certified as a trainer, with an eye toward training his oldest son, John Lavin, a senior and an athlete at Falmouth High School who is interested in the sport.
Two of Mr. Lavin’s younger children, James, 11, and Erin, 9, attend Falmouth schools.
He also is taking acting classes, and is encouraging his oldest daughter, Cherie, 20, who attends the University of Massachusetts, Boston, and who he calls a natural, to explore that field.
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