Archives For Naomi Watts

Chuck Wepner told me he is just happy to still be alive so that he can tell his story – and now it will be shown on the silver screen for all to see.

Wepner is a former professional heavyweight boxer who was known as “The Bayonne Bleeder” because he had one of the sport’s bloodiest faces. Most notably to that point, there was a fight between Wepner and Sonny Liston in which the New Jersey heavyweight required 72 stitches to his face.

But the match that changed Wepner’s life was his 15 round battle with the Heavyweight Champion of the World, Muhammad Ali. That fight yielded a $100,000 payday for the Marine Corps veteran (the biggest check of his career, although Wepner insisted to me that he would’ve fought Ali for free) and inspired a young man named Sylvester Stallone to write a screenplay called “Rocky.”

And in the new film “Chuck,” out Friday, the world gets to see not only the real-life fighter who inspired the iconic movie series but also the effect that it all had on his personal life – filled with ups and downs that were fueled by sex, alcohol and drugs and led to marital issues and a stint in jail.

However at Wepner’s insistence, the film needed to be family-friendly. He attributes that characteristic along with the task of finding a good lead character in why it took 12 years to make. And it wasn’t until Liev Schreiber that Wepner knew they had their man.

“It was actually (Liev) who asked to play the part,” recalled Wepner on the second floor of the Loews Regency on New York City’s Upper East Side. “Taking no money up-front, everything on the other end. That’s how much he loves the movie.”

Wepner also revealed that Naomi Watts, who plays his third wife, signed up for the same deal.

“They wanted to do this movie,” he said. “They put their heart and soul in it and that’s why the movie is good.”

Schreiber’s acting chops impressed the boxer, right down to his in-ring dialect. Wepner even allowed that the “Ray Donovan” star has a little New Jersey in him.

“He’ll use a little slang now and then, if you know what I mean,” the boxer joked. “He likes to drink. He likes to party. He likes the girls.

“Yunno, that’s me!”

I sat there across from Charlie Heaton inside a room at The Ritz-Carlton in the Battery Park neighborhood of Manhattan. It was just me, the “Stranger Things” star and my audio recorder. On top of the success from the hit Netflix series, the 22 year-old was running the gauntlet on a full day of press to promote “Shut In,” his breakout role on the silver screen. He stars in the film alongside Naomi Watts.

This guy isn’t even a trained actor! But a series of hard work and lucky breaks found him here, at the fanciest of hotels, talking with me.
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So what is his life like right now?

“Yeah, I mean… life is great. Life is really great,” he replied, taken aback by the question, almost at a loss of words to describe what’s happening in his world at the moment. “Stranger Things” season two is on the horizon and he also just filmed a movie in Mexico that’s slated for a 2017 release. “Life is exciting and changing very fast.”

That could be a bit of an understatement. It wasn’t that long ago when Heaton was unknown in the entertainment industry, submitting audition after audition at the encouragement of his agent. Nothing stuck, until “Shut In” did. Then came “Stranger Things.” And now he’s living out a dream that people spend their whole lives chasing.

“From this movie is where it kind of all catapulted,” he explained of “Shut In,” crediting director Farren Blackburn with essentially giving the actor his big break. “The last two years has been a bit of a roller coaster ride.”

Part of that ride has included working alongside Winona Ryder in the Netflix series and Watts in the new film, which hits theaters Friday.

“With acting, I’ve been very fortunate that every time I’ve been on a set, I’ve felt like I’ve had a lot of support from actors,” he mused when I asked about sharing the screen with Watts. “We would do a scene and it’s my coverage which means the camera is on me, not her. And she would give exactly as much as she did when the camera was on her.

“It was very calm. I was nicely brought in to it and almost mothered in to the world of acting.”

Watts plays Mary Portman, a psychiatrist who herself is also receiving treatment. She and her husband decide to send her stepson Steven (Heaton), away to receive help for what they believe is a mental issue. The father drives his son and on the car ride, they get in to an accident. Portman’s husband dies and her stepson is left paralyzed.

The thriller takes a number of twists and turns from there as Portman tries to care for her son and also rescue a young boy before he disappears.

As for Heaton, he is preparing for season two of “Stranger Things” as Jonathan Byers, the older brother of the missing Will Byers.

“It’s wonderful but nobody expected it to blow up like this,” he admitted. “What shocked me the most is how people have reacted online to it. It seems like for a good, solid three months it’s all that anyone’s been talking about.”

Heaton is also getting used to people recognizing him on the street. Fittingly, he told me this as the publicist walked in to the room to wrap our interview; two things that he will no doubt grow accustomed to over this next year.