“Bleed for This” starring Miles Teller, tells the story of real life boxer and Cranston, Rhode Island native, Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza.
“Bleed for This” stars Teller as Pazienza and Aaron Eckhart as his coach Kevin Rooney in the leading roles. Pazienza’s parents, Angelo and Louise are portrayed in supporting roles by Game of Thrones’ actor Ciaran Hinds and “Sons of Anarchy’s” Katey Segal.
The movie hits theaters this Friday, Nov. 18, but a premiere/preview screening for the movie was held in Providence, Rhode Island last Thursday.
The premiere featured an introduction of the film by the director/screen writer Ben Younger. Younger gave a special thanks to Joshua Sasson, the executive producer of the movie. “I had to convince him, beg him to come to the set because he didn’t want to get in the way. He wrote us a check to make the entire movie,” Younger said of Sasson.
Following the screening was a panel with Younger, Eckhart, Teller, Chad Verdi, a Rhode Island film producer who pitched Younger this story, Oscar winning producer Bruce Cohen and Pazienza himself.
Eckhart discussed the challenges of playing a real person from the community, and how to rightfully portray them. “We’re playing real people, people you know,” Eckhart said. “I’m going to have respect in regards to these people.”
Recalling his first time hearing from Pazienza, Teller said he received a picture of Pazienza sent of himself in the mail. It jokingly read that he better not to screw up Vinny’s reputation. “I don’t even know how he got my mailing address,” Teller joked.
Teller was honored to be offered the role. “I feel like I can do anything after trying to fill your shoes,” he said to Pazienza.
The movie was filmed entirely in Rhode Island and in just 35 days, with scenes taking place in Kent County Hospital and the Providence Dunkin’ Donuts Center (originally called the Civic Center) where Pazienza’s famous fight took place.
Cohen said that they filled the entire Dunkin’ Donuts Center, with local residents to reenact the final fight scene. Cohen thanked the people who had come that day, many of whom were in the theater for the screening. He praised the ability to film on scene in Rhode Island.
“The scene where Angel hears about his son’s accident, we actually filmed in that exact same room,” Cohen said. “They hadn’t even changed the TV. As a producer, that’s a dream to get that texture and that feel. We could not have gotten that anywhere else than Providence, Rhode Island.”
The movie beautifully chronicles Vinny’s boxing career after he wins the WBA world junior middleweight champion title in 1991 when he was just 28 years old.
Paz had come back from a losing streak in the ring to win the title fight against Gilbert Dele in the 12th round with the help of his coach, Kevin Rooney. Unfortunately, the celebration of this victory did not last long.
Soon after the fight with Dele, Pazienza was a passenger in a brutal car crash and broke his neck. Doctors at Kent County Hospital, where Pazienza was treated, told him he may never be able to walk again, let alone fight. But he was not going to let this injury stop him. Refusing to let the doctors perform a spinal fusion to heal his neck, Pazienza opted to recover by wearing a halo, a large metal ring that rests on the shoulders and screws into the skull to keep your neck from moving.
Less than a week after being released from the hospital, Pazienza began lifting weights in his basement. He only told his coach, Rooney, so he could begin his long recovery to get back in the ring. With the heart of a champion, against all odds and doctor’s orders, Pazienza worked to come back from his injury stronger than ever. By the time Pazienza retired from boxing, he had won five world titles in total at lightweight, junior middleweight and super middleweight.
Featuring a juxtaposition of reenactments with home video and news coverage of Pazienza’s recovery, Younger created a wonderful film, truthfully capturing the charisma and determination of Vinny “The Pazmanian Devil” Pazienza. This movie is a must see comeback-kid tale.