Q&A with Peter Berg
I came of age during the era of the great heavyweight. George Foreman -- I was a little late on Ali and Frazier -- but guys like Foreman and Kenny Norton were around. My father was a big fan.
I then acted in a film a while ago called
As a director, one of the first things I've always done when I move -- we move around a lot obviously to make films -- is always try to find a local boxing gym. And I've had great experiences in different places, whether it's Arizona when I was doing
The next time I came in contact with him was when I was acting in a movie in Montana called
We were all drinking beer and Freddie, who doesn't drink, was drinking coffee. And a guy came up and started giving Mickey a hard time, was sort of taunting him and hassling him. And Mickey -- who was actually a very shy guy, particularly then -- was getting nervous. And I remember seeing this flash of movement to my right, and seeing the guy fall and hit the ground unconscious, and seeing Freddie sit back down. In a second, he got up, knocked the guy out and was right back to his coffee. That was my second memory of Freddie Roach.
I thought to myself, Well, if I do something on Freddie, I would love to do something in the spirit and tone of Frederick Wiseman, which is cinéma vérité.
What really hooked me on Freddie, which I hadn't thought about even though I knew he had Parkinson's: Jim said to me, "Imagine if someone walked up to you and showed you a piece of paper and on there was a date, and that was your expiration date. How would that affect your life?" Freddie has, I think, a date in his mind. I don't know that he would own to that, but certainly his mortality is something that he has to deal with every day, and as a result of that to watch him go is fascinating. That's kind of what we want to find in the series is people like that, that are living with a real purpose.
On a personal side, I think Freddie's a workaholic and I think something that the show deals with is, "At what price does success come?" Freddie works tirelessly and has had tremendous success in many areas, but there is an inherent loneliness to Freddie and sense of solitude that I think is common to many successful people in any walk of life. The idea that it can be lonely at the top is apparent with Freddie. He's creating his own program and it involves a lot of travel and a lot of time spent alone.
And the cast of characters he has there: his mother, his brother, [trainer] Shane [Langford], who you'll see in the documentary, who's getting in knife fights every 15 minutes. There's something very honest about those people and very refreshing. And I think anyone that walks through those doors -- with or without the knowledge that Georges St-Pierre is in there, that Manny's in there, that Amir's in there -- there's something that's really cool about the vibe. That's boxing, but particularly Freddie Roach.
I just watched the entire first season of
Our Neilsen numbers were horrible, but we always sensed more people were watching. And I was just happy for everybody who worked their asses off for not a lot of money on that show and very proud of it.