So I‘m watching The Fighter, and at some point in the film Sugar Ray Leonard, playing himself, shows up during a scene where our hero Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) has a pretty brutal bout. Now, it’s already been established that Micky’s troubled brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), who was himself once a boxer, fought Sugar Ray long ago, and even knocked him down. So Sugar Ray is already kind of a motif in the film, and we’re wondering if he’s going to recognize Dicky, who is Micky’s trainer. And, of course, famous and recognizable athletes playing themselves in such films – be they serious dramas or comedies or biopics or whatever – is pretty common, like when Brett Favre showed up at the end of There’s Something About Mary.
But here’s the thing: Watching this scene, never -- at no point whatsoever, not even for a split-second -- do I think to myself, “Hey, look, that’s Sugar Ray Leonard playing himself, that’s interesting,” or, “Hey, look, that’s Sugar Ray Leonard playing himself, like he did on Married with Children,” or Hey, look, that’s Sugar Ray Leonard playing himself, like so many other famous athletes do in movies like this,” or anything like that.
The only thing that goes through my mind is: “Cool. Sugar Ray Leonard is there…I wonder if he’ll recognize Dicky.”
This is a good thing.