A Peggy Siegal luncheon was held today at the Four Seasons for The Fighter, and particularly for director David O. Russell, star-producer Mark Wahlberg and costar Melissa Leo. After the food and schmooze Russell and I spoke for a half-hour — here‘s the mp3. Russell is my kind of whip-smart guy — highly perceptive, well-read, an adult, a father, and whimsical but in no way combustible or hair-trigger. His shorter hair, I think, signifies a new resolve never to be on YouTube ever again.

Yes, that’s N.Y. Press critic Armond White sitting near me (i.e., frame right) during the stand-up greeting that Wahlberg, Russell and Leo offered to the guests.

I asked Wahlberg during the lunch whether he’d read Christian Bale‘s Esquire interview, and he said yeah. We agreed it’s a good read and a good wrestling match. “So why isn’t he here today?,” I asked. “I mean, I know he doesn’t like to do these press things…” Wahlberg went into a schpiel about how he accepts the responsibility of having to promote any film, particularly one with award-season ambitions, with the usual meet-and-greets. “So why isn’t Bale here?,” I asked again. Wahlberg half cleared his throat and half-chuckled and mumured, “Ask him.” I told him the Best Supporting Actor thing is down to Bale vs. The King’s Speech Geoffrey Rush, he said, no surprise, that he’d been told that. And that was that. Bale is Bale.

I told him that as much as I worshipped The Departed, The Fighter feels more authentic in terms of the working-class Massachusetts accents and faces. He said that the authenticity largely came from his (and Russell’s) insistence on using Lowell locals — i.e., people who look and talk like the genuine article without having to “act” it.

(l.) Love Ranch producer Lou DiBella, (r.) legendary boxing writer Bert Sugar, who’s often described as Damon Runyon-esque and/or Studs Terkel-like.

(l.) columnist-critic Marshall Fine; (r.) The Fighter costar and Best Supporting Actress contender Melissa Leo.