In town to promote his latest film, Broken City (out on the 1st March) in which he not only stars but also produces, Hollywood A-Lister Mark Wahlberg took some time to sit down with us and discuss the movie, his powerful position in Hollywood, and how he approaches roles.
Although he admitted that he was a bit tired (it may or may not have been the morning after his ‘enthusiastic’ appearance on The Graham Norton Show), Wahlberg was class personified, giving thoughtful answers to his questions while also making sure everyone in the room was alright. He’s clearly a clever guy, something which some of his roles haven’t really got across, and it’ll be interesting to see what he does next with his new-found producing power.
What attracted you to the project?
The script, I just loved it. That’s why everybody wanted to be involved in the movie – we didn’t have the kind of money to pay everyone their quotes. Brian Tucker (the scriptwriter) is the reason why we’re all here today. I think he started writing the script when he was 19 years old and then finally when he was 24 it was on the Blacklist (Hollywood’s annual list of the best unproduced scripts) – he’s an extraordinary talent.
What challenges did you face being the producer of the film?
First of all, getting someone to give us money to make an adult themed movie about adult characters and people. I mean, if you’re blowing shit up they’ll give you half a billion dollars, but luckily, I was able to convince a friend to finance the movie and also to leave us alone creatively. If you do this movie at a studio they’re going to want a lot of changes and we wanted to stay true to Brian’s vision. So it meant doing this down and dirty, but I don’t mind doing that – it made for a great experience. We got a really great cast and crew, and everybody cared, everybody felt like they were a part of it, it was our movie.
I gather you and Russell Crowe dispensed with the rehearsal period and just went toe to toe?
Absolutely. Alan [Hughes, the director] offered it to us but we refused. The first scene we shot was the big confrontation in the mayor’s office. It was like a seven page scene so we just dived in and started going. The really great thing is that while our characters are always trying to one up each other, we weren’t doing that as actors.
I’ve seen many actors come in and it’s like, “Ok this is my moment, I’m going to steal this scene, I’m going to steamroll this guy.” I’ve done it myself a couple of times, but only out of anger, and that was only in The Departed – and it’s a long story so we won’t get into it… [quickly moves on]. But really, we were doing this for the better of the movie, and in between takes we would discuss why it was so key, and why the movie hinged on particular moments.
It was nice to see a guy who comes in as prepared as me y’know? He’s just a pro. He had between the debate scene and the scenes with me probably more dialogue than most people have in a whole movie, and shot all those scenes in three weeks. He just came in and knocked it out of the park.
On the surface it seems quite a macho guys film, so what would I say to get my girlfriend to come with and watch it?
Uh, lie to her. Tell her it’s a rom-com or chick flick… No, my wife liked the movie and she doesn’t normally like those kind of things. She’s very vocal about what she likes and doesn’t like, especially when it pertains to critiquing me and my work – she likes to smack me over the head once in a while. Hmm, I haven’t been asked that question, and normally I get asked the same questions over and over and I have a routine answer. I’ll get back to you, you’ve caught me off guard! [He never did. You owe me an answer, Wahlberg!]
Like Billy in the movie, you were somewhat of an outsider yourself. However, now you’re very much ‘in the club’ – was there ever a moment when you thought ‘this is it, I’ve made it’?
I still don’t feel like I’m ‘in the club’. Whenever I go to award shows I’m cool with everybody that I’ve worked with, but I still just have that same blue collar attitude. I really appreciate the opportunities I have and I work hard and I don’t want to do anything to mess it up, but at some point someone’s going to tap me on the shoulder and say ‘hey, it’s time to go now’, so I try not to ruffle any feathers.
Again, having that enormous sense of appreciation of getting to do what I do helps, and I’m always looking to the future – so I never dwell on the past to see when I felt I’d arrived. There have been moments but I prefer to think about how I get better at what I do, and make better movies and television, and employ people to do their thing and show their talents.
You’re doing a lot of producing these days, do you get a different satisfaction from it?
Absolutely. It’s nice to go between the two, especially with movies. When you produce, you’re involved with every aspect of the movie, and that can be daunting. And then you go and do a movie where you’re just an actor for hire, and you can sit back and giggle at other people wasting time and wasting money, and it’s not your responsibility to sort out a problem or an issue – and if you’ve got four days off you don’t have to still go to the set and be there from the beginning of the day to the end. But then I want to get back in there and rummage through all the stuff that is going on behind the scenes that you don’t know about as an actor.
Are you going to direct at all?
At some point maybe. It’s a matter of finding the right story I feel compelled to tell. It’s a very time consuming job to have – you’ve got to carve out a good 16 months to two years out of your life to just focus on that one particular project. With producing I always get to juggle – I’m mostly on the phone or taking meetings and sorting out stuff. I can multi-task and do ten to fifteen things.
In the movie, the relationship between Billy and his assistant Katy is very strong. Was it nice to have that platonic relationship?
It was. Billy has his relationship with Natalie which is doomed from the start – it was born out of a tragic and unhappy place, and it’s a classic guy who’s with a girl out of his league. She’s going in one direction and he’s in the other. And he has this perfect girl who’s there, and she’s like ‘pay attention to me’. Alona (Tal) did a great job with Katy. The only time we were pushed by the people financing the movie was when it came to casting, and especially those parts.
They wanted names, they wanted the next hot starlet, so when the movie came out they could get magazine covers and that sort of thing. We saw everybody, but Alona kept coming in and was feisty and playful and confident, and kept doing a good job. We saw all the people suggested to us, but she just won the part. Natalie Martinez did the same thing. There were other people who were front-runners, but she came in late in the game. She didn’t think she’d get the part and so just winged it, and so had something different about her. She had a confidence.
Other people were putting so much into it, and were so tense. It’s hard, I was never good in auditions, so I try to be as helpful as I can to whoever comes in that room because I feel their pain. You want that job and it’s a tough thing. But they earned the parts.
Dare I ask what was your worst audition? Are you past auditioning now?
I haven’t auditioned in a while, but whenever I have meetings with directors, while crossing my toes, I always say if you want me to come in and read I don’t mind. Obviously I do. But I throw that out there. I have a body of work they can use as a reference, but if it’s something different and something they may not necessarily see me in I always offer that up. I’m hoping they won’t take me up on it though.
Where are you at with the Entourage movie?
The script is done, the greenlight has been given by Warner Bros, and we’ll start shooting around the end of the summer.
Wasn’t the story finished?
It’s never finished.
Are we going to see all the same faces?
Yes. The main faces. We’re going to get back to the guys being the guys. We never wanted it to end but it got tricky, probably more on the deal side than anything. But Sex And The City did a great job with the first movie, and we’ve always felt that it could make for a good movie – lots of people complain that the episodes are too short. There’s certainly a financial upside to making a good movie.
Hopefully we’ll be able to make a second movie and not screw it up like Sex And The City did. It’s tough, but I think if we get back to what people really loved about the show, which is the guys, it’ll be great. Over the years they’ve developed great relationships with female characters, which are strong and powerful, but now it’s time to get back to the guys. Everyone’s excited.
Might you be in it?
They’ve written a cameo for me, playing myself as a television producer and someone trying to get a job from me, but if they want me to do it, then of course I’ll do it in a second.
How would you summarise the whole Michael Bay experience of Pain And Gain?
Awesome. Just awesome. I mean to me he’s just the most efficient director I’ve ever worked with. He’s an absolute machine. We had such a wonderful experience working together. The movie is fantastic, although he never wants me to talk about it. It’s his small little baby movie. But I think it’s up there with any of the great films I’ve been a part of and I’m very proud of it. We had such a great working relationship, everyday it was like, “Well, what about this, and what about that?”
I was just so into playing that part, and the direction and ideas that he came up with for me were great. I wasn’t too familiar with many of his movies, and he’s such a funny guy and knows his comedy. But later on set he just kind of pulled me aside one day and said, “Hey, you wanna do another movie?” So I said hell yeah let’s go, and then he told me what it was which was Transformers, and what he wanted to do and how he wanted to make it different, so I was like, “Let’s go, I’m up for it”.
I’m excited about it, it’s the only time I’ve decided to do a movie that my kids are excited about, and they want to see it and be in it. Hopefully my wife will let them watch it as one of them, my four year old, screamed “shit” the other day when his brother knocked a football out of his hand. I almost laughed, but I managed to hold it together and said, “Get over here now. If you say that again I’m going to wash your mouth out with soap. Where did you learn that word?” And he said, “Transfomers”.
So I told my wife and now the DVDs have been taken away, so hopefully they’ll get to see the movie!
Mark Wahlberg, thank you very much.
Broken City is out in UK cinemas on the 1st March.