2 Guns - Mark Wahlberg interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
MARK Wahlberg discusses working with Denzel Washington on 2 Guns and why he likes to throw curveballs at and s**t-talk his co-stars (including Jack Nicholson).
He also talks about shooting Transformers 4 with Michael Bay, reflects on his music career with the Funky Bunch and the possibility of a revival and why his personal foundation exists to give local kids a chance in life.
Mark Wahlberg: Sorry I’m a little late, I’m jetlagged. I was on the set of Transformers last night in Detroit, until 9.30. Yikes! And then we got lost coming to the airport…
Q. Did you know 2 Guns was No.1 in the US?
Mark Wahlberg: I had known that Friday afternoon. We monitor those things quite closely. Even when people say they don’t, they do!
Q. Have you had a chance to celebrate?
Mark Wahlberg: Well, I’m working. You know, I’m constantly working. I really like the movie a lot, so I’m proud of it, so that’s why even though I’m in the middle of shooting Transformers I flew across the water to promote it. I see Denzel [Washington] didn’t come [laughs]!
Q. What’s he doing?
Mark Wahlberg: He’s actually shooting in Boston right now. So, he’s shooting in my home town. But he’s working nights. Thankfully, Michael Bay hates nights. So, literally, in all of Transformers there’s only four night shoots and I wasn’t in any of them.
Q. So, the movie reminds me a lot of ‘80s action movies like Lethal Weapon. Is it fair to say the DNA of those kinds of movies is present in 2 Guns?
Mark Wahlberg: Absolutely. It goes back to Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid. But the movie lives and dies on the chemistry between Denzel and I. It doesn’t matter who is chasing us. In Butch Cassidy, you never really saw who was after them. It was these guys kind of running around doing their thing. So, I loved the idea of doing that, but you had to obviously have the right person opposite you and Denzel was on the top of our wish-list. We offered it to him thankfully after Flight, when he wanted to do something a little lighter. He wanted to be in comedy, like me, for a long time but coming from a serious background and a dramatic background, it’s very difficult to go into comedy.
It’s a risky thing career-wise and if you don’t do it right it can be a big problem and set you back quite a way. So, he had seen me do The Other Guys and the little thing in Date Night, and then Ted. It’s funny because Ted came out while we were shooting this movie and he was very interested in those numbers! But he felt confident that I would have his back. It was pretty much the same thing that I went through when I was finally able to find Will Ferrell and Adam McKay for The Other Guys. I knew I would be protected and Baltasar [Kormakur, 2 Guns director] and I made sure that we made Denzel feel comfortable and had his back.
Q. Chemistry isn’t something you can teach. So, where does that come from?
Mark Wahlberg: It just happened. We’ve known each other for a while. We’ll see each other at Sunday brunch with his wife and his kids and my wife and my kids and see each other in passing quite often. We’re actually neighbours. But it’s just one of those things: it either works or it doesn’t. He was game and I was game and we had a great director in Baltasar who knows me and how I like to work, and that I like to improvise a lot, and I like to constantly be throwing curveballs at people. So, he was just up for it. It wasn’t one of those things where we went and rehearsed some chemistry.
Q. Are you next door neighbours?
Mark Wahlberg: We live in a very small gated community, so to get out he drives by my house all the time… never stops in to say hello! But he drives by all the time. And his wife keeps saying: “Bring your kids over here!” But I’m like: “They’ll tear your house up!” Like within an hour, she’d be chasing them back down the street.
Q. I asked Bruce Willis recently about his music career and he was very self-deprecating. He said he was a rubbish singer…
Mark Wahlberg: I would agree with that [laughs].
Q. How do you look back on your singing career? And would you ever revisit it?
Mark Wahlberg: I was the best! No, I would not revisit it. Actually, you know what? There may be a time and a place for it. It would have to make sense. I was asked on the spot, when they were doing this concert in Boston for the marathon victims, would I perform? And I said: “Absolutely, there isn’t anything I wouldn’t do to try and boost people’s spirits and raise money for those victims and their families.” And they said: “Would you perform with The Funky Bunch?” And I said ‘yes’, so it became this whole big thing. It was all over the papers in Boston. The Funky Bunch was calling me. They were in rehearsals and all that stuff. But I couldn’t go because I was shooting a movie. I couldn’t tell Michael Bay: “Look, I’ve got to go and do Good Vibrations!” So, maybe at the right time, for the right thing… maybe for a good cause or for fun. But I don’t miss it that much.
I remember the first time I ever came to London and I was here promoting my record and I got out of the car. I’m only used to eating food from by corner shop or my mother’s cooking, so I get off the plane, and I’m like. First of all, it’s all diesel fuel and I’m driving on the wrong side of the road. I get to the hotel and they don’t have normal chicken. I got no weed! I’m like: “I can’t take this shit.” So, literally, I cancelled every interview that I had, I went home, somebody from the record company got fired. Thankfully, they hired somebody else the next time I came back that liked me and had some weed for me, so it made my appetite a little better. I don’t do that anymore! But there was no discipline with music. And when I found movies, I became very disciplined. I realised there was no room for screwing around. I think music always kind of promoted this attitude of being able to do whatever I wanted. I’d show up late or wouldn’t show up at all, go on an hour late. But there’s a lot riding on a movie and there’s a lot of other people that make up a movie crew. So, when I found film I really found added discipline that helped me in my life. And I had to quit smoking marijuana because I have children. It’s not a good thing.
Q. Can you tell us a little bit about your Foundation and the work you do? What makes it important to you?
Mark Wahlberg: That is a serious shift, right there [laughs]. Look, I grew up not having… or at least not being able to identify who the real role models were. They were there, it’s just they weren’t the cool guys. So, I wasn’t looking up to the guy who dedicated his life to working at the boys club and coaching kids, or mentoring kids, or the parish priest. I was looking up to the guy who had the nice car or the hot girl. I wanted to be an athlete. So, I’m just trying to inspire kids and create opportunities for them… inner city kids and at-risk youth to have a chance at success in life at whatever they choose to do. I certainly feel like if I was able to accomplish what I’ve accomplished, then there isn’t anything that they can’t do. But that’s through hard work and by doing the right thing. I just have a cause because it’s so personal and close to me. I get a little bit annoyed… I appreciate celebrities using their celebrity to bring attention to stuff. But sometimes it’s just for attention, maybe for themselves as much – maybe it’s a self fulfilling thing. And that annoys me a little bit. It’s like ‘you’ve got shit going on in your own back yard as opposed to worrying about the environment or the Ozone layer’… and then you’re flying around on a jet [laughs]. I won’t mention any names.
Q. You’ve got great chemistry with Denzel in the film? Has there been any talk of a sequel or reuniting for another film?
Mark Wahlberg: We had a blast working together and we’d love to work together again. As far as doing a sequel, we’ll see how the movie continues to perform. If audiences really want to see it… I know in the States they’ve really enjoyed seeing us together. And you’re seeing two guys really going at it, you know. And they’re more formidable opponents than you would normally see. Usually, you see stuff with Denzel and they [his co-stars] are just kind of walking behind them like a puppy dog and nobody gets to say shit to him. And I’m like: “Fuck that!” I enjoy working with the best and going at the best. I remember when I was working with Jack Nicholson [on The Departed] I said some shit to him he’d never heard anybody say. Martin [Scorsese] was like: “What are you doing?!” And I was like: “I’m doing my thing! What the fuck do you think I’m doing?” He said: “I don’t think Jack’s ever heard that before!” And I replied: “Well, Jack can’t kick my ass physically so I’m not worried about Jack!”
It is what it is. And Denzel was great about it. We have the same kind of attitude towards the work. It’s like, if he’s great and no one else is good in the movie, then the movie is going to suck. So, we want everybody to be great. Bill Paxton was a powerhouse and he brought so much to the part. And Edward James Olmos was somebody that we’ve always admired, so we want everybody to be great. I think the movie only works as a whole because we have a great cast and we have great chemistry.
Q. You had to do a lot of eating in the film – was that difficult for you? And are you on any kind of diet to stay in shape?
Mark Wahlberg: No, I was coming off of Pain & Gain. Last year was a crazy year for me because I did four movies in the space of 12 months and they were all extremely different. I did a movie called Broken City where the director wanted me to be as thin as possible, and I was already flirting with the idea of doing Pain & Gain. So, I was trying to put on the weight. But he wanted me to be thin. So, I got down to 165lbs for that. And then I got up to 212 for Pain & Gain. And then I started 2 Guns 30 days after finishing Pain & Gain, so I got down to 180 for the start of the movie. But I did that just playing basketball and changing the supplements that I was taking and changing my diet.
And then 30 days after that I starred in Lone Survivor, which is a movie based on the true story of Marcus Luttrell and the worst tragedy in the history of the Navy SEALS. And he was there on the set, so I had to really bring my A-game for that. It was the most physically demanding movie that I’ve ever done, but also the movie that I’m most proud of, when it comes to telling a real story. It’s something that I think is going to be very impactful on audiences all over the world – it’s not just ‘go America go’! You meet some unlikely heroes in the movie and you kind of put a face on people who live in Afghanistan who are also victims.
Q. And what about all the eating in this film?
Mark Wahlberg: I don’t like to eat or anything. I don’t like to eat in movies. I don’t like props. Some people have always got to have a thing and they’re doing this or doing that. I hate it. I just want to talk or fight. Or both!
Q. What kind of films do you enjoy watching? And what material challenges and interests you?
Mark Wahlberg: I would have to say everything. I’m usually looking for the complete opposite of the thing that I’m doing at the time, or the thing that I’ve just finished. So, after Transformers we’re going to make a small, serious drama and then I’m going to do Ted 2 and then we’ve got an amazing script from Bill Monahan finally… two scripts from Bill Monahan, who wrote The Departed. He writes these fucking amazing pieces that I just feel so connected to and these characters that I can really identify with. As far as movies that I like seeing, I like seeing everything. But most of the movies that I’m, seeing now are kids’ movies because I usually take my kids to the movies. So, I’ve seen everything animated. And my boys, obviously, want to see the real movies – they’re dying to see 2 Guns and dying to see anything with guys beating each other up. The only thing I don’t like that much is sci-fi or musicals.
Q. So, you say you have two scripts from Bill Monahan – are they in The Departed world?
Mark Walhberg: Actually, they’re very different. One is based on the book American Desperado, who is Jon Roberts, who was featured in the documentary Cocaine Cowboys. So, that’s something we’ve been developing for a long time. There have been many writers. But then Bill just said: “Forget the documentary… I want to base it off of Evan Wright’s book.” And in eight weeks he just handed in the most slickest script I’ve ever read with the greatest characters that I’ve ever seen on the page. I’ve actually met Jon Roberts in real life… he’s no longer living but… And then there’s something else that we’re close to getting off the ground. We’re trying to put a director on it right now so we can do it in January but I don’t want to jinx it and say who it is. It’s actually a remake but a very different kind of thing. It won’t be like Planet of the Apes or The Truth About Charlie. This will be a good remake [laughs].
Q. Norwegian in inspiration?
Mark Wahlberg: No, God no. Did anyone here see Headhunters It [the remake] is caught up in development hell. But that’s one of the greatest movies I have seen in quite some time.
Q. It sounds like the Mark of today didn’t really like the Mark that started out. What changed you? And what advice would the Mark of today give the Mark of back then if he met him?
Mark Wahlberg: You can’t give him any advice because he wouldn’t listen. Everybody thinks they know it all at that age and it’s not until you get older that you realise that you know very little, but through experience, growth, fatherhood and marriage that you start to learn things… having daughters as opposed to just being an asshole boy. All of those things. But I don’t dislike him. It was part of who I was. Thank God I survived it and thank God I had an opportunity to grow.
Q. Has anybody ever come up to you and said, ‘back then you were a total asshole’?
Mark Wahlberg: Every time I get off a plane in Boston [laughs]!
Q. There’s a young Irish actor named Jack Reynor starring opposite you in Transformers 4. What advice would you give him? Indeed, have you offered any?
Mark Wahlberg: Well, I just sent a memo saying: “Don’t make eye contact with me! And if you happen to be in the same scene as me only address me as Mr Wahlberg or Mr Jaeger.” No, Jack’s quite a kid. I like working with Jack a lot. I just wanted to give him advice a) on knowing how Michael Bay works and needing to be prepared, but b) what a unique situation he’s in. I waited 20-some odd years to have the kind of success that I’m having in movies as an actor. So, I’m really grateful that I was able to be prepared in the way that I am to be able to deal with it and to appreciate it and to understand that it’s a very unique thing and it doesn’t happen all the time. So, his life and Nicola [Peltz’s] life are going to change quite a bit when it comes out. And that’s something that you’re either going to be able to deal with or it’s going to become a problem.
But I think Jack is very well grounded and smart and focused and he wants to be actor more than he wants to be famous, so that’s a good thing too. People call me for advice and I’m like: “Well, you won’t listen!” But I’ve had many, many discussions with Jack and I think he’s doing great in the movie. I think it’s such a unique opportunity for a young actor but it comes with a lot of baggage. When you’re doing a big movie, and Michael works as a pretty fast pace, so you have to be prepared in a different kind of way. But he’s doing a good job. I like Jack. I give him a lot of shit because I don’t know my daughter had a boyfriend and all of a sudden this punk kid is thrust into my life and I’ve got to deal with him while dealing with this very extraordinary set of circumstances. So, I have quite a bit of fun, even though I have quite a bit of Irish… most people that are from Boston are more Irish than people from Ireland. So, I threw a lot of Irish jokes and insults at him. But I also have to entrust the most important thing in my life to him at a certain stage in the movie. Something happens to me that I have to make sure that he protects my little girl. So, I love the human element of the movie and I love the relationship and the dilemma, even though I can identify with it because I know it’s in my near future that I know my little girl is going to end up having a boyfriend at some point and that’s going to be a big fucking problem! So, we’ve been talking about that a lot.
Q. Has your way with words ever got you into trouble with anyone before, given what you’ve said about the way you talked to Jack Nicholson?
Mark Wahlberg: I’ve said some things that people didn’t take the right way. One pops up to mind but I won’t mention who it is or what I said. But it was a line from Entourage and it’s a guy who was nominated for an Academy Award. It was in Oscar season. I said: “You’re not going to win because so-and-so did so-and-so and he’s going to win.” He looked at me and he was absolutely shocked and mortified. And I was like: “No, it’s from the show, it was a line that Johnny Drama said…” But he was very upset. And I saw him again in passing in the bathrooms at the Golden Globes and I said: “Dude, really, it was just a joke…” Jeremy Piven was with me and he goes to him: “Do you know he had the audacity to say this to me!” And I was like: “Dude! I was fucking around!” So, it has. But that was outside of work. I have the utmost respect for Denzel and for Jack Nicholson – talk about two of the greatest living actors. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with those guys.
But for me, I don’t get intimidated by it, I get excited about it because I know that if I’m working with people that are that great then I have a chance to be that much better myself. But when you’re playing roles that call for shit-talk, I do it pretty good. So, that’s my comfort zone right there. So, I just get in. That’s what I do. It’s why I was hired to play the part. It’s why you do it… but it’s like I said, you’ve got two guys’ guys and it’s like… I know people in my own neighbourhood who say: “Shit, you and Denzel are going at it? I want to see this fucking movie!” And they want to know was I able to hold my own. But with Denzel, I was so lucky to have him… I call him ‘sir’. But in the movie, that’s what’s happening, so that’s what we’re doing.
Q. What is it you like about the UK and what do you dislike?
Mark Wahlberg: Nothing really pisses me off. The traffic sucks. I was just such a fish out of water [back then]. Anywhere I went was like a complete culture shock. In Germany I had the same reaction but then I realised that at least here, they speak English. But I’m a big food person now and I love the people. I have a lot of close friends here.
Q. When it comes to stunts and action sequences, how much do you get stuck in?
Mark Wahlberg: When I was young I liked to get out there. I was pretty much an adrenaline junkie. But as you get older, you get a little bit more banged up and realise that I’ll do whatever is required. In this particular movie, Denzel and I probably did most of it. But it wasn’t like either he or I was like: “OK, let’s be Joe Cool.” I find it so annoying when actors are sitting there talking about how bad-ass they are doing all their own stunts. Meanwhile, these guys are spending about an hour and a half in the make-up chair and then another hour and a half looking at themselves in the mirror or something like that. I’m like: “You’re not that tough dude! And I’m not that tough!” If you want tough, go and watch a UFC fight or go to prison. You’ll see tough. But I’ll do what’s required of me.
Yesterday I was getting smashed… there was this rug on the car that was from Germany that’s never been used before. So, they were like: “Oh, it’s never been used before, this is so cool!” And I’m like: “Well no, it’s a fucking problem if it’s never been used before because they probably don’t know how to work this shit!” And I’ve got this camera… it’s like a robot, it’s on this arm and it comes in and does all these cool moves and stuff but the fucking thing keeps on smashing into me and hitting me in the face and chest. I asked the guy… he barely spoke English. But I said: “Do you know how to fucking work this thing?” I said to him – because I’ve spent a lot of time in Germany – so I said [in German] ‘what’s your name?’ And he said: “Do you speak proper German man?” So, then I was like: “Seriously, do you know how to operate this thing?” And Michael [Bay] was getting all excited because he’s just watching the movie. And then he said: “Are you OK?” And I said: “I’m not going to not do the shot but this fucking thing keeps squishing me and I’m squishing Stanley Tucci, who is behind me!” I put the seat all the way back and the thing is STILL grinding against me! But everybody else was like: “Oh, this is awesome! The shot looks so cool!” And I’m like: “Let me drive the car and you sit over there and see how cool it is!”
Q. We get to see the lovely Paula Patton’s charms in this film. You don’t take you’re shirt off. What are your thoughts on this imbalance?
Mark Wahlberg: [Laughs] I didn’t really think about it. It was a Baltasar thing. My guy’s this character who is constantly hitting on the girls and winking but he’s really got no game, which I liked. If we do a second one, then maybe Stig will have a girlfriend. I think there was a scene where I had my shirt off but it got cut out.
Q. What do you like about working with Baltasar?
Mark Wahlberg: I love working with Baltasar. It’s rare because it is rare that a European filmmaker will be hired to direct a comedy. They’re always getting hired to do thrillers and stuff like that but comedy a lot of the time doesn’t translate. There’s a language barrier there. But he’s an actor first and he’s a really funny guy. He’s a really talented guy with action, and with comedy, and also with budget. He comes from making small independent European films and so giving him just a little bit more, he makes a lot of magic. We did Contraband for less than what it was supposed to initially cost. And then we did 2 Guns for the same thing. It was going to be one of those $100 million plus movies and we were able to do it for a lot less than that. He’s a guy that I trust and he’s really talented. But it’s rare that you see a European filmmaker making an American comedy.
Q. Are you actively looking to work with him again? Have you got any projects on the go?
Mark Wahlberg: Absolutely! We’ve got a couple of things in the works. He just directed a pilot for us for HBO called The Missionary – a Cold War spy show. So, we’re trying to keep the handcuffs on him and keep him close by.