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Max Payne - Mark Wahlberg interview

Mark Wahlberg in Max Payne

Interview by Rob Carnevale

MARK Wahlberg talks about the appeal of Max Payne and doing action movies, tapping into dark emotions and how he’s still determined to make The Fighter [the story of boxer ‘Irish’ Mickey Ward] with Darren Aronofsky [of The Wrestler fame].

He also talks about growing up as part of a large family, why he’s always reluctant to do sequels and how much of his own experiences go into informing the hit TV series Entourage (which he executive produces).

Q. What appealed to you about Max Payne?
Mark Wahlberg: I’d just done The Happening with M Night Shyamalan, where I’d played a science teacher, and I played an accountant in The Lovely Bones, so I was looking to go back and do something with a lot of action and intensity. I read this script and loved it.

Q. Do you like John Moore, the director?
Mark Wahlberg: I love John. Behind Enemy Lines… I was a little pissed off that he hired Owen Wilson instead of me [laughs]. But I was a big fan of his. I was a bit freaked out when I realised it was based on a video game… only because the video games that I grew up playing had no story whatsoever. But obviously that’s changed quite a bit.

Q. Were you also aware of the film history of video game to film adaptations?
Mark Wahlberg: I didn’t know any of the statistics, no. It wasn’t until I had actually made the movie that people started pointing out the fact that they’d tried it quite a few times and it didn’t work – that they’d made quite a lot of bad movies. But I read the script and liked it. I don’t really care where the story has come from. It’s so hard to find good stories and interesting characters to play, especially in the action world. Usually, when you get an action script they don’t really have much depth as far as the character goes. But this character is driven my emotion and that appealed to me. I thought it would be difficult going to that dark place, because I would have to think about something horrible happening to my beautiful family, but I was willing to go there. When I go to the dark place, I want to go as extreme as possible.

Q. Did you play the game?
Mark Wahlberg: Well, I didn’t play the game personally because I don’t want to get addicted to a video game. So, I allowed my friend who works with me to play it all day, every day until the movie was over. But then I had to take it away from him.

Q. How physically demanding was the role? And I gather you also had to contend with some pretty severe weather?
Mark Wahlberg: The weather was brutal. Thankfully, I’d been training to do this boxing movie that will probably never happen for over two years, so I was in physical shape… so it was more about getting to that dark emotional place. But then John is a very demanding director when it comes to the physicality. He’d obviously seen a lot of my older films and thought that I was tough and could handle the job. But I always like to get as many stunt guys in as possible [laughs].

Q. What about the action genre appeals to you? Are you an angry person who needs an outlet?
Mark Wahlberg: Well, deep down inside I was when I was younger, so I like to keep that wrapped up tight. But being able to tap into that is certainly helpful and it can be therapeutic at times. But these are the kind of movies that I like to watch. I’ve done some good ones and I’ve done some bad ones but people seem to like seeing me in these kind of roles.

Q. What is the status of The Fighter now? Is it more likely to happen because of Darren Aronofsky’s success with The Wrestler?
Mark Wahlberg: Well, you would think so. I mean Mickey Rourke is probably going to be nominated for an Academy Award. The other part in the film is primed for somebody. But it’s a huge commitment. I’ve been training for two years to do this movie and I guess it could be pretty scary… the idea of going to that dark place and having to really get in there and make it real. But I’m certainly willing to do it, so we’ll find somebody who wants to do it. I’m going to get back to the States, sit down with Darren and figure it out.

Q. Has it become a passion project for you?
Mark Wahlberg: Oh yeah, it’s more than a passion project. It’s always been a dream of mine, and a childhood fantasy, to play a great champion. I would much rather haven been an athlete than an actor. This is like some second place consolation prize [smiles]. But hopefully we’ll get it done and figure it out.

Q. How hard is it to sustain a dark emotional state of mind? You’ve done it twice in quick succession with The Lovely Bones and Max Payne
Mark Wahlberg: I always say that I look forward to the end and start counting the days until I can hopefully walk away with my sanity. But it was great doing Max Payne after The Lovely Bones, because it was the complete opposite of how we dealt with the situation. Obviously, Jack Salmon is not a physical guy at all. He’s an accountant whose daughter is brutally murdered and it destroys him. He doesn’t have the ability to go out with a badge and a gun to beat the shit out of everybody that’s remotely responsible. But it was nice to still have a bit of that character with me when entering Max Payne.

Q. Did you find one film more demanding than the other?
Mark Wahlberg: They were both very different. Working with Peter Jackson is very different to working with John Moore. But I think The Lovely Bones is going to be one of the most beautiful movies certainly that I’ve ever been a part of. The subject matter is very dark but ultimately the movie is really about love and life and that there’s a much better place for all of us after this life.

Q. You’re from a large family, so did you have to show off to make yourself heard?
Mark Wahlberg: Yeah. People always thought that being the youngest I was always spoiled. But I always got the crap kicked out of me. So, it was always my dream and my passion to be able to beat the shit out of every one of my brothers and sisters – because they were evil as well [laughs]. But I’d perform for my dad and try to make people laugh.

Q. I know your children are very young but what are your thoughts on what they’re going to be allowed to watch as they grow up?
Mark Wahlberg: Nothing! [Laughs] Certainly none of my movies, that’s for damn sure! I was actually very depressed for a while. We live in Hollywood at the moment… we won’t stay there forever, but it’s very difficult to raise normal kids in an environment like that. I was thinking about the lack of any real role models for girls. You have Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, who are nice enough people, but I don’t want my daughters to aspire to that. I was watching HBO and there was a documentary about the US women’s soccer team and all these girls following them around, going to games and having somebody that’s a really positive person to look up to. It actually brought a tear to my eye at the time. But now my daughter is playing soccer and my son is dying to go to karate.

Q. Is there much of a difference in the way you approach your acting career to the way you approach fatherhood?
Mark Wahlberg: Yes and no. You could say the similarity is that I just want to do the best possible job with everything that I do. But I’m far more concerned with being a good father as opposed to being a good actor because that’s what’s really going to matter. I don’t think God’s going to judge me based on my film work – although I hope he has a sense of humour and I hope he’s a fan of movies because I’ve done some things that may be questionable in his eyes as an actor! But I’m much more concerned with being a good dad, being there for them, educating them and hopefully helping them avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made. And not just spoiling them, but making sure they know they’re appreciated and that their faith is the most important thing; that they go out there and try to be good people.

Q. Is a sequel to The Departed still on the cards?
Mark Wahlberg: They’re talking about it but I don’t know. I’ve never done a sequel before. They’ve tried with a number of films that I’ve done but if they can make it better than the first and people really want to see it, then I’d be willing to consider it. But I usually like going on to the next thing. But The Departed was a pretty damn fun part to play. They’re talking about bringing in a couple of new guys – like De Niro or Brad Pitt, with one of them being a bad guy or a corrupt politician. Like the Hong Kong trilogy upon which The Departed is based, they could also do a prequel and have everyone come back. But we’ll see.

Q. Do you have something against sequels?
Mark Wahlberg: I have something against The Godfather: Part III. Two was phenomenal! I don’t know… I just never wanted to do it for the sake of a pay cheque, especially if it’s a follow-up to something you were proud of. If you can make it better than the first, which some movies have been able to do, then there’s a case for doing it. I think the Bourne series has just gotten better and better. But with Ocean’s 11… 12 was not good and I didn’t want to see 13. But the Bourne series is great and Madagascar 2 was pretty damn good [laughs]. But then I seem to see more kids’ movies than anything.

Q. John has said you were so involved with Max Payne that you were almost like a co-director to him. Is that something you would consider doing one day?
Mark Wahlberg: I would definitely like to direct at some point. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some amazing talent and study them. But when the right time and the right story arrives, and I feel like I’m compelled to tell it, then I’ll do that. On this, however, I was so immersed in the work of the character that when I finally saw the film I was shocked by how it looked. I wasn’t even aware of how it was going to look. But John is an amazing director and a great leader. He knew what he was doing. He shot this movie for something like $40 million and it looks more elaborate than a lot of movies that cost $100 million.

Q. With all the things you’ve experienced as an actor, do you find yourself funnelling a lot of it into Entourage?
Mark Wahlberg: Some of it. I’ll never own up to which bits are real. Deny until you die is my motto. But yes, there’s stuff from me and stuff from other people. It’s also very different from the real guys; I mean the real “E” [Eric Murphy] is around here somewhere you’ll get some idea of the liberties they’ve taken in changing things around. Our stuff was always a lot more dark and edgy, but we didn’t want to scare people away or think bad things about us because at the core I’m a good guy [laughs]. But I have made some poor choices in my past.

Read our interview with director John Moore