Welcome to the Empire Podcast, Mark Wahlberg. Pleasure to have you sir.
Thank you, thank you for having me. [Waving a copy of the new issue] By the way, I am obsessed with reading this magazine. I'm not really interested in what we're going to talk about. I want to read this magazine.
Well, as it happens, at the very back of the magazine we have a section called Classic Scene, which as you might imagine is a celebration of classic scenes in cinema. Our Classic Scene Of 2012 was a certain scene from Ted - the one where you rattle off an impressive litany of white trash girls' names. How long did it take you to memorise that?
A long time. I usually start learning the script about eight weeks before physical production and principal photography, but you know that was the hardest dialogue for me to ever learn, just because it's just 57 names that don't mean anything, that aren't connected to anything. At one point, I was thinking, 'I'll take a binder, I'll have a name and then I'll have a picture beside it and so I could use that to visualise' - but it was just one of those things which just took forever and I am good with dialogue.
I still remember chunks of dialogue from 20 years ago, but it was one of those things I never thought would make it in the movie, because when we talked about originally doing it, I would just say, Brittany, Tiffany, Candice, Sabrina, Reba, Trina and it would just go on and on. I said, 'Dude, this is going to be a 10-minute long scene, it's never going to make it in the movie. What if I do like a gameshow type of thing with this?' This is something that we do often. We play a guessing game and I'll just say it as fast as I can. So we'll try to do it in an amount of time where it make sense, because you can't have a five minute scene of me just saying names - you know we'll think it's funny, but nobody else will.
So, we did it and people liked it. It was one of those random things. It was like the fight scene in Ted. I remember at the time, I did not want to do this scene. I just feel ridiculous, because it's literally me smashing my head off the wall and pretending somebody kicked me in the nuts. Then it turns out it's one of the great scenes of the movie and so, you know, it really started making me question myself.
Can you still do the list of names?
I can probably do a good chunk of it. Brittany, Tiffany, Samantha, Autumn, Ruby, Taylor, Tara, Charlene, Chantelle, Courtney, Misty - I just start randomly saying names after a while - if I stop and picture the page then I can do it, but then I do it slow again. I can visualise the page in my head, because I can literally remember it all: the exact drops of wine that were on the paper... just because I read the script twice a day out loud as well, while I am shooting the movie, so...
Yeah. Let's talk about Broken City. You mentioned a fight scene in Ted, a big fight scene against an invisible bear - you've also done fight scenes obviously with boxers in The Fighter, and in Broken City you have to take on someone who's essentially a giant. Which was the toughest?
Well, the giant guy didn't actually know it was a movie. [Laughs] Well, it's crazy. That was a guy I personally hired to play that part and I just kicked the shit out of him. His name is Big A. He's a former Israeli soldier. He has been in many movies and you know the director was like, 'What are we doing here? What's going on?' I said, 'Just trust me.'
You know how many fight scenes you do where they're choreographed and you're doing all these fast cuts where they're done Bourne Identity-style, like Ted or whatever. So I said, 'You know what? Just put the cameras there and let us do our thing.' We did like ten takes of me just destroying this guy, and then we shot the scene with him, with the girl kind of dancing with him and rubbing on him. So, that was like a consolation for him.
Is it true that you had to actually apologise to the Mayor of New York for damage caused during the shoot?
I had to call the mayor's office because we did that scene and we didn't have a permit to be out there. I was just like, 'Let's just steal some shots.' I took one of my friends. I was like, 'Dude, just stand over there.' And he said, 'What you're going to do, man?' I said, 'Just stand over there and then, you know, follow me down the street. We'll go in the bodega and do all my stuff.'
So, I started punching him in the face and there was a cop who was with us. Then we started fighting and I ripped this grate right off of the storefront. I started shaking it and then all of sudden it just came off. Then I went into the bodega and I came out with some beers and I threw one off a passing car and the bottle just smashed and the cop was like, 'That's it! You're going to jail.' You know, 'This is shut down!', that sort of thing. So I had to call the mayor's office the next day and the film commission and apologise and ask that we'd be able to continue shooting and finish our shoot in New York...
What did he say? 'Stop destroying my city please...'?
Yeah. You know, but it's crazy, because all I could think of was when we did like The Basketball Diaries in New York in the '90s, you could do anything you wanted. I mean, we were going crazy. We never had any police. We never had any issue with permits or any of that stuff, but obviously times have changed... New York City has cleaned up quite a bit.
|Mark Wahlberg in Broken City|
Broken City has a sort of '70s vibe. You've mentioned Serpico as inspiration before I believe. Are those '70s thrillers the sort of films you grew up with?
Absolutely. My dad always picked the films, too. My dad was the big movie guy. The first movie he ever took me to in the theatre was Hard Times with Charles Bronson and I was around seven years old or so. So I am sitting there watching Bronson have a bare-knuckle fight with that bald guy and I am like, 'Holy shit, this movie is incredible!' And you know that's how I grew up watching Cagney and McQueen and John Garfield and Robert Ryan and Edward G. Robinson, you know. I wasn't watching whoever the stars were at that time, although you know I did see a lot of Pacino, Hackman, Nicholson, guys like that.
And in The Other Guys you got to reveal that you were a confident comic performer as well as an action star...
You know, you watch movies like Boogie Nights, you realise there are a lot of comedic elements in those performances, but it's just not categorized as a full-blown comedy and we wanted to find the right thing. I remember meeting a lot of guys. It wasn't until I sat down with Will and Adam for The Other Guys that I was really just comfortable with the idea of jumping in with them and because they're just... they are who they are.
They're really nice guys and not the kind of dark guys that are funny on camera, but then they're really weird and very unpleasant when you're sitting in a room with them. I just didn't want to do that. I don't want to have that kind of experience. I didn't think it would be productive for me and a place where I could feel confident to try stuff and get crazy and know I was in a safe environment.
So, before I even heard the idea of The Other Guys I said I was in. You know, we went to dinner, we sat down. They were like, 'So we've got this idea...' I said, 'Well, just before you get into it, I am in.' And they were like, 'Do you want to hear what our idea is?' I said, 'Well, you could tell me if you want or we can just order food and hang out. But seriously, I am in.' And they were like, 'Oh, cool.' So, literally then they told me the idea and then three months later I got the script and in another three months we were shooting the movie.
It many ways it's a natural evolution, isn't it? Because The Other Guys is a comedy take on a character that you've played before that actually worked really well. Did you feel more comfortable because of that?
Yeah. Listen, I am very comfortable as an actor now anyway. I mean, it took a while, because you got to understand when musicians, especially rappers, are trying to act, you know, it's okay - well, when you look cool, anyway - but you know you never want to look uncool. But when I was doing Basketball Diaries and Fear it was like, okay, those movies are still going to be perceived as cool by the guys, but it wasn't until Boogie Nights came along that I really had to make a choice. Am I going to just do this acting thing full on? Am I going to play any kind of role and really show what I can do - try things and go out of my comfort zone and not worry about what other people think?
By the time I got into doing the comedy thing I was really comfortable in my own skin, but I also play all the parts the same way. I play them as real as possible. The comedy has got to come from the absurdity of the situation or the craziness of whatever is going on, but I play it all with complete conviction. I believe it 110%, you know, I don't want to do pratfalls and like dumb stuff for laughs, you know.
You have this amazing deadpan ability, where the crazy stuff can happen around you, but you believe it all... was that from watching a lot of Buster Keaton as a kid?
Yeah, I mean I watched anything and everything with my dad. So, you know that was certainly an influence early on. You know, that's all I did every day with my dad, watch movies. He was such a movie fan. I remember when I started making music and started acting, he was very happy.
He would never say anything bad about what I was doing with the music, because it was something other than going to prison. I was starting to do something positive with my life, but then he became extremely opinionated about what I was doing and how I was doing it and he would be very honest and blunt about the movies. About the choices that I was making as an actor. I would work really hard to get a good review from him, which was a big deal.
The first comedy film you appeared in was Date Night, wasn't it? You kind of stole the show a little bit...
Yeah, that was the kind of warm up to The Other Guys and I remember when we agreed to do it, I had already committed to doing the movie with Will and Adam and they were kind of pissed. They were like, 'Dude, what are you doing? You're supposed to do the first one with us!' I said, 'It's just a small thing.' I had a good time with Shawn and, you know, Steve and Tina were really cool. Didn't like the idea of having my shirt off the whole time, but...
It's an interesting one, because you're famously short of clothing in that film and yet in the credits, Lorraine Crossman, who you've worked with many times, is credited as your wardrobe assistant. Surely the easiest gig in Hollywood history - what was she up to on set?
Oh God, she is the best. You know what, I got to have my people around me. They take such good care of me, you know - I think about the times when we're out there shooting something in the freezing cold and Lorraine's out there with me before I've got to, you know, jump in the ocean. She is there with the warm stuff and she's the best. I call her mama. She takes good care of me.
|Mark Wahlberg in The Fighter with Christian Bale|
There is an Entourage gag here, but let's skip over that and go straight into it. The Entourage movie has been green lit, which is very exciting. You must be pretty pleased that that's now moving along.
It's fantastic. You know, it's one of those things like The Fighter and like this movie, Broken City. These are the movies that you have to will to make happen for whatever reason.
It wasn't supposed to be a movie and I just kept saying, 'There is going to be a movie!' and everybody was like, 'What are you talking about?' and then people would call Doug [Ellin, the show's creator] and be like, 'What's he talking about?' and then all of a sudden it was everywhere we went and they're like, 'When is the movie coming out? Where is the movie?' And then, all of a sudden, there is a movie.
And it's set six months after the last episode. Can you tell us anything?
Well, I could tell you there was one very uninspired thing. They wrote a cameo for me playing myself as a producer of a television show - a television show one of the guys is trying to get a part on. But no, I am excited, because it's getting back to the guys being together, you know, they were all caught up in their relationships with different women and stuff like that before, and those are great characters.
Were you surprised when people started to single out Ari as the fan favorite character? Was that something you expected when the show started?
I did, absolutely. You know Jeremy is such a great actor and it was such a well-written part. He had all the great lines. He was the guy who was going to be tearing it up.
Have you spoken to Harvey Weinstein about the Harvey Weingard character in Entourage? Do you know what he did?
Yeah, he said something about it... He said we should have at least had him play it, he would have done it better. But look, the show was the show, and hopefully people are in on the joke and don't take offence to it, although it was funny because, you know, it's crazy. I was at the Golden Globes and I saw Jim Cameron and it was right after Avatar and I was like, 'Dude, man, give me some of that money!' I cannot believe that movie made so much money. When I first saw some of the Avatar footage when I was in New Zealand shooting The Lovely Bones with Peter Jackson, Cameron was down there and they were shooting for, like, ever and it was like it has this unlimited budget. There was no way this guy is going to hit it out of the park twice, it's just impossible.
So I was telling him and I was like, 'Dude, I didn't think it would make it. I thought it was going to be a disaster. You got so much money, you've gotta give me some of that money!' and he said, 'Man, you've been milking me for so long - I did one episode of the show and you mentioned me for fuckin' four seasons."
You are sitting here in a Boardwalk Empire jacket - which of course you're a producer on - and you did In Treatment as well. Do you agree it's fair to say TV has never been better really than it is now?
It's crazy. I hope filmmakers will get more inspired by what's happening dramatically on television, you know. I personally only watch things that are on HBO so I've never seen Homeland or any other shows that I hear out there that are good. I hear Breaking Bad is really good, but I just refuse to watch it... I'll even watch Girls because my wife likes it, but, you know, anything HBO is good.
So this means you've not been watching Southie Rules...
You know what, I have shows with A&E, so I could check it out, but I haven't seen it. I've seen the commercial, but I haven't seen it.
Apparently it's partly subtitled because they didn't think people would be able to understand the dialect.
Well, there's been an obsession with those kind of characters, especially after the sisters on The Fighter. We have a few shows that we're shooting in Boston, a couple of docu-series, one for The History Channel, two for A&E, so I can watch A&E. I'm allowed as long as it's not a competing pay-cable network.
How's the Wahlburgers reality show the going?
There is, yeah we just shot a pilot for The History Channel. Not HBO, no. But The History Channel is the third biggest cable network in the world and it's a docu-series about building a family business with my mother and my brother Paul at the centre of it, and Donnie and I kind of, you know, pulling the strings.
We just hired a real CEO to run and build the business. He was at Panera Bread and it's a serious business and a serious thing. My brother Paul is an absolute rock star in the kitchen. He is a five-star chef, but all he likes to eat is fast food, so he has always wanted to have a burger place and the business is fantastic and we've had offers to bring them here, Ireland, Dubai, everywhere, but we want to build the business the right way. So we're literally starting in New England, building our second one in another Boston location and letting it mushroom from there.
What's the key ingredient for a good Wahlburger?
You know, there are so many. The menu is so different, there are so many different things... though my favorite burger is the Thanksgiving Burger. I always love Thanksgiving so when my brother worked with me on four movies as a chef, I always made him make Thanksgiving dinner at least twice a week. So you have to literally roast a turkey and it takes seven hours to make and he's so upset. So he said, 'Do you mind me having a Thanksgiving Burger?', which is just a turkey burger with mashed potatoes and a little stuffing and a little cranberry and it's fantastic. You know, the restaurant's movie themed - and our family and our upbringing, so you know, the lower middle class of Boston.
Speaking of Boston, you'll be back there for Ted 2 soon. Presumably since the first one is very character driven, this one will need to be more story driven. What do you guys have in mind for it?
Yeah, I talked to Seth [MacFarlane] a little bit about it when we were preparing to do our things for the Oscars. Look, I've never done a sequel before and I've always been apprehensive about it, but he comes from television, he continues to write character stuff - he's great at it. And so when he started telling me these ideas, I was like, 'Dude, I'm in. Don't worry about it. Let's do it.' But he was also saying what he wants is more of John and Ted... I can't wait. I can't wait to spend another three months with him, because you learn a lot from him and I'm always stealing a bunch of stuff.
We're going to see Joel McHale back or Giovanni Ribisi, any of those guys?
Don't know, don't know right now. I know that they were nice enough to bring me back so let's see what happens.
You've also got Transformers 4 - will that be the first film your kids can see?
Yeah, they saw a little bit. I did this movie for Disney called Invincible so my son saw that. My boys also saw a little bit of The Other Guys, which they wanted to see more of, but my wife was like, 'What are you doing? You can't show them that!' So I was like, 'All right, well, what are you going to do?'
And then they're really excited about Transformers - not only do they want to see it, they want to be in it. They watched the other three and now my wife won't let them watch them anymore because my four year old boy said 'Shit!' the other day. I asked him where he heard that word and he said 'Transformers!', so I was like, 'Oh, that's done...'
But I am excited. Michael [Bay] and I had an amazing experience working together on Pain & Gain. That movie is insane. It's like Boogie Nights meets Pulp Fiction meets Fargo. Michael made that movie for $25m and then he asked me if I wanted to work with him again, told me his idea and I said, 'I'm in'. It's very different from the other three.
Yeah. Who is your character in Transformers 4, can you say?
|"I haven't kept many props from movies, but the prosthetic from Boogie Nights was a keeper. That was a keeper and a hider."|
I play a man who has a child.
You heard it here first! Michael said that it's going to be smaller than the other ones - it's not going to be smaller than the other ones, is it?
It will. It's going to be just a couple of people in a room, talking.
In Pain & Gain's trailer there's a fantastic sequence where you come in and you're really stressed out and The Rock says, 'You got to get a pump on, you know, you got to do some stuff.' Is that you at the end of the day? Do you unwind by hitting some weights?
No, I like to start my day by working out just because I feel better. I like to end my day with a glass of red wine and the remote control in my hand.
Have you seen the Pumping Iron, the Arnold Schwarzenegger documentary?
'I'm going to beat him, Dad!' I've seen that movie, God, 300 times. You know, those guys are so crazy. I remember when Michael came to me and we talked about Pain & Gain, I said, 'Dude, throughout the '90s I used to just be at Gold's Gym in Venice with these freaky guys. I love this world, I love these guys.' He said, 'No, they're crazy, that's their whole thing - they're obsessed and this is a true story of some guys that went really crazy.' So Pumping Iron... I must have introduced Pumping Iron to 50 people.
And you're with The Rock again and you presumably didn't get to spend a lot of time with him on The Other Guys, since you were The Other Guy.
Yeah, we only had that one scene in the office where Sam Jackson is yelling at Will Ferrell. I'm like just standing there. When Sam yells at you, he is a powerful man. He's also a great guy - I've played golf with Sam many times, he's a sweetheart of a guy, but he's got that tough exterior, you know, he can keep you at arm's length.
Hey, going back to Pain & Gain for a sec, you must have worked out a lot to get in shape for that. How does your wife deal with all the eating in the middle of the night stuff?
She thinks I'm crazy, you know, and I am, but that's what I do. You only get to do that thing on camera once, and if you don't give it your all and then you see it and you just know that you should have done more, and you feel like crap. You know, it's like when I did Broken City, Pain & Gain, 2 Guns, and Lone Survivor in a row and of course the fourth movie has to be the hardest one, you know - we're getting SEAL training, we're 14,000 feet up on a mountain. The real SEALs are there, Marcus Luttrell is there, so you cannot phone this shit in, but I remember thinking that this is the most important movie of my life, and this is his real life, and I got to give more and I got to go harder... and then I remember the day it was over, boy was I beat.
Did you have an enormous Wahlburger afterwards?
No way. You know, I wasn't training. By the time I did the SEALs training it was just so physically demanding and emotionally draining that I was eating like a pig and so by the time we did the last scene - where I'm on a stretcher - and Peter [Berg, the director] was like, 'God, cover his belly with a sheet!', but then when I went home for Thanksgiving, I took another month off, then I started training again.
|Starring with George Clooney and Ice Cube in David O. Russell's Three Kings|
We've got time, I think, for two more questions or so. A quick rumour control question: in Three Kings, is it true you got David O. Russell to shock you for real during the torture scene?
Yes. He didn't think it was a good idea. I suggested doing it.
And do you still have the prosthetic from Boogie Nights?
Oh, absolutely. It's in a bag in my safe. A plastic bag. I haven't really checked how it is recently. It was one of those things that I just felt like I should keep it. You know, I haven't kept many props from movies, but that one was a keeper. That was a keeper and a hider.
And we should probably wrap up with Broken City. There you worked with Russell Crowe and you're both very passionate sports nuts. Did he try to get you into some of his Australian Rules?
No, you know, we spent a lot of time talking and hanging out, but sports never came up. He was fantastic to work with. You know, it's nice to see a guy who's committed and passionate about his work. The first day we shot that big confrontation scene and we didn't rehearse, we didn't talk about it, we set two cameras up in both directions and we just started going, and he only had three weeks of work on the movie, but he had so much dialogue whether it be the debate with Barry Pepper or the scene with me in the beginning after he's with the reporter and he's recruiting me to investigate his wife... in all those scenes there's just a lot of dialogue and you never see the guy never flub a line, never, you know?
Good stuff. Well, I think that's us running of time. Mark Wahlberg, thank you very much for joining us.
I got to tell you this is the best interview I've done in the entire junket, dude - we're just talking about movies!
Thank you very much. That's what we do all day, every day.
Hey, I admire your job: my career!