Mark Wahlberg -- Kicking Ass (Again)

by Fred Topel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Wednesday October 15, 2008

Mark Wahlberg is back to playing the strong silent type. He took some time off to play a nerdy schoolteacher in "The Happening" and a grieving father in the upcoming The Lovely Bones. In Max Payne, he's just the man in black leather, blasting bad guys and going nuts.

Having Fun with Max

"I just played a science teacher in ’The Happening,’ I played an accountant in ’The Lovely Bones,’ and it was time to go back and do what I think best suits me," Wahlberg said. "Busting some heads and having some fun and kicking ass on the bad guys."

"Max Payne" is based on a video game of the same name. The game was inspired by Hollywood action movies where heroes fire two guns at a time, diving through the air in slow motion. Doing that for real was not as fun as it may be for gamers sitting on their couch with a controller.

"The idea of it was fun but I’m not as young as I used to be. It wasn’t like we had a gigantic budget so we were on a green screen with wires and everything. We basically shot all the action on film. Being able to do those kind of things and especially the third act of the film when he finally actually takes the drug and really goes crazy, it’s what every kid dreams about doing. We wanted to make it look real so we just basically got in there and tried to do as much as possible. The biggest physical challenge was keeping up the mystery and the fa?ade that I’m actually tough and cool and that I can go and do all this action stuff and it doesn’t hurt and I’m not scared because I’m not the thrill seeker that I used to be."

Still celebrating the birth of his third child this summer, Wahlberg is planning to tone down his bad boy image in the interest of sticking around as a daddy. "Having three children, I gave my motorcycle away. No more jumping out of plays or off of buildings or any of that stuff. In between movies, I tell them to wrap me up in cellophane so nothing happens, because I want to be able to play with my kids. I’ve been very fortunate, very lucky. I’ve had a bunch of close calls but a movie like this, you want to get in there and make it as realistic as possible. Anything too dangerous, I got a few guys that look exactly like me. Even when I’m driving down the street, if I see somebody who looks like me, I ask them if they’re willing to jump out a window or get hit by a car. No faster than 35 miles an hour of course."

Wahlberg jokes to keep things light. In the film, he had to play a man silently mourning the death of his wife and baby, but not let on with anything like tears. "The biggest challenge for me was going to that emotional place and having to imagine something horrible happening to my family. I’m not one of those Shakespearean actors that thinks about the color blue or goes to that place, or thinks about that place when I wanted to hide and be alone as a kid. I have my past which has got a lot of stuff to draw from and I have children so I think about something horrible happening to my family. That’s why I can’t wait until the last day of shooting so I can go home and hug my kids and get those thoughts out of my head."

All About "Entourage"

His next film deals with the same thing. "The Lovely Bones" is based on Alice Sebold’s book about a murdered girl watching her family deal with her passing from heaven above.

"The only thing again I was worried about was dealing with the subject matter and having to go to that place, which is also why ’Max Payne’ was such a great release afterwards because the other side of me would want to go out and wreak havoc on whoever was responsible and I got to do that through this film. But the experience working with Peter Jackson was like no other. I’ve always wanted to direct. I thought after working with many of the great directors, that I picked up a lot of things along the way.

"Like a lot of actors, you get a great script, you hire a great cinematographer and producer, you get great actors, you can make a pretty good movie but I don’t think you can do what Peter Jackson can do and I would like to be able to at least shoot for that level of ability one day. I don’t think I’ll ever get there but it was the most amazing experience of my career."

Speaking of careers, audiences may be more obsessed with a fictional career than in Wahlberg’s real one. He still produces "Entourage," where fans are delighting at Vincent Chase’s struggle to recover from the flop of "Medellin."

"Vince is not so smart when it comes to making his choices and obviously in this business, it’s all about making the right choices. Hopefully he’ll rebound. It’s going to be a long journey. People have enjoyed this season more than anything because they like seeing people down. He’s going to go to a pretty dark place before he gets to rebound so I hope you guys enjoy it."

When comedians take shots at Wahlberg’s career, he plays along. Saturday Night Live recently aired a skit called Mark Wahlberg Talks to Animals, with Andy Samberg portraying Wahlberg hosting an animal show.

"You know what? It’s flattering. It wasn’t obviously as funny as the Tina Fey Sarah Palin thing so I don’t know. Maybe it’s a little jab because I’ve refused to do the show so many times but I don’t know. Yeah, it was funny. ’Say hi to your mother for me’ is my new catch phrase even though I never really said that before but I’ll take it and run with it. No, it was not as funny as Hot Rod the movie but kid’s gotta do what he’s gotta do to make a living. I ain’t knockin’ it. It’s all good."

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Mark. Remember when they were making fun of you for fronting the band Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch? Now it’s always Mark Wahlberg the actor. Perhaps even Samuel L. Jackson, who once criticized rappers getting easy jobs in Hollywood, has come around.

"Sam was mad for a little while. I think he’s come around now. Sam lives right around the corner from me. Sam is mad at the supermarket when I see him. The thing is, certainly when I started, it was an extremely difficult thing to become a respected actor and not many musicians had done it. Before me and Will Smith, there weren’t many people who had done it successfully. So, if you got a bunch of guys just coming in, taking roles from great actors, a guy like Sam Jackson who’s one of the finest actors in the business and didn’t really get his break until late in life, so I can understand where he’s coming from but you have to talk about the individuals that are doing it."

Right about now, Wahlberg’s brother Donnie is back in the music game, performing in the New Kids on the Block reunion tour. Mark has not had a chance to see the new shows yet. "I’m going to try. He asked me to come to the one in LA but I was coming back to Dallas. A couple of my friends who were reluctant to go in Boston said that they were pretty damn good."

At 37, Wahlberg’s career is far from over. It’s probably not even halfway. However, with his family growing, he wants to slow down soon, if not retire. "I’ve been focusing on me and my career for quite some time and they are definitely the priority now. So if I can find a nice balance to work here and there on things that I’m very passionate about, but still be around to take my kids to school and pick them up after and drag them to the golf course with me, then I’d like to do that. I can’t be working at the pace that I am for much longer. Maybe 45. We’ll see."

Despite his tough persona, Wahlberg has sensitive lesson to impart to his children. "Treat people the way you’d like to be treated. Humble yourself and glorify God, that’s another good one."

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