If you got into a DeLorean and went back in time and find me in high school and told me that Marky Mark would one day be one of my favorite actors, I would have laughed. Hysterically. I mean, the guy from the Funky Bunch?
Granted, Wahlberg has had some duds in his career – which he’s frank about in the interview below – but you get him with the right director and the result is magic. He’s just incredible in I <3 Huckabees, one of my favorite movies of last year. He’s unstoppable in Boogie Nights. And in Four Brothers he gets to channel some of his own street hood past to great effect, playing the most on the edge of the titular four brothers. And my enjoyment of his acting is slowly taking a back seat to my enjoyment of his awesome and hilarious HBO show, Entourage.
I had a chance to sit down with Wahlberg a couple of weeks ago on a very early Sunday morning. We’re talking 9am. This is not a good time for anyone, especially a guy renowned for his partying. But Wahlberg was great. And candid.
Q: If something happened to your mom, would you and Donnie go busting heads?
Wahlberg: You know what, that’s something I don’t even want to have to think about. I’m raised Catholic and you’re supposed to be able to forgive, but in a situation like that, if something happened to somebody I care about – even somebody who couldn’t defend themselves – I don’t think I could be too rational. I’d think about what the right thing to do was after I was already in jail.
Q: You were the first guy on this project. What was it that drew you to the script?
Wahlberg: Everything about it. The opportunity to play that kind of guy, the opportunity to make a movie that I would actually run out to go see. As opposed to a lot of movies I’ve made where if I wasn’t in it I would probably wait until I caught it on a plane or in a hotel or something. So yeah, everything about it. I just thought that this was right up my wheelhouse, and if done the right way with the right guys, this could be a very special movie.
Q: You were on before John Singleton was on. Were you involved in getting him on the project?
Wahlberg: Not really. Me and him had been friends for a long time and we had talked about working together. But it was only about a week difference [between both coming on board].
Q: So you’re not happy with some of your past films? You wouldn’t run out and see Planet of the Apes?
Wahlberg: No. I wouldn’t even make Planet of the Apes again. I love Tim Burton and I don’t think Tim Burton would want to make Planet of the Apes again. I’m not at the point in my career where I just want to make movies with directors who have accomplished something in their past. It’s got to be movies I want to see now. I don’t feel like doing that kind of thing anymore.
Q: A couple of years ago it was all about the director for you.
Wahlberg: The director is still the key element. I’m not going to work with anybody if they’re making a movie I don’t want to see or playing a role I don’t want to play. I think I’ve paid my dues and certainly have done a lot of things for the experience and the knowledge and the know how and not it’s time to make the kind of movies that I want to see.
Q: You’re one of the grandfathers of rappers turned actors. That’s a transition that John Singleton has helped other rappers through. Can you go back to when you first crossed over – was it a humbling experience?
Wahlberg: Of course. I’d still be waiting my record contract out. But I focused all of my attention on acting from day one, put my blinders on and didn’t stray away. I made a couple of records overseas and toured just so I wouldn’t have to make a movie just for the money. You know, I had started living a pretty expensive lifestyle, and just to keep the house and the car that I had, I had to find other ways to pay the bills. But it’s always just about making movies and trying to grow as an actor and work with good people.
Q: Would you say there was one movie where it stopped being rapper turned actor and people just saw you as an actor?
Wahlberg: I’d like to think that right around Basketball Diaries and Fear. A lot of people think that the real establishing performance was Boogie Nights, followed by Three Kings and A Perfect Storm, but I think right from Renaissance Man I was just an actor. How you’re perceived or how people want to describe you is up to them.
Q: Do you miss music?
Wahlberg: I miss the freedom of it. I’m shooting this Scorsese movie now and I’m like, ‘I don’t want to be here.’ If I was still a musician I could just leave, or not show up. It might cost me a couple of bucks but that’s it. With this it’s too much responsibility – there’s two hundred people waiting for you. You gotta be on time and you gotta do what you gotta do.
Q: Entourage just got picked up for a longer third season. That must be gratifying, since it’s based on you.
Wahlberg: People always ask me about Entourage and how close it is to my real life and my real crew, but I’ve said the relationship in Four Brothers with the four guys is closer to my real life with my real friends. It’s pretty relentless. The guys are pretty harsh on each other.
Entourage is loosely based on myself and guys who worked with me. Obviously Adrian Grenier is not a physical guy as opposed to the traditional good looking leading man. We couldn’t find somebody who was a little more street. And I think we’re better off and the show is better off going the direction we did. He’s an outstanding actor. All the guys fit him. Originally we wanted to have them from Boston but we couldn’t find four guys who could do the accent and ad-lib and the whole thing. I think this makes sense and we made the right choice.
Q: Are there plot points on the show that reflect your life?
Wahlberg: There are some. It’s interwoven with other people’s real lives and stuff that’s gone on. People I’ve worked with, people in the business. That’s what’s so amazing – people in the business are so obsessed with the show because they know who’s who and what’s what. It’s pretty exciting for me to see how the show’s taken off and how many people come up to me and say how much they like the show. I never had that happen to me with any movie I’ve been in.
Q: Did the four of you have a real bonding experience? What did you share to create that bond of brothers?
Wahlberg: I think that we just share a real respect for each other. Talent, and personally and professionally. We could have gone in there and done a decent job whether we liked each other or not. But the fact that we liked each other so much and we pushed each other so hard, that’s why the chemistry is so strong, and that’s what makes it a great movie as opposed to a good script with some potential.
Q: You worked alongside some other musicians in this film. Did you guys ever get together and make any music?
Wahlberg: [Tyrese] kept trying to get me in the studio for the longest time, and I kept telling him I was coming. ‘Next week, man, next week!’
Q: Did you ever make it?
Wahlberg: No! I purposely stayed away. I knew he would get me on the mic and the next thing I know we’re making a record. I’m 34, man, there’s got to be an age limit on rapping.
Q: We heard it was pretty cold on set and that some people complained about it. How about you?
Wahlberg: I grew up in Boston. There were some days where it was just cold. In my opinion, cold is better than heat. I was shooting here in the heat wave – in the cold you can put layers on, you can put heating pads on. We were skating around and moving, you were able to get warm. But the heat, you can’t escape it.
Q: You were working on the new Scorsese movie, The Departed, in the heat wave. What do you play?
Wahlberg: I play Boston police, head of the undercover unit. Actually I don’t know how much he wants me to give away but I’m the last man standing. I play such a hard ass that you think I’m definitely one of the bad guys if not the bad guy, other than Jack [Nicholson].
Q: Is there going to be an Italian Job sequel?
Wahlberg: Another script is coming in tomorrow. It’s got to be as good as or better than the first. I’m not going to make a movie just to get the check. I’d rather do something different. People really liked the first one. It was a perfect summer movie – it was character driven and had a story people thought was interesting. If they can match that or make it better, then it’s worth doing. I know everybody else is really interested, I’ve talked to Charlize and Mos Def and all the other guys.
Q: You’ve done charitable work. Are you still involved?
Wahlberg: Yeah. All the guys are coming up and we’re throwing a big screening for all the kids from my Boy’s Club and Girl’s Club community center. All these kids that are still up for adoption that are right on the fence there, they’re already 13 or 14 and if it doesn’t happen this year they’re probably not going to be adopted.
Q: The Departed is what you’re finishing up now. Is there anything else coming up for you?
Wahlberg: Yeah, I start a new movie tomorrow in Philadelphia called Invincible, the true story of a guy who played for the Eagles from 76 to 80. He’s the oldest rookie in NFL history.
Q: With The Departed you made it sound like you didn’t want to be there…
Wahlberg: No, it was just hot! It’s hot and miserable. It’s a hundred something degrees and we’re in Red Hook in a warehouse.
Q: I really loved Huckabees. I wish it had done better. Would you consider doing more comedies?
Wahlberg: I’ve been offered all these big, broad comedies that Ben Stiller would do since then, but David really tried to push the envelope. He’s happy, I’m happy.