Mark Wahlberg is a busy, busy man. He has the much-anticipated Michael Bay film “Pain & Gain” -- which he filmed in Miami with The Rock -- coming out this April; “2 Guns,” co-starring Denzel Washington, being released this summer; as well as the true-story Navy SEAL flick “Lone Survivor” slated for some time this year. But before all that comes the slick political-thriller “Broken City.” In it Wahlberg plays Billy Taggart, an ex-cop-turned-private eye who’s hired by the city’s mayor (Russell Crowe) to follow his cheating wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones). While speaking with Wahlberg, it was evident that he’s been passionate about this project since the second he started reading the script – so passionate, in fact, that he decided not only to star in it, but to produce it as well. During our discussion the Boston-native also touched on his illustrious career, his propensity for playing cops, and the status of “Ted 2” and “Transformers 4.”
So how did you get involved with this project?
Mark Wahlberg: Allen Hughes, the director, had called me and asked if I had read the script – I was aware of the script but I hadn’t read it yet. So I read it right away, we met up and I said, ‘okay let’s do it…but not only do I want to act in it, but I want to produce it and I want to do it independently, because I don’t think it’ll be easy to do a movie like this under the watchful eye of a studio.’…I think maintaining creative control was far more valuable in the end.
The cast is incredible – Russell Crowe, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jeffrey Wright. Was it hard to get such big name actors on board?
Wahlberg: You see the cast that we got because of the material. The script was so well written, and because we did it independently we weren’t really able to pay everybody what they would normally get paid. But they wanted to be involved because they loved the parts.
You’ve played a cop a few times throughout your career. What is it that draws you to these kinds of roles?
Wahlberg: Well, a lot of movies are cops and crooks, good guys and bad guys. When I talk about the kind of movies that I compare them to -- “Serpico” and “Chinatown” -- these are the movies that I grew up watching…guys like [Humphrey] Bogart, James Cagney, Robert Ryan, Edward G. Robinson – those were the kind of guys that I grew up watching with my dad. So those are the kind of movies that really kind of pique my interest.
This character seemed really close to you. Knowing your background, were you able to relate with the character of Billy Taggart – like how he turns his life around, how it could have gone either way?
Wahlberg: Yeah it could have gone either way. He could have end up being a crook or a cop…I always try and find something that I can connect with on a personal level, to bring a more accurate portrayal, a more intimate portrayal is something I think audience’s recognize; they feel that difference. And for all the hard times that I’ve had – the bad experiences I’ve had in my life -- I’ve been able to at least use that experience, and apply it to good use now to improve my work.
You’re a very good athlete. I think it’s impressive how you change physically for your roles. How do you go about doing that?
Wahlberg: This year was the most crazy year for me. I walked into a production meeting, and Allen was a little freaked out by my physical appearance. And he asked if I could get as thin as possible for the movie. So I just started running and playing basketball and started boxing again. So I got down to 165 pounds, and then I did “Pain & Gain” like 8 to 10 weeks after, and I had to get as big as I possibly could – playing a body builder – so I got up to 212 pounds. Then within 30 days I had to get back down to 180 to do “2 Guns” with Denzel. And then two weeks after that I was immersed in Navy SEAL training to play Marcus Luttrell in “Lone Survivor.” So that was what my year was like.
Will you have to put more weight on for “Transformers 4”?
Wahlberg: Well I took a month off – I just started working out, I’m in my 4th week now – hopefully we’ll do “Avon Man” before “Transformers,” which is this comedy we have at Fox that we’ve been developing; it’s kind of like my first romantic comedy.
Can you tell us anything about “Transformers 4” or “Ted 2”?
Wahlberg: I could tell you that we’re doing “Transformers” starting at the end of May, and then “Ted” in September. You know I can’t give you too many story points or Michael will not be happy. But I can tell you that I’m very excited, obviously I had a great working relationship with Michael on “Pain & Gain.”
Speaking of “Pain & Gain,” how much were you able to bench press at the time of filming?
Back then it was like 330 to 335. It’s not good -- it’s not good for your shoulders. I say it and it just hurts. [Rubs his shoulders]
I have to say, one of my favorite movies is “Fear” -- it was probably one of the first scary movies I ever saw. Do you ever go back and watch some of your older movies from the beginning of your career?
Wahlberg: [laughs] I don’t watch them -- there was one point where I was going to sit down – I forget exactly when it was – I was trying to really kind of step up my game, and I was going to go back and watch all the movies that I made, and I just…I couldn’t stomach sitting in the theater by myself watching myself. [laughs] But when I’m flipping the channels, like flipping through HBO and all the movie channels, if it’s on I’ll watch a little bit. And [“Fear’s”] a good one. I actually just went to vacation in Hawaii…and I was with my family, we went from the 26th to the 3rd of January. And I’m walking and I turn, and boom, I was standing there and Reese Witherspoon was right there. And I hadn’t seen her in forever. And she was there with her husband and the kids and everything. And she had never met my wife, so it was nice to see her. But people talk about [“Fear”] a lot. That’s up there with like “Boogie Nights” and “The Departed” and a couple of others that really stand out for people.
What would be like your dream role?
Wahlberg: Oh I don’t know. You know, I’m just so appreciative of the opportunities I’ve had, the roles I’ve been able to play, and that I’ve continued to grow as an actor and that I’m kind of now steering my own ship. But one of the ones that I’m probably most excited about is playing Jon Roberts, who was the subject of the “Cocaine Cowboys” documentary. Bill Monahan, who wrote “The Departed,” is now writing the screenplay for us; it’s something that we have the rights to. I’m producing and I’m going to play John. We’ll shoot it here in Miami. It’s about the cocaine trade…and the rise of Miami, pretty much, while the rest of the country was damn near in a recession.
I love how you can go from acting to producing. Are you going to work on more television shows?
Wahlberg: Yeah! Oh yeah. We start shooting two docu-series next weekend – both in Boston. One for the History Channel and one for A&E. We’re shooting two new pilots for HBO this spring, back for more “Boardwalk Empire.” We’ve got a pilot at ABC, a pilot at Fox, and a pilot at NBC. And other various movies at various stages of development.
'Broken City' hits theaters on January 18th.