One of Mark Wahlberg’s many skills is undeniably being a man of action and he’s managed to accomplish this with roles in films like The Big Hit, >, The Italian Job, Shooter, The Departed, and We Own The Night without sacrificing his incredible appeal or acting skills. The 40 year-old sets out to continue his status as great man of action with his role in the action thriller Contraband.
In the film, which he also produces, Wahlberg plays a reformed drug smuggler who gets pulled back into a life of crime while trying to avoid turning his wife and children into targets. The film is based on an Icelandic film released back in 2008 called Reykjavík-Rotterdam. The actor talks about how the film was first brought to his attention and why he wanted to make an Americanized version of the film.
“Well, we didn’t have the script yet,” Mark recalls, “We just watched the original. We just fell in love with it because there’s a lot of heist films out there, but I just thought the way they executed it was really cool and different and interesting to us for an American audience.”
“So, we then hired the writer who had been attached to a previous project of his and he went out and banged out the script,” he continues, “And we realized that after getting Baltasar [Kormákur], who starred and produced the original. He didn’t direct it, but he directed a bunch of other stuff that we looked at that was fantastic and we thought who better to tell the story than him and that was how it happened.”
We asked Mark, who has previously done heist films, how he feels Contraband stands out from the glut that have been made before and make it a credible story at the same time.
“It’s a leap of faith,” Wahlberg says, “It really is, but you have to go with your gut and you feel like, you know what, this is
“You should definitely check out the original, then you will see how well it was executed,” he continues, “And it was like the guys, he was reacting to all these different things. He was getting hit with, and I just thought it was really cool.”
We also asked Wahlberg how much he knew about smuggling before he did the film.
“Only what I knew from my days as a rapper going from other places and that was just enough for me,” Mark answers, “That was long ago, but then getting involved in this movie and realizing how crazy it is and were talking about doing a show about the port in L.A. and how it’s a guessing game when they figure out one thing that they can start him with, but they can’t and what they catch and what they don’t. It’s crazy.”
Wahlberg says there were important things that had to be changed from Reykjavik-Rotterdam to Contraband to make the story work for an American audience.
“We changed what they were smuggling,” he says, “In the original, they were smuggling alcohol because Iceland’s a dry country, so they had to smuggle alcohol and that wouldn’t have worked here. And also, the painting that was in this original, they were involved in an art robbery.”
“They get the painting, but in the end, he’s in his new place now and he’s fixing the house that he lives in with his wife,” Mark adds, “And the painting is Jackson Pollack is on the floor, it’s protecting the floor because he doesn’t want to get any paint drops on the floor.”
Mark talks about whether or not it was important to have fighting sequences with actors that have real presence versus a purely physically imposing one.
“You need that more than anything, because somebody that’s physically imposing, all you do is pull out a pistol
“Those guys were on our wish list and just the fact that we got them really is a credit to the original and the material because that is what they really responded to,” Wahlberg adds, “But, no, we were very lucky to have the talent that we have in this movie. They are so good in the movie.”
One of his co-stars Wahlberg particularly raves about is Giovanni Ribisi, who has had success in the past with roles in films like Gone In 60 Seconds, Public Enemies, and Avatar.
“Giovanni, what a great guy,” Mark gushes, “He really is this soft-spoken, sweet guy. But once it’s ‘Action!’ and ‘Cut!’, the guy’s an animal. We just did another movie together, too. Right after we did the Contraband movie, we did the Seth MacFarlane movie Ted.”
We then asked Mark how shooting the comedy Ted, which is set for release July 13, went with Ribisi.
“Awesome. I didn’t get to see Giovanni in that movie, but I did get to beat up his son,” Wahlberg says, “He has an 11 year old in the movie that’s so obnoxious, that at the end of the movie, I have to punch him in the face. And I don’t play a physical guy in that movie either. I’m not a violent guy. It’s very, very funny. It’s Seth MacFarlane’s directorial debut.”
The heist film is one Wahlberg knows well, having starred in the 2003 film The Italian Job. He talks about what makes Contraband different from that one.
“You got a depth of gangs, but The Italian Job was a lot more glossy,” Mark says of it, “This is a much grittier thing. This guy is put in this position. He’s already changed
“My character Charlie in The Italian Job, he loved it,” he continues, “He was never going to stop, he didn’t have a family or anything. The guys, they were his family and that was his life. There will always be some similarities, but you could say that about any other movie.”
Mark has had incredibly successful career which has netted him Oscar nominations for his roles in Boogie Nights and The Departed. Now he’s not only become an actor, but one of Hollywood’s most powerful players, spawning successes like the HBO TV series Entourage and Boardwalk Empire. He talks about what gets him excited nowadays.
“I think it really depends on the situation,” Wahlberg believes, “I’m shooting this movie now with Russell Crowe. We’re really about to get into the meat and potatoes of it. We’re off for Christmas and New Year’s and we go back soon. And I’ve been reading the scenes out loud and I’m really excited about the scenes that we have together and the scenes that we have with Jeffrey Wright.”
“And so, it really kind of depends,” he continues, “Usually, the stunt stuff and the action stuff really takes such a long time and you really kind of get bored of it, but it really does depend on the project and the particular moment. I get excited every morning when I wake up and I have a job.”
We asked Wahlberg if there are projects that he wants to involve himself in where he can just act and not produce.
“Yeah, of course,” Mark replies, “If I’m out there aggressively pursuing material that I can find and develop on my own and produce, but if somebody calls with a great project, I’m there.”
Mark adds that it’s hard for him to turn the producer brain off when he’s on set.
“Yeah, especially when people are wasting money,” Wahlberg
However, Wahlberg says that it was part of his path as an actor that he would ultimately become a producer down the road.
“For sure, because we didn’t always want to spend waiting around for a good movie to come,” Mark believes.
As executive producer of Entourage, we asked Mark how he felt about ending the TV series after eight seasons this past fall.
“Very bittersweet,” Wahlberg says of it, “You get used to having it and not wanting it, but we’re really working hard to make a movie.”
However, for anybody who watched the epilogue after the credits of Entourage’s series finale episode, the stage is being set for the series to continue on the big screen with a feature-length film. Wahlberg talks about the biggest challenges he has encountered with the series continuing on into a feature film.
“It’s just getting the script,” Mark says, “It’s really all about the script. That’s the only thing, waiting for Doug [Liman] to write the script.”
We mentioned that we felt that would be surprisingly difficult transition, since the TV series’ episodes often have a cinematic feel to them.
“For sure,” Wahlberg replies, “People have always complained that it was too short. It’s always doing those things. I love it. I think it’s going to be a great 90 minutes. Get back to the guys, not so much the girls, Jeremy [Piven’s] got to leave the wife. He’s got to go out there and get nuts.”
Wahlberg talks about whether or not he has ever woken up and pinched himself considering the incredible success he has attained and the amazing place he is at now at this current trajectory of his career.
“I’m so blessed and fortunate,” Mark says, “People, my wife in particular, she says, ‘Why do you go to church everyday?’ And I say, ‘Well, look at how blessed I am, how grateful I am, and how I need to be and also to remind myself of
We asked Mark if his family life now informs the roles he plays, particularly his current one in this film.
“You got to really be aware of the fact that you have these children and you got to do the right thing,” Wahlberg believes, “I always think about, God, could I have done those kind of movies back in the day, like a Boogie Nights or one of those movies and I really wouldn’t have been able to. I got a lot of explaining to do with my kid. I can’t let that affect the choices that you make that you can’t help, but you can’t. I’ve been very fortunate, so I try not to mess that up.”