Opening tomorrow is director Baltasar Kormákur’s crime thriller Contraband. Set in the world of international smuggling, the film stars Mark Wahlberg as a man trying to escape his days as a criminal. When his brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) botches a deal, Wahlberg’s character must settle his brother-in-law’s debt in order to keep him safe from a drug boss (Giovanni Ribisi). The film also stars Kate Beckinsale, Ben Foster, J.K. Simmons, and Diego Luna.
Last week I was able to get on the phone with Wahlberg for an exclusive interview. During our wide ranging conversation, we talked about the New England Patriots playoff chances (we’re both from New England), how he got involved in Contraband, the action scenes, how he prepares for his roles, and what it was like to film on a real ship. In addition, with Wahlberg involved in so many other projects, he talked about The Fighter sequel, the Entourage movie, working with Adam McKay and Will Ferrell again in Three Mississippi, The Departed sequel, Michael Bay‘s Pain and Gain, Seth MacFarlane‘s Ted, the untitled Basketball movie with Justin Bieber, and a lot more. Hit the jump to read or listen to the interview.
As usual, I’m offering two ways to get the interview: you can either click here for the audio, or the full transcript is below. If you have the time, listen to the audio on this one.
Finally, a big thank you to everyone at Universal who made this happen, and Mark Wahlberg for giving me so much time.
Collider: The big question I have to start with is: can the Patriots win the Super Bowl?
Mark Wahlberg: Oh my gosh, of course! You know what’s funny? I just texted Tom Brady. He had actually texted me a picture of him and Vince Wilfork in the locker room and they’re wearing an AquaHydrate hat. It’s a company that Vince and I are involved with and we’re getting Tom involved with. I told him that, yes, we just hired an incredible CEO to run the company and also, “Go get that ring!” And I just sent him back a picture with me holding up the Patriots helmet.
That’s awesome in so many ways. I grew up in Massachusetts. I’m a huge Patriots fan.
Wahlberg: Aw, man. They’re gonna do it. You know what? The defense is going to start clicking, the Ravens are going to end up losing and the Steelers are going to end up losing, so we’re going to either play the Texans or the Bengals in the AFC Championship.
I hear you but the Bengal’s quarterback has the flu right now and isn’t practicing so I’m a little bit nervous.
Wahlberg: That’s okay. Steelers are banged up, the Ravens are choking. I also think that Green Bay…I think we’re going to end up playing Detroit or San Francisco.
Wahlberg: Listen, every game they’ve lost, they’ve beaten themselves. So let’s just hope.
Let’s move on, otherwise I’m going to run out of time. When was the last time you picked up a microphone to sing, even for karaoke?
Wahlberg: Oh, a long time. I rap in the car with my kids, though. But actually having a microphone in my hand? It’s been a long time.
You’ve become this huge producer in Hollywood, you’re tight with Tom Brady and all these other people. What is it going to take to get a Dunkin Donuts in L.A.?
Wahlberg: Oh man. I don’t know…I don’t know. You know what, I’m not a big coffee guy, but I love the donuts.
Me too. I figure, if anyone can make it happen, it’s you.
Wahlberg: I would think they would do great here. They’re in New York, they’re in a lot of other places.
We’re on the same page. Okay, now let me jump into why I’m actually on the phone with you. When did you first see Reykjavik-Rotterdam? Did you see it before Contraband was coming together? Did you see it on your own?
Wahlberg: They sent us a copy of it. Somebody at our agency had seen it and they signed Baltasar [Kormakur] and we just fell in love with it. We said immediately, “We have to have the rights to this.” Then we went and hired Aaron [Guzikowski], who is also a Boston native, of Brockton. He wrote the script. We were attached to do another one of his movies and we just thought he was really talented and he responded to the material right away. So he went off and re-wrote the script. Then we met with Baltasar and thought, “You know what? Who better to direct it than him?”
Was this one of these projects that came together super fast?
Wahlberg: It came together pretty quick. Aaron’s a really quick writer and we responded to the material right away, Baltasar wanted to do it, we went out and sold it. There was a lot of buzz around Fighter so it made it a little easier to set it up. Also, we knew with Baltasar we could do it for a number that everybody would be really comfortable with and we’d get a lot more bang for our buck, because he’s made a lot of movies for very little money and he knows how to really stretch the budget.
Wahlberg: Well, it was a lot of things, but the big thing that stood out to me as an actor was, I loved the character and how he handled things and reacted to things. There were a lot of different curve balls and all of it seemed like it could happen and it was real. It had a grittiness to it that I liked a lot. Then, of course, the fun of it I also thought was very appealing.
How hard was it to pretend to be in love with Kate Beckinsale?
Wahlberg: Uh, not that hard. And more importantly, I got to like her more after I realized how tough she was and how real she was because, first of all, she’s English and when she starts talking you see this sophistication. But, the first day, she’s being wrapped up in the plastic and the cement and she just jumped right in.
Talk a little bit about filming in New Orleans. Is there a particular restaurant you ate at again and again?
Wahlberg: Yes and I keep going back there. This place called “Vincent’s,” it’s an Italian place.
Wahlberg: Yup. It’s fantastic. I’m actually going back down to New Orleans. I’m shooting a movie there now and I’m getting ready to go back down there and I absolutely love it.
I know you filmed on a real ship and that’s one of the cool things, you have that claustrophobic feeling. Talk a little bit about filming on the real ship and what that was like in terms of the production?
Wahlberg: Yeah, we had to film on a real ship. It’s like a city in itself, it’s so gigantic. We were lucky that we got a big boat. At one time, Baltasar was very worried because they wanted us to film on a smaller boat and we couldn’t have that. So we fought the fight and got the big boat.
You’ve done a ton of action scenes. Was there anything in Contraband that made you nervous to film or have you done every possible action-type sequence where you know what you’re doing with everything?
Wahlberg: Yeah, I’ve pretty much done it all. In this one, I was usually always on the winning end of those kinds of fights and stuff with my co-stars, so that made it a lot a fun to be able to kick the crap out of those guys, even though I very much like and respect those guys. But, you know, it’s part of the job.
How are you in preparing for these action scenes? Before you’re getting ready to film, are you hitting the gym a little bit more? Are you taking some training classes? How is it, as an actor, to do these kinds of things?
Wahlberg: I’ll do whatever I have to do to prepare physically and mentally for a movie, but for this particular movie, this was right after we had finally finished Fighter and it was coming out and I had stopped training, so I was just eating like a pig and drinking a lot of wine. Then we were going through all the awards season stuff with Fighter while we were shooting, so I really didn’t have a lot of time to train. But this didn’t seem like the kind of guy who was in the gym anyway. He was running a small business, trying to take care and provide for his family. Then he’d have to go out and jump on the boat and dive right into this thing. So, not a lot of that stuff.
Some actors like two takes, the Clint Eastwood method. Some actors enjoy the David Fincher method of fifty takes. Where do you fall on that scale?
Wahlberg: However long it takes to get it right and whenever the director’s happy, I’m happy.
Have you ever done fifty takes on anything?
Wahlberg: I don’t think fifty, but I remember on Boogie Nights there were a couple times when we did a lot of takes. But there were a lot of big shots that were just one single shot, so it took a lot to get it right.
Wahlberg: It was originally called Turkey Bowl and now they’re calling it Three Mississippi. I think they’re just doing some additional work on the script and I’m hopefully gonna see Will [Ferrell soon], he’s also shooting in New Orleans so I’m gonna catch up with him. When I get back down there next week I’m gonna go visit him.
As I said, I love The Other Guys. Is working with Will and Adam McKay again like a priority for you?
Wahlberg: For sure, for sure. Even for my own personal satisfaction, these are just so cool and so fun. I was really kinda shy when I met them and reserved, and they kept trying to push me to open up and then once I open up I’m a crazy person, I can’t stop. I was worried that they were gonna say, “Calm down, look man you gotta be professional [because] at some point we’ve gotta shoot,” but they never told me that, they encouraged me to get crazier and crazier which really made me feel comfortable and confident in putting myself out there in a place that’s not necessarily my comfort zone.
Do you envision a similar kind of relationship—because you guys had great chemistry onscreen—for Three Mississippi? Is it that similar tone where you’re each playing that kind of character, or is it switching the dynamics?
Wahlberg: Um, you know what I’ll have to see what the rewrite is. I think they’ve amped it up a lot, we’re not friends in this one. In The Other Guys there was a lot of tension between us, but you still could tell that these guys really loved each other.
I definitely have to ask you about The Fighter sequel. Obviously there is a lot of meat in the story that you guys didn’t cover in the first film, is there any update on you guys doing it? Is it a priority for you?
Wahlberg: It’s definitely a priority but I don’t think it’s necessarily gonna be a sequel, it’s really kind of it’s own thing about the Ward/Gatti wars and this crazy relationship that came out of these fights. After the first fight they became very close friends, yet two more times they went in there and tried to kill each other and caused a lot of physical and mental damage that really took a toll on them, and certainly still takes a toll on Micky to this day. Scott Silver is gonna be writing it and hopefully he’s writing as we speak.
Do you hope to maybe be filming that this year or next year?
Wahlberg: Well sooner rather than later, I mean I’m not getting any younger although Stallone did film Rocky 6 when he was 60, and he filmed the first one when he was 29. But I would like to do it within the next year, year and a half.
Wahlberg: Yeah, [series creator] Doug Ellin is hopefully writing that right now. And hopefully Pete Berg is writing the John Roberts movie which came from Cocaine Cowboys, and hopefully Ian [Edelman] is writing my movie with me and Justin Bieber. I’m waiting you know, just waiting on writers. I gotta start writing too.
Is that definitely gonna happen with you and Justin Bieber, and are you surprised about the level of interest in that one?
Wahlberg: No, no, no, no. I remember going into Paramount and talking about it and within five minutes they were like “We’ll do it.” It’s more like The Color of Money, that’s kind of the best thing I can compare it to. I’ve gotta reluctantly mentor this kid but I’m really hustling him too. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen him play basketball, but he’s incredible.
I have not seen him play basketball, but I am curious does the project have a title?
Wahlberg: Not yet. We’re calling it Wahlbieber right now.
I recently spoke to [screenwriter] William Monahan and he said to me that he knows the story of the Departed sequel, how it would take place before, during, and after the events of The Departed. It sounds really cool. Do you think that movie will ever happen?
Wahlberg: Bill and I went into the studio to talk about it, and if they wanna do it I would like to do it because I love his idea. I think it could be great, I don’t think it’s for the sake of a paycheck. It was based on a trilogy and I think there’s two really interesting movies there.
Did you go pitch the studio recently or was this a while ago?
Wahlberg: This was a while ago. I don’t remember exactly how long ago, but we talked and had a conversation and then we met up, and then we talked to the guys over at Warner Bros.
You were rumored to be attached to the Michael Bay movie Pain and Gain. I heard you dropped out of it, was there any reason you didn’t wanna do it?
Wahlberg: No, I didn’t drop out of it yet either, they’re waiting on a rewrite for the script.
Oh, I read that you had dropped out. So you still could possibly do it?
I heard it was you dropped the project, but I would love to clarify that.
Wahlberg: No, no, I just spoke to Ari [Emanuel] who represents me as well as Michael and we’re waiting on a script.
Interesting. I heard it could be you and Dwayne Johnson, is that what you heard?
Wahlberg: Yeah, we talked about Dwayne and he’s got some great ideas for the cast. I think it’s gonna be something that people are gonna be very surprised that Michael’s gonna do, but I think he’s gonna do a great job with it.
I know the story of this thing, you’ve obviously read the story—
Wahlberg: It’s insane!
Yeah, it’s crazy!
Wahlberg: Well they better tell me quick so I can get out there and start bulking up. I’ve got the gym, I’m ready to go.
Have you seen a rough cut of Ted yet and how crazy is it?
Wahlberg: I haven’t. I was supposed to see it this week but they asked to give them two more weeks to see it, which I said “Fine, whatever Seth [MacFarlane] wants to do,” but I know it’s gonna be bananas.
I can only imagine, his imagination is crazy. Could you talk about working with him on that film? Did you have to do or say anything that you had to take a step back and debate if you wanted to say it?
Wahlberg: Quite a few things. I want a disclaimer at the beginning of the movie saying that all these things are written by Seth MacFarlane not me (laughs), and I didn’t improvise any of it and he’s gotta take full responsibility for all the people he’s offended. But it’s off the charts. Working with him was a dream. He’s such a sweet guy, such a generous guy, I just had a blast. It was one of those occasions like an Adam McKay or a Tim Burton where you just can’t wait to get to the set and be around the guy and watch him do his thing. It was one of those special occasions.
I sincerely cannot wait to see it, I love the guy. I know you’re doing Broken City right now, so do you know what you’re doing after that or are you just waiting on scripts and that will determine what you do next?
Wahlberg: Waiting on scripts and waiting on a couple big, big stars to say “yes” or “no.”