Mark Wahlberg Interview – WE OWN THE NIGHT

     October 12, 2007




Opening up tomorrow is “We Own the Night,” the new film by James Gray (“The Yards,” “Little Odessa”). In the movie Mark Wahlberg plays the son of a police captain who, unlike his brother, has joined the police force and is a rising star. Here’s the synopsis:


Bobby Green (Joaquin Phoenix) has turned his back on the family business. The popular manager of El Caribe, the legendary Russian-owned nightclub in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach, he has changed his last name and concealed his connection to a long line of distinguished New York cops. For Bobby, every night is a party, as he greets friends and customers or dances with his beautiful Puerto Rican girlfriend, Amada (Eva Mendes), in a haze of cigarette smoke and disco music.

But it’s 1988, and New York City’s drug trade is escalating. Bobby tries to keep a friendly distance from the Russian gangster who is operating out of the nightclub – a gangster who is being targeted by his brother, Joseph (Mark Wahlberg), an up-and-coming NYPD officer, and his father, Burt (Robert Duvall), the legendary deputy chief of police.

We Own the Night, an emotional crime thriller about a man who has chosen to hide his past only to discover that he has to confront an inevitable future, takes its title from the motto of the 1980s-era NYPD street crimes unit. Written and directed by James Gray (The Yards, Little Odessa).



So to help promote the film, Sony recently held a press day and all the stars did roundtable type interviews.



During our 20 minutes with Mark we talked about this movie and everything else he’s working on. Trust me, it’s a lot.



As always you can either read the transcript below or download the MP3 of the interview by clicking here. You can also watch some movie clips from the movie here.



“We Own the Night” opens tomorrow at theaters everywhere.






QUESTION: WHAT WAS IT ABOUT THIS PROJECT THAT MADE YOU WANT TO BOTH ACT IN IT AND PRODUCE IT?



Mark Wahlberg: Well, I had worked with James [Gray] on ‘The Yards,’ and he was writing his next screenplay and he asked me if I wanted to be a part of it, he had originally set it up at Warner Brothers. I had introduced him to Lorenzo di Bonaventura, after we made ‘Three Kings,’ and I had finished ‘The Yards’ and I was very excited about my experience of working with James and just thought he was a super talent. So he wrote the script with me in mind, and then it was very difficult to get it off the ground, we finally got it going, got it out of Warner Brothers, and we had approached a couple of independent financiers, and we were finally able to get the movie made. So anything that James is going to do, I would love to be a part of.



WHY IS IT SO HARD TO GET FILMS LIKE THIS MADE? WHY DON’T STUDIOS LIKE TO TAKE RISKS ANYMORE?



Mark Wahlberg: Well I think originally, they had it budgeted for like fifty million dollars, and I think they ended up making the movie for like twenty or maybe twenty-one million dollars. It was just an expensive movie, and it was a risk that they didn’t feel like they were willing to take, I guess. But we were glad that we got to make it the way we did, I think with the amount of money that was spent, it really became a labor of love, and everybody just committed their time. James is the kind of perfectionist that if given the opportunity, he’d still be shooting right now. So it was good that he only had a certain amount of money to work with.



WHAT DID YOU HAVE TO LOSE, WITH THAT THIRTY MILLION?



Mark Wahlberg: Just my salary. [laughs] I don’t know what Joaquin [Phoenix] makes. But my salary for sure. But you know, it was a really tough time, because I was about to make another movie, I was about to have my second child, I had left shortly after my first child was born, to work, and that was a very difficult experience. So luckily he was able to work it out to where this is something that I was trying to get made for such a long time, then it got to the point where I didn’t know if I was gonna be able to be a part of it, which was difficult for me. I had just worked on ‘The Departed’ with Marty [Scorsese], and I didn’t want to just play cops, although this is a very different role, still you know, putting on the uniform just kind of reminds people of something in the past, so. But like I said, he was able to work it out, I shot for like four and a half weeks, and then I was able to go off and do the other movie, so it worked out great.



ARE YOU STILL UP FOR THE ROLE OF DUKE IN ‘G.I. JOE?’



Mark Wahlberg: Oh, I have no idea. Lorenzo was talking about it months back, when we were promoting ‘Shooter,’ but I haven’t seen a script.



HAS HE BEEN IN CONTACT WITH YOU OVER THE SUMMER?



Mark Wahlberg: No. No. The idea of it seems pretty out there, they haven’t told me tonally what they’re going for, so we’ll see. Training to do ‘The Fighter’ and everything is coming after.



DOES FATHERHOOD CHANGE THINGS AS AN ACTOR? IN CHOOSING ROLES?



Mark Wahlberg: Definitely. Certainly the kind of roles that I’m gonna play, and it would be extremely difficult to sign on to do a movie like ‘Boogie Nights’ now, knowing that I have little kids, and a little girl who asks a ton of questions at four, so. We’re gonna still have to have the conversation, but – you know, I don’t want to work forever, I’ve been really focused on me for quite some time now, and they are definitely the priority, so I figure, I got a few more years to work really hard, and then if I can make a movie every year and a half or something, then that would be nice.



DO YOU LIKE THE BROTHER DYNAMIC THAT IS IN MANY OF YOUR MOVIES?



Mark Wahlberg: Certainly. I come from a very large family, and I can certainly identify with that.



HOW’S THE TRAINING GOING FOR ‘FIGHTER?’



Mark Wahlberg: It’s going good. A lot of early mornings. I’ve been training since – I started training last October, so I’ve been training for almost a year now. And still got some training ahead of me.



HOW RIGOROUS IS IT? WHAT KIND OF TRAINING?



Mark Wahlberg: Boxing training, two hours a day. Mickey Ward is one of my favorite fighters of all time, and I think there have been some great boxing movies made, but I don’t think anybody’s ever really looked the part of a champion, and I want to do him justice.



WHAT’S THE SHOOTING SCHEDULE? WHEN DO YOU START?



Mark Wahlberg: You know, with all the strike talk and everything, nobody really knows. Just kind of be prepared when the day comes, and hope the day comes. You never know, with everything that’s going on.



WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO TO REALLY DO JUSTICE TO THE REAL MICKEY WARD?



Mark Wahlberg: I’m gonna do the same thing like I did in ‘Invincible,’ I’m gonna really get in there and make it real. The way fights are covered now, if you watch, there’s a great middleweight fight tonight that I can’t wait to watch, when you see the way they can cover these fights, you can’t do the big looping punches and the big reactions, you gotta go in there and you gotta take a couple shots.



HAVE YOU CHOREOGRAPHED THE WHOLE THING, OR WILL YOU MIX IT UP A BIT?



Mark Wahlberg: Uh, we’re gonna go in there and mix it up. Certainly, he has some very historical fights and rounds on him, so there are things that we’ll have to duplicate, and certainly anything that me and Brad [Pitt] do training-wise, they had – the brothers sparred together because they couldn’t afford sparring partners and stuff like that, so yeah, we’re gonna have to get in there and make it real.



HOW WAS IT WORKING WITH JOAQUIN?



Mark Wahlberg: I love Joaquin [Phoenix]. We have this chemistry, and there’s a familiarity there, you just kind of rely on one another. But he’s intense, too, so he was smoking a lot of cigarettes. And he wants to talk about every scene, you know. So you get in a room, and you’re in a room for two hours in the morning, it’s first thing in the morning, he must smoke twelve, fifteen cigarettes, just kind of mumbling about how much he hates this scene, and why, and my part’s great but his part’s bad. And then of course, we get in there and do it, that’s when it all kind of happens. My approach is, to know the lines, James is extremely specific, so I’ll go to him right away, and I’ll tell him basically to give me a line reading of the whole scene, because I know it’ll turn into that anyway. He’ll tell you, okay, show me – no, you probably know better than I do, and then you’ll do something, and he’s like, that’s not what I’m looking for. And he’ll kind of show you anyway, I don’t have a problem with that. I’m not gonna do that with a first time director, certainly, but you know, a writer-director with such a specific vision, I don’t mind being there to just do what he asks me.



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JOAQUIN SAID HE DOESN’T ENJOY THE PROCESS OF ACTING, IS THAT REAL OR JUST SOMETHING HE PROJECTS?



Mark Wahlberg: I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine. I think he enjoys it, but I think he likes also being kind of a dark and tormented artist.



DO YOU TELL HIM TO SHUT UP AND STOP GROUSING AND JUST DO THE SCENE?



Mark Wahlberg: I think I just left the room and went to my trailer and took a little nap or something. Let him and James figure it out. But no, you know, everybody’s process is different. Working with Bobby Duvall, I mean, the guy’s playing my dad, he’s the only actor that I ever saw in every movie and he reminded me of my real dad. So, when I found out that he was playing the part, I was ecstatic. And he just kind of comes in, and he knows his lines, and you just try to make it real. And but like I said, everybody’s process is different.



ARE YOU INVOLVED AT ALL STILL IN ‘ENTOURAGE?’ IT’S HAD EXTRAORDINARY SUCCESS.



Mark Wahlberg: Thrilled with the success. No, you know, we got the ball rolling, and everything else is up to this guy now, sitting in the corner. This is my manager and partner, Steve [Levinson]. But no, those guys – they’re so good, and they’re on such a roll, you just wanna tune in on Sunday like everybody else. I stopped watching the dailies, I wait till the rough cuts come.



QUESTION: HOW MUCH LONGER DO YOU THINK IT’LL GO? IS THERE A FINITE END IN SIGHT?



Mark Wahlberg: Until those guys self-destruct. Until [Jeremy] Piven implodes. It’s just one of those things. [laughs] They can go as long as they want to go. It’s the number one show on the network. I can’t go anywhere, without somebody coming up to tell me how much they love ‘Entourage.’ Young, old, men, women, it’s just one of those things. So I’m thrilled. And they’re not – they’re not compromising as far as the quality of the material goes. They only can really churn out twelve to fourteen episodes, but each one is better than the last.



HOW ARE THINGS GOING WITH ‘THE HAPPENING?’



Mark Wahlberg: It’s happening. It’s happening. No, I love working with Night [Shyamalan], I’ve never seen a filmmaker work so smoothly. And so prepared. First day, we had a scene that was probably five pages long, and I figured, well we’ll probably do this for a good three or four days, and we were done by lunch. And I was like whoa. Okay. So I’m very glad that I never tried directing myself until I worked with Night. I think of all the guys that I’ve worked with, I think his is a style that I would really try to emulate.



QUESTION: DO YOU PLAN ON DIRECTING?



Mark Wahlberg: I’d love to give it a shot, for sure. I’ve definitely got the interest.



CAN YOU TALK ABOUT ‘THE HAPPENING’ AT ALL?



Mark Wahlberg: I’ll just tell you the ending [laughs]. No, I play a science teacher, definitely a part that people will be extremely surprised that I decided to play. He’s constantly reminding me of how I need to walk. No, that looks too tough, that looks too angry. You’re a science teacher, you know. But I love it. It’s really about the characters and their relationships, and there’s this crazy thing that’s happening. So I’m thrilled, we only have a week left. Probably one of the biggest movies I’ve been a part of, yet we’re only shooting forty-four days. And the longest day has been a twelve-hour day, and the short days have been like eight, nine hours. And he gave away yesterday, for instance, that every Friday he gives away a trip for seven days in the Greek islands, to a crew member, a guy I think from the audio department won, and the week before somebody got a seven day trip somewhere else in the Caribbean, I’m like what’s going on, man? It’s a special experience. And I do whatever he wants me to do. Hopefully the end result will be satisfying. He’s thrilled, I have a very good feeling about it.



DID YOU GO BACK TO SCHOOL TO STUDY HOW TO BE A TEACHER?



Mark Wahlberg: Science was the only subject that I didn’t take while taking my GED exam, so first thing I did when I got to Philly was I went to the Ben Franklin Institute, trying to do as much as possible. But there’s very little stuff in the class. The class and stuff is really about showing his relationship and his connection to students. He’s not the most adult teacher. His wife wants him to be more adult, she wants to be more like a kid, and he connects with his kids and he’s great with his kids. It was a fun experience.



DID YOU NEED RESEARCH FOR THIS ROLE, OR DID YOU USE WHAT YOU LEARNED FROM ‘THE DEPARTED?’



Mark Wahlberg: No, because my main focus in this was studying post-traumatic stress. Dealing with that. I’d done some research on it when we were doing ‘Three Kings.’ But that was the big focus, I certainly didn’t need to worry about any police department stuff. There was a lot more – I was speaking a lot more Russian in the movie. I haven’t seen the final, final cut, but I believe that some of the Russian was cut out.



YOU DID SPEAK SOME.



Mark Wahlberg: Yeah.



WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ‘THE BRAZILIAN JOB?’



Mark Wahlberg: I don’t know what’s happening with ‘The Brazilian Job,’ you know. They keep talking about it, we’ll see. We want to make it if we can make it better than the first one. And that goes for any other sequel that they’re talking about. That or ‘The Departed’ or anything else. You don’t want to just do it, there are plenty of other ways to make a paycheck. I want to do that some justice if possible.



ARE YOU IN TALKS FOR ANYTHING ELSE?



Mark Wahlberg: There’s some other stuff that we’re looking at, nothing locked down. Nothing written in stone.



ARE YOU ACTIVELY LOOKING FOR PROJECTS AS A DIRECTOR?



Mark Wahlberg: No. I just think when the right thing comes my way I’ll know that that’s the thing I should take that leap with.



DO YOU ENJOY PRODUCING?



Mark Wahlberg: Yeah. Yeah, I love it. Anytime we can help talented people bring their vision to life, it’s a beautiful thing.



HOW’S JOAQUIN AS A PRODUCING PARTNER?



Mark Wahlberg: Well let’s put it this way. He called me and said there was a scene in the movie that he didn’t like, and we’re producing it, we should do something about it. It’s a scene that he’s in, and I’m like, well, what about it? He goes, I don’t know, I didn’t see the movie. I’m like, what are you talking about, you gotta see the movie! He’s like, no, you’re the producer, you gotta tell James to cut it out. I’m like, well you’re the producer, you gotta watch the movie and tell me what you’re talking about. [laughs] He doesn’t like watching himself, though.



IS IT THE RED SOX’S YEAR?



Mark Wahlberg: I don’t know. 2004 was, you can’t be greedy, you know.



WHAT’S GOING ON WITH ‘THE BRAZILIAN JOB?’



Mark Wahlberg: I don’t know what’s happening with ‘The Brazilian Job,’ you know. They keep talking about it, we’ll see. We want to make it if we can make it better than the first one. And that goes for any other sequel that they’re talking about. That or ‘The Departed’ or anything else. You don’t want to just do it, there are plenty of other ways to make a paycheck. I want to do that some justice if possible.



ARE YOU IN TALKS FOR ANYTHING ELSE?



Mark Wahlberg: There’s some other stuff that we’re looking at, nothing locked down. Nothing written in stone.




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