Through three films, Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg have created one of today’s most distinct actor-director pairings, melding the action-adventure genre within true-to-life stories. It’s hard to think of films that blend blow-em-up spectacle with emotional gravitas as effortlessly as Lone Survivor, Patriot’s Day and Deepwater Horizon. Their latest (fourth) collaboration, Mile 22, however, eschews this format, doing away with the true-life side and going all in on the action spectacle. As Wahlberg himself says, the duo just wanted to “have some fun.” Being on set—I can attest to this. There was an almost child-like glint in Berg’s eyes, as he blew cars up sky high, beckoning direction from a loud speaker.
In Mile 22, Wahlberg stars as James Silva, the leader of a secret task force (including Ronda Rousey & Lauren Cohan), assigned with moving a police officer (Iko Uwais) twenty-two miles out of the country. Of course – things don’t work out so easily on the mission, as various factions attempt to kill the officer and stop the team.
In the following interview with Mark Wahlberg, he discusses the tonal difference between Mile 22 & his previous Peter Berg collaborations, his shorthand with the director, and the potential for a possible Mile 22 action franchise. For the full interview, read below.
What was it about Mile 22 that grabbed you?
Mark Wahlberg: You know, it’s one of those things where Pete and I were shooting another movie and he started talking to me about it. This was years ago. He started talking to me about playing this particular role, and it was going to be a smaller role in the film, then it turned into the lead. I think for both of us the idea was to get away from the true stories and just have some fun. Do something that’s character-driven and really smart, but also be able to have some fun. Not have to deal with a real-life tragedy and all the stuff that goes along with that…
You’ve been quoted as saying this could be a signature role for you?
Wahlberg: Yeah. You know, [he’s] a very unapologetic, in-your-face guy, who likes to talk. It’s not a brooding antihero without much to say. We always kind of looked at him like Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. He’s a guy who plays by his own rules and doesn’t really answer to anybody. And it was just a lot of fun to play the part. You know, the writing was smart and cool, and Pete and I love to improvise and play around as well. It was a lot of fun to play that part.
One of the exciting elements of the movie is Iko Uwais. What does he bring to it?
Wahlberg: Well, I don’t know what I can say. There’s a great twist at the end. But he’s a guy who’s looking for asylum. He has some information for us about these dirty bombs and stuff, but I don’t know if I can trust him or not. I’m always trying to pry the information out, and then as we get deeper in, these guys want him, it seems, more than it seems he wants us to get him out of the country. You know, there’s a great twist there… I don’t know how much I should tell or shouldn’t tell.
Obviously Iko is an amazing fighter. On set, we got to see him kill someone with a seatbelt. Were you familiar with him from The Raid?
Wahlberg: Oh yeah. I had seen The Raid 1 and 2. And had been talking to him quite a bit, because Pete and I kept saying we were doing this. Pete’s kind of a tough guy to nail down, you know? So Iko was eagerly waiting for the opportunity for us to make this movie. And he’s fantastic. He was speaking another language and doing all that stuff, and he did a great job.
There are gunfights, explosions, martial arts… Is there a lot of variety to the action in the film?
Wahlberg: Yeah. I’m not doing any martial arts. I might have to smash a couple of people, but for the most part I have different methods. But yeah, I think it’s going to be a really cool combination of action with weapons and the martial arts and stuff like that. The close-quarters fighting with Iko. I think it’s going to be really cool. And then the story – the story is very well-written. A very smart script. I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised.
You and Peter are obviously a very effective actor-director double-act. What do you think makes him such a skilled action director?
Wahlberg: I think it’s because he tries to make it very real. And he’s got a great eye and he can shoot the shit out of it.
He talked about the drones you guys are using for Mile 22. Is this the most ambitious one you guys have done together?
Wahlberg: I would say so. Look, there are two other parts to the story that we want to tell. And yes, in the size and the scope, it’s ambitious. And shooting it in 40-some odd days, for the budget that we did… That’s the other thing that I love about Pete: he’s so fast and knows exactly what he wants.
Lauren talked about the pretty intense weapons training she did. What was that like for you?
Wahlberg: Yeah. I just did my own thing. I mean– I’ve had a lot of weapons training and stuff like that. But Pete and I, this is now our fourth film, and every film that we’ve done, I always seem to end up being overweight. So Pete was like, “That’s it. I want the thin, ripped Mark Wahlberg.” Because after Lone Survivor, I came from Pain & Gain, where I played a bodybuilder, and 2 Guns then for Patriot’s Day, and for Deepwater Horizon we felt like it was better if the character was heavy and kind of out of shape. So I trained and was on a very strict diet, no drinking, none of that stuff for five whole months with Pete. And then of course as soon as we started shooting, Pete kept trying to get me to dinner and have a drink with him, have some wine. But I stayed the course the whole entire time.
This seems like a movie that is pretty relentless in its pace. Is that accurate?
Wahlberg: Yeah. It’s very much like Lone Survivor in that we’re really setting up the story and the characters, and then once the action gets going it’s pretty unrelenting.
Was there one particularly memorable day on set for you?
Wahlberg: I think of the big explosion in Colombia, at the cafe. They had no idea what to expect or what was coming.
You mentioned that there are potentially two more films you could make with this character. Why does this feel like a franchise to you and Peter?
Wahlberg: I just think the actual story, the challenge that we face with this particular team, and how this movie ends, it just sets it up for a great… There are two other really cool pieces to this story that I think people are going to want to see. But in this kind of thing you never know. People have got to really love this movie to want to see another one.
Mile 22 hits theaters everywhere August 3, 2018