Interview: Mark Wahlberg Talks ‘The Other Guys’ and ‘The Fighter’

By  · Published on July 27th, 2010

The Other Guys is a bit of a change of pace for the Mark Wahlberg we all know. For one, he’s become known particularly for his “tough guy” onscreen persona. And two, have we ever seen Wahlberg go full-on comedic? No, we have not… but in about two weeks we all will.

Apparently, it’ll be a nice welcome for Wahlberg. If The Other Guys lives up to the buzz coming from the press screenings or can stand amongst Adam McKay’s other comedies, then expect something good.

How does Wahlberg feel about this so-called change?

Well, Wahlberg didn’t see it entirely that way. While he’s correct that plenty of his previous roles have had comedic elements, he did agree upon this being his first straight comedy.

Interviewing Wahlberg himself was bit of an canned experience. Having so little time it’s nearly impossible to have a straight conversation with the man and that type of environment is somewhat impersonal. Despite that, Wahlberg ‐ in this six minute convo ‐ still gave up some rather interesting info about working on The Other Guys as well as both producing and the upcoming (and finally coming out) Fighter.

You are pretty well known for playing hard edged-type of characters, but here it’s the total opposite. Do you look at The Other Guys as turning what you’re known for a bit on its ear?

Yeah, me and Will [Ferrell] approach the work the same way: be as real and as serious as possible no matter how absurd it is. The more absurd it is then the more humor people will find in it. It really is about committing. We never said, “Here’s an opportunity to try to be funny,” but lets be as real as possible. I think the more committed we are that furthers the potential for laughs and humor.

But it does go against the characters we usually see you play.

Yeah, well

I’m not saying you don’t do a variety of different roles, though.

If you look at I Heart Huckabees or The Departed there was comedic elements in those performances, but obviously the tone was just a little bit different. If you turn the tone a little bit to the left or a little bit to the right that makes everything shift. It was a nice fit for me and I wanted to do a comedy. Obviously, you gotta do the right thing coming from a dramatic background. If not, then you wont get another chance to do it again. It’s not the kind of thing where they let you try it over and over again until you get it right. You gotta make a good crack at it.

And when you work with Adam McKay you know you’re going to be doing an actual smart comedy. His films are definitely a lot more clever than most comedies.

Yeah, although they can go very broad there’s still a lot of smarts and wit there that a lot of other comedies certainly lack.

You mentioned before how you want to play everything as real as possible, but can you talk a bit about walking that fine line of playing broad jokes and yet keeping it grounded?

You know, you just trust them. Whatever they want me to try I’m willing to try. I know I’m in good hands and we always go for the real approach, but try to turn it up a little bit more. If you’re turning it up it’s probably just the intensity and not so much straying away from keeping it on a realistic approach.

Have you ever been able to work like that? Where you get to run wild a little bit?

Yeah, certainly on The Departed and Four Brothers. There were a lot of movies where I got to try a lot of different things and then there were other movies where you’re working with writers/directors where they don’t want you to veer off from the page at all. I’m comfortable working in any environment, but I do feel like… obviously, with improvising there’s a lot more opportunities to find the organic stuff that just pops. It’s nice to switch it up. When you’re working with a director and you believe in their vision you certainly want to service their vision no matter what their approach is.

Could you compare working in an environment like this versus, say, with Paul Thomas Anderson, where he also gives you a bit of leeway?

Certainly on Boogie Nights we’d do that stuff. Like, the “making of” in the movie we were just making stuff up with being interviewed and just coming up with that stuff. There’s also so much brilliance in his writing too that you don’t want to mess with it.

Were you looking to go into doing a full-on comedy for a while now?

Yeah, for a long time. Again, it was really about finding the right thing and if you don’t get it right… a lot of dramatic actors have tried and failed.

I’m definitely interested in your producing career. What’s your thought process when it comes to looking for projects to get behind?

Well, first and foremost that it’d be good and something that people would wanna watch and enjoy. Obviously, with television, you want something with a very long life span. [It’s] just trying to do different things and stuff that people would enjoy. I’m so excited for Boardwalk Empire and that comes out in September.

I talked to Michael Stuhlbarg about it a while back and he sounded very enthusiastic.

Oh, yeah? It’s just off the charts.

It seems like when you pick your projects you really stick with them. I mean, how long have you been attached to The Fighter?

Four and a half years.

How’s that coming along?

Fantastic. It comes out in December.

Is there a final cut yet? I know they test screened it a few months ago or so.

Oh, yeah. We’re about to lock the picture.

How did David O. Russell get involved?

Through me. I brought him in.

How was it working with him the third time around?

Great. You know, we obviously know each other. Throughout the process of looking for another filmmaker we met with a lot of other directors and David and I just remained friends since Three Kings. He took it upon himself to get a hold of the script. I didn’t send it to him. He read it and then he knew just about every night at ten o’clock I’d watch those fights after putting my kids to bed. He just called me and talked to me about ideas for the movie and it was just a daily occurrence that dawned me of, “Holy shit, he actually could make a better version of this movie.”

Then it was a process of just convincing everybody one person at a time to make that happen. It was always difficult every step of the way just to get the movie made with to getting David onboard, to get Christian [Bale] onboard, to get Amy Adams, to get outside financing, to get HBO to give us so much help for filming the fights, the rights issues for old footage, and things like that. It was a nightmare.

Micky Ward’s story really is a hard hitting one. Are you guys sticking to that?

Oh, yeah.

Great. Thanks for your time and I look forward to seeing The Fighter.

It’s fantastic.

The Other Guys hits theaters on August 6th.

Longtime FSR contributor Jack Giroux likes movies. He thinks they're swell.