Mark Wahlberg talks Detroit, Gilbert and ‘Patriots Day’
The Academy Award-nominated actor, 45, stars in the gritty story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, which opens Friday
Mark Wahlberg spent several months in Detroit over the summer blowing stuff up while filming the latest chapter in the blockbuster “Transformers” saga.
“But you know what the great thing about it is?” asks the actor. “You blow it up, Dan Gilbert builds it right back.”
Wahlberg knows Gilbert well; the actor and the billionaire developer partnered to bring Wahlberg’s Wahlburgers restaurant to Greektown — and that’s only the beginning.
“We’re gonna open up a couple more locations,” Wahlberg says.
But he’s not just pushing hamburgers. Wahlberg is on the phone from Los Angeles where he’s promoting “Patriots Day,” which opens Friday. It’s the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, which wreaked havoc in Wahlberg’s hometown.
Having filmed in Detroit for two “Transformers” films and for 2005’s “Four Brothers,” Wahlberg sees similarities between Boston and Detroit.
“Obviously there’s great history,” he says, “but also good, hard-working people who will have your back in a second, and have each other’s back. They’ll love you, they’ll welcome you with open arms. But also, don’t mess around with them.”
“Patriots Day” tells the tale of Boston’s reaction to the bombing and the manhunt that ensued to find its perpetrators. It’s a street-level procedural with grit and humanity, and as soon as he heard it was being made, Wahlberg knew he had to be a part of the film.
“I still wish we didn’t have to make this movie,” says the 45-year-old Oscar nominee, who also is a producer on the film. “But knowing they were going to make it regardless, I said I have to be involved, and I have to make sure it’s done the right way.”
Wahlberg was in New York that Monday morning in April 2013 when the bomb went off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others.
By the next day he was back in Boston, “and it was an eerie, eerie feeling” in the city, he says.
While prepping for the film, Wahlberg talked to the family members of victims and to survivors, and he found it to be an uplifting story, despite the tragedy.
“It really gives people hope and inspires them. Because these things continue to happen, and it’s about how you respond to them,” Wahlberg says.
Authenticity was key, especially for the people of Boston.
“Everybody that I talked to when I went home, they would always tell me, first and foremost, get it right,” Wahlberg says. “They would remind me and punctuate the fact that we needed to show them who we were.”
“Patriots Day” reunites Wahlberg with director Peter Berg, whom he previously worked with on the 2013 sniper story “Lone Survivor” and on last year’s “Deepwater Horizon,” which covered the 2010 BP oil spill that killed 11 workers. Their partnership is like a brotherhood, Wahlberg says, and they have plans to make five more movies together.
“The next one we’re going to stay away from a true story based on tragic events,” Wahlberg says. “We’re going to take a little time to do a character-driven action movie and maybe have a little fun; I think (Berg) needs a change of pace.”
Wahlberg has had several changes of pace over his varied career. In the early 1990s, he began as a Calvin Klein underwear model and a chart-topping rapper (“Good Vibrations,” credited to Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, spent a week at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in October 1991) before transitioning into acting midway through the decade.
Early film roles in “The Basketball Diaries” and “Fear” focused on his good looks and bad-boy persona, but 1997’s porn saga “Boogie Nights” showed he had true range and acting chops.
He’s since starred in action films (this summer’s “The Last Knight,” opening June 23, is his second “Transformers” turn), comedies (he teamed with Will Ferrell in “The Other Guys” and “Daddy’s Home”) and dramas (he was nominated for an Academy Award for “The Departed”). His movies have grossed more than $5 billion worldwide.
More than 20 years into his Hollywood career, his approach to his work has changed, as he balances his career with his home life.
“Now I’m a father and a husband” — Wahlberg has been married to model Rhea Durham for seven years and they have four children, ages 7 to 13 — “and that impacts the things that I do and how I do them,” he says.
That said, he’s not slowing down.
“I’m more motivated and inspired now than I’ve ever been,” Wahlberg says. “I think a lot of people after a certain amount of time start getting a little complacent, but I don’t know. I just have this drive and this desire to do more and to do better.”
Come back to The Detroit on Friday to read film critic Adam Graham's review of the movie.