Interview: Mark Wahlberg: Big Fun, Italian Style
by Scott Juba
Published: May 20, 2003
Mark Wahlberg first came onto the entertainment scene in the early 1990s as rapper “Marky Mark”. Following his music career, Wahlberg turned his attention to acting, landing a breakthrough role in the 1997 film, “Boogie Nights”. Since then, Wahlberg has appeared in films such as “The Planet of the Apes”, “Three Kings”, and “The Truth About Charlie”.
His next movie, “The Italian Job”, opens May 30th nationwide. In this remake of the classic 1969 film of the same name, Wahlberg plays Charlie Croker, the leader of a highly skilled and sophisticated group of thieves. Croker and his group seek revenge on one of their former members who doubled crossed them.
Recently I had the opportunity to take part in a conference call with Mr. Wahlberg, and he told me that shooting the “Italian Job” was the most fun that he has ever had making a movie. He told me, “Everyone got along so well. Me and Gary (Gray) are close in age, and we have very similar tastes in films as well as other things. We just had a blast. And that’s also kind of the scariest thing too, because you’re having so much fun, and, you shouldn’t be having that much fun making a film, because it’s a lot of work. But, you know, I think we got lucky on this one.”
When asked what attracted him to the movie, Wahlberg responded, “With this I got an opportunity to do something that I hadn’t done before, which was also kind of a challenge, because I had to constantly worry about if my character was going to be likeable enough.” He added that “The Italian Job” “was a big movie, but it was sort of character driven as opposed to just a big popcorn movie.”
Wahlberg said that he took on the role of Charlie Croker because that was the role the studio wanted him to play. However, he admitted, “I liked the villain. I’m always kind of a fan of the villain, but that was the role that they offered me.”
Breathtaking car chases are a key element of “The Italian Job”. The recently re-designed Mini-Coopers are prominently featured as the main vehicles of choice in the film. Wahlberg described them as, “Fun to drive, but horrible to be in the passenger seat and have somebody driving fast and swerving a lot, because I certainly have a weak stomach.” He added, “I threw up when I was in the passenger seat with Charlize (Theron).” Wahlberg went on to say that driving a Mini-Cooper is, “like driving a really high powered go-cart, because they’re so tight, and there’s a lot of maneuverability there.”
Much to my surprise, Wahlberg also explained that he and the other actors in the film did most of the driving themselves. “Gary tried to get us to do most of the driving, if not all,” he stated. “You know, you see a lot of guys who go on TV in interviews bragging about doing their own stunts and trying to be cool. I’m not one of those guys. I’ve got three or four guys that look just like me, and I’d love to throw them in there as much as possible, but I’d certainly do anything that a director asked me to do.”
In the film, legendary actor Donald Sutherland plays the mentor of Wahlberg’s character. “Donald Sutherland is one of my favorite actors of all time,” Wahlberg remarked. “He’s fantastic, and one of the most generous actors I’ve ever worked with. It really was a joy to work with him.”
Wahlberg also shares screen time with Ed Norton, who plays the main villain in the film. In one scene, Wahlberg punches Norton in the face and knocks him to the floor. “I got to crack him in the head, and that was extremely pleasurable,” he joked.
However, unlike most films in its genre, “The Italian Job” actually contains very little violence, especially in the case of the protagonists. Throughout the course of the entire film, Wahlberg’s character never holds a gun. “You don’t need all that violence,” he commented. “It’s just not necessary.”
Throughout the course of the interview, Wahlberg made it clear that his main criteria for choosing his roles is based on the director of the film. He said, “All of my films that I have done up until this point have been based on the director, and the script is second, and the character is third.”
When he’s not busy making movies, Wahlberg said that he’s “usually watching movies or playing sports. I am very, very serious about what I do, but I’ve always dreamt of being a professional athlete, and I still mess around on the weekends with my friends, and we have our own little hoops dreams and fantasy football games.”
When “The Italian Job” hits theatres on May 30th, it is definitely a film that you will want to see. If you are a fan of the original film, however, Wahlberg made it clear that the updated version shares little in common with the original. “It’s a totally different film,” he remarked. “Same name. Some cool little things with the cars, but that’s about it.” While this may disappoint fans of the original, I certainly believe that this remake has the ability to hold its own against any film in its genre. It is an exciting, action packed film that manages to entertain in a very intelligent way. “The Italian Job” is likely to be remembered as the best film of the summer.