May 2003
The Italian Job : An Interview with Mark Wahlberg

Interviewed by Wilson Morales

The Italian Job: An Interview with Mark Wahlberg

Over the last few years Mark Wahlberg has movedp to the A-List of actors. To some, he’s handsome and a leading man who could play both sides of good and evil in a role. He’s had his fair share of hits (The Perfect Storm, Planet of The Apes) as well as misses (The Truth About Charlie), but he can still bring in an audience. In his latest film, The Italian Job, Mark Wahlberg plays Charlie Croker, a thief out to settle a score and undo a wrong. In an interview with, he talks about his experiences while working on the film.

WM: What was the greatest challenge on doing this film? Was it underwater doing the boat scenes or the car chase?

MW: No, that was a piece of cake after “Perfect Storm” and I’ve done car chase scenes in other films. The challenge for me in this movie was to try to play likeable. I’ve played likeable characters before but I’ve never intentionally tried to say “Ok” and smile a little bit more in a scene and Gary felt strongly about that because I’m the central character and if people don’t like me and get behind us and root for us, then the movie doesn’t work as a whole, so it’s the first time I never had to think about that. It was always about making things real and believable so I had to smile here and there, but it was cool as long he didn’t make me chew up the scenery.

WM: He was leader of the crew so he had to have his stuff together.

MW: I always got my crew anyway. I was a follower until I was 12 and then I started heading my own crew. That part was very easy.

WM: What was it about the script that you liked?

MW: There were a number of things. I loved the role and I loved the other characters. The fact that it was a character driven piece and Gary wasn’t going to turn it into some special effects bonanza, it was great. I’m doing some darker stuff after this and I always try to balance it out a little bit and I thought it was time to something fun as opposed to always playing these tragic guys. And then he told me who he wanted to cast and I was like, “Forget it, this is the thing to do.” I also wanted the opportunity to work with Gary cause we’ve been friends for a long time. We have very similar taste in material. We just get each other so it was a perfect opportunity for me.

WM: Speaking of special effects bonanza, how do you feel going up against the X-Men sequel and Matrix Reloaded and the whole pressure of opening up a summer movie in the midst of all this?

MW: I don’t feel any pressure. I think the studio does. It’s their money and they gotta get it back. I feel good. I think we have a really good movie. The audiences that have seen it have loved this movie. I feel very confident that the movie will perform. I’m just happy how it’s been perceived.

WM: Was it as fun to make as it was to watch, because it seems that everybody had making this film?

MW: We had a blast. That’s the scary thing too cause you’re not supposed to have that much fun. They always say that you’re supposed to suffer for your art and we had a blast. It was like we weren’t even working. I’ve work on some tough movies to make that I had good experiences on but this was like, by far the easiest.

WM: What does Gary do to bring everybody together?

MW: Whatever he has to. There’s nothing that he won’t do to make it happen. He was just like, “You guys have a real opportunity, don’t blow it.” He put us all together and we genuenly got along and like each other and mutual respect for one another. The chemistry was there and he knew it once he put us in the room.

WM: How’s the driving school? Did you have a good time there?

MW: Yeah, when I wasn’t throwing up in the passenger seat of a mini (cooper), I was fine. I loved driving and doing my own thing but I’m no stunt guy or macho man with something to prove. I rather have my stunt guy in there, but Gary would insist that I do it. Charlize Theron wants to be like Rambo. Wild woman she is.

WM: Did you do your own stunts?

MW: I did whatever he wanted me to do. But if it ever my choice, I would be in the trailer. I got a guy who looks just like me and he would jump out the window right now with no pads.

WM: Is there a certain role that you would like to play? One that you haven’t done yet?

MW: I would love to play the role of a boxer. To do like a “Raging Bull” type of film, or any kind of sports film. The project that I’m doing in the Fall is something that I have always wanted to do. It’s called “The Jacket”. It’s a cross between “Jacobs’s Ladder” and “One Flew Over The Cookoo’s Nest”. It’s a very demanding role, physically and mentally so I’m gonna have to give it my all but I’m excited about it. This is something you don’t get to do very often.

WM: Who’s directing it?

MW: John Mayberry is directing the film. Steven Soderberg found him. He’s from England and has an amazing talent. He directed a film years ago called “Love is the Devil” about Francis Bacon, the English artist. George (Clooney) and Steven are producing the film. George will pranks on me for 4 months but that will be okay cause we’ve been chasing this project forever.

WM: Who was your idol growing up?

MW: Jimmy Cagney, Steve McQueen, John Garfield, and Robert Ryan.

WM: What do you think about being called the “King of Remakes”?

MW: That’s not a good title I think. It’s just coincidence. I never wanted to remake “Planet of the Apes” or “Charade”. I wanted to work with (Director) Tim Burton. He had asked me to come work for him and just show up. It doesn’t matter what it is. You just show up. It’s the same thing with Jonathan Demme. “The Truth about Charlie” wasn’t a remake and this isn’t certainly a remake. This film has the spirit of the original and obviously the title and character name, and the cars, but it’s certainly its own movie and has a life of its own.

WM: Did you watch the original when you got the part?

MW: No, I hadn’t. Me and my dad saw every heist movie ever made but this was a diamond in the rough. We did the original a lot of justice, but this movie far surpasses that.

WM: What do you think a heist movie has to have to be a good movie?

MW: I think, in my eyes, every movie has to have a great villain. I don’t works without a villain. Edward Norton did a damn good job on this movie playing a mean prick cause he’s a sweet guy, really funny. He’s got edge and he’s one of the few guys out there that’s my age that fans would love to see us go at it. We got an opportunity, a little bit in this, but we’ll probably do something in the future together.

WM: What can you say about Mos Def?

MW: Mos is phenomenal. Somebody had asked if I thought Mos would be successful as an actor. Mos is one of the most talented guys that I ever met in my life. He was an actor before he became a musician. All of those guys, Mos, Jason, and Seth are talented, but for me, it was always about the more they do the better. I’m not one of those guys who go out and say, “Hey, this is my moment.” That’s not my thing. I’ve worked with those guys and have learned from experience of what not to do. The one thing I’m good at is learning from other people’s mistakes and these guys were just phenomenal. But Mos is a superstar. I also like his music. I try not to listen to rap anymore cause as soon as I do, I’m ready to bust some heads. I’ll put on some angry Tupac record on my way to church. (Laughing)

WM: What are you listening to nowadays?

MW: Well, right now I’m listening to the “Jewel Tree” by Bob Thurman, Uma’s dad and a professor at Columbia University. In my next film, my character listens to that Tibetan music. I’m working with (Director) David Russel and we start filming in June. I also listen to reggae and Oasis, and some Coldplay. I still have Nas and Jay Z. Very rarely do I turn that on.

WM: How was working with Donald Sutherland?

MW: I grew up admiring him and the fact that he wanted to do this movie was amazing to me. He’s such a great actor. You would think that he’s this serious guy and he’s the complete opposite. I love when you meet people that I have admired because they’re never what you expect. Joe Pesci is not like the guy from “Goodfellas”. Donald was giving as an actor whereas some guys would come in, do their job and bounce. He’s a team player. I’ve been lucky to work with him and Charlize (Theron) for the second time. We didn’t get to do much in “The Yards”. Here we get to bounce different stuff off each other and that was nice.