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Mark Wahlberg: From Marky Mark to 'Broken City'

By Michelle F. Solomon, Contributing writer
Published On: Jan 18 2013 03:29:11 PM CST
Mark Wahlberg, Broken City movie image

20th Century Fox

The Mark Wahlberg of today is a far cry from his days as the frontman for 1990s hip hop group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, who was known as much for his amazing pecs and abs (he was a model then, too, for Calvin Klein underwear) as he was for his rap ability. Now, at 41, he's a bonafide movie star with an Oscar nomination under his belt for his role in Martin Scorsese's "The Departed" (2006) and tons of accolades as a successful television and film producer.

He has top billing in "Broken City," the story of an ex-cop named Billy Taggart who seeks redemption and revenge on New York City's most powerful and deceitful man, the mayor. He's the star, but he also has some pretty big names on screen with him, including Russell Crowe as the mayor and Catherine Zeta-Jones as the mayor's wife.

At The Movies recently sat down with Wahlberg to discuss his newest role and see what's next for the star:

ATM: How did you get interested in playing the role of Billy Taggart?

MW: I was aware of the script, but when I actually read it right, I knew I wanted to do the film. I knew by page five this was a movie I wanted to make. But I told Allen (Hughes, director and producer) that not only did I want to act in the film, I wanted to produce it.
ATM: Billy Taggart is a rich character for you to mine. He's a no holds barred, ex-cop who is trying to do the right thing. He's a former alcoholic who gets pulled back into drinking again, but he's basically a good guy who is faced with a number of challenges.

MW: These are the kind of guys I grew up rooting for. He's not a straight run of the mill hero. He's a very flawed guy, but he's trying to redeem himself. Billy is in pretty bad shape when you meet him. Russell's character actually tells Billy Taggart that he's more balls than tact.

ATM: The cast is incredible. When you go against them on film, especially with Russell, it is so powerful.

MW: You see the cast that we got because of the material. The script was so well written and because we did it independently we weren't able to pay everyone what they normally get paid, but they wanted to be involved because they loved the parts.

ATM: You praised your co-star Natalie Martinez before the preview screening of "Broken City." Can you tell us about your desire to cast her in the role of Natalie?

MW: She kind of came in at the 11th hour. We had seen every Latin actress out there for that part and I think she was under the impression that someone had the part or that we had favorites. She wasn't nervous and didn't have that high of an expectation. She just did her thing and everybody else was so intense about it, but she just had this "it is what it is" attitude. We all looked at each other and said, "she's it."

ATM: You play a lot of cop roles. What draws you to those roles in particular?

MW: A lot of movies are cops and crooks and good guys vs. bad guys movies. "Serpico," "Chinatown," these are movies that I grew up watching. Guys like Bogart and James Cagney and Robert Ryan and Edward G. Robinson. . . those were movie guys I watched with my dad, and those are the kind of movies that pique my interest.

ATM: Do you feel that there's a lot of you in the role of Billy Taggart?

MW: Well, yes. Billy could've gone either way. He could have ended up being a crook or a cop. He's pretty much the underdog, a blue collar kind of guy. I want the audience to feel like they are watching something a little bit more real and that the more intimate portrayal is something I think audiences recognize. For all the hard times I've had and the bad experiences in my life, I have been able to at least use the real life experiences and apply them to good use now with my work.

ATM: You are very into who your characters are, both physically and mentally. How do you do that?

MW: Well, physically this was a most crazy year for me. I walked into a production meeting and Allen (Hughes) was freaked out by my physical appearance. And he asked me if I could I get as thin as possible for the role in "Broken City." So I started running and playing basketball and I started boxing again. I got down to 165 pounds. Then 10 weeks after that I had to start shooting "Pain and Gain" (which was shot in Miami), where I play a body builder. I had to get as big as possible, so I got up to 212 pounds, then I had to get back down to 180 to do "2 Guns" with Denzel Washington and then two weeks after that I was immersed in Navy SEAL training to play Marcus Luttrell in "Lone Survivor."

ATM: And will you have to do that again for "Transformers 4"?

MW: Hopefully we'll do "Avon Man" before "Transformers." "Avon Man" is my first romantic comedy.

ATM: Can you tell us more about "Transformers 4" and "Ted II"?

MW: I can tell you that "Transformers 4" starts shooting at the end of May and "Ted II" begins in September.

ATM: Do you ever watch any of your older movies?

MW: There was one point where I was trying to step up my game and I was going to go back and watch all of the movies that I had made, but I couldn't stomach sitting in a theater watching myself, but I will say when I'm flipping the channels -- flipping through HBO -- if one of them is on, I'll watch it. In January, I was in Hawaii with my family on vacation, and I'm walking and I turn around and boom, there's Reese Witherspoon (his co-star in the 1996 film "Fear") right there and I haven't seen her in forever. She had never met my wife (Rhea Durham), so that was nice.

ATM: What is your dream role?

MW: I'm so appreciative of the opportunities that I've had and the roles that I've had to play and that I continue to grow as an actor. One of the ones I'm most excited, however, is coming up. I'm going to play John Roberts, the infamous cocaine cowboy. Bill Monahan, who wrote the screenplay for "The Departed," is writing the screenplay, I'm producing it and I'm going to play John and we'll shoot "Cocaine Cowboys" in Miami. It's about the cocaine trade in the '80s and the rise in Miami while the rest of the country was damn near in a recession.