Matt Pais, @mattpais
RedEye movie critic
January 16, 2013
In the political thriller “Broken City,” Mark Wahlberg plays an underdog—not exactly something new for the Oscar-nominated actor (“The Departed”) when you recall “Boogie Nights,” “Invincible,” “The Fighter,” “Rock Star” and more.
“It’s a recurring theme. Beyond a recurring theme; it’s like all I’ve done,” he says, only sort of kidding. “I gotta change my [bleep] up. Excuse my language.”
What’s new about the film, opening Friday, is that it’s the first directorial effort from Allen Hughes (“Menace II Society,” “Dead Presidents”) without his co-director brother, Albert. In “Broken City,” ex-cop Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) discovers New York City Mayor Hostetler’s (Russell Crowe) hidden agenda after Hostetler asks Taggart to find out who’s sleeping with his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones).
At the Peninsula Hotel, Wahlberg, 41, and Hughes, 40, talked about feeling like an underdog, Wahlberg’s uncanny ability to remember dialogue and how the actor thinks the world would be different if Mayor Rahm Emanuel, brother of “Entourage” agent Ari Gold’s inspiration Ari Emanuel, were president.
If we were going to point out a typical underdog, we might say Michael Cera, not Mark Wahlberg. Mark, why do you think you‘ve played these roles so frequently?
Mark Wahlberg: [Laughs.] Michael Cera. I don’t know. I’ve always loved these kind of movies, whether you look at “Rocky” or I was talking [to] Allen—the first movie I ever saw in the theater with my dad was [Walter Hill’s 1975 street-fighting movie] “Hard Times.” I root for these guys; I want to see these guys win. Every time if I would watch “Rudy” I would get choked up. It’s just the kind of things I like to watch. I find them inspiring.
Recognizing that has been a theme in your career, do you feel similarities from one character to the next?
MW: No, but I always try to find parts that I can identify with on a personal level, so I think it makes for a more authentic portrayal.
Do you consider yourself an underdog?
MW: Yes. Because I’ve always had to overcome a lot of odds, and I still always like to have that drive and that desire to win more now than I’ve ever had it. I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’m broke. I gotta get paid, and I gotta win. I gotta succeed.
Allen Hughes: He’s an overachiever.
MW: Everything I do I just give it 110 percent. I want to be good at everything I do. I want to make--certainly the people that take a chance on me and spend their money to make a film, I want it to be successful. I want people to enjoy it. I want people that go to the theater and pay their $10 or $12 or whatever it is to go and enjoy themselves thoroughly and get away from whatever it is they’re going through for that couple of hours.
”Broken City” revolves around corruption and political deception. People get caught for this all the time. Why does it still happen so much?
MW: It’s stupid. Chicago, man.
I know, it happens here especially.
MW: How much time did they give [former Gov. Rod Blagojevich]? 14 years?
AH: Oh, wow. Politics are politics. [Laughs.] I’ve been trying to find the answer to that question for some time. Why does it draw so many people that have stark contradictions and scandal?
Allen, to what extent do you think the titles of “Menace II Society” and “Broken City” could switch and still be appropriate?
AH: That’s interesting because I do think this movie is the bookend to “Menace II Society.” There’s a lot of similar themes and similar even locations as far as what the characters are moving through and what they’re experiencing. I said last night, “If ‘Menace’ was Jack Daniels, this would be wine,” but it is the perfect bookend for me.
MW: So let’s call it the sequel!
“Menace II Society II.”
AH: “Menace II Society II II II.” I really believe that, yeah.
Do you think at all about how much hasn’t changed since you made that movie?
AH: When it comes to housing projects—which is interesting, we’re dealing with that in this movie—that hasn’t changed, where the housing projects and the schools down there literally look and smell like correctional facilities. That struck me again. I was like, “Whoa.” They’re priming people to be in correctional facilities. That was interesting.
Russell’s character says Mark's character has more balls than tact. Which is more important to have in real life?
Both: “More balls than tact.”
AH: You gotta have both in a way to be successful.
MW: It depends on the situation.
AH: What do you have, Mark?
MW: Uh, neither.
AH: Yeah, right.
MW: No, I don’t know. You’re asking the wrong guy.
AH: I think more balls for me. But not in that way.
MW: He’s probably got some decent-sized balls. He’s doing OK.
It was interesting to see on Twitter how many people have written about having a man-crush on you, Mark. How does the adoration you receive from women compare to the adoration you receive from men?
MW: I’m a married man now, so I’ll take all the man love I can get. And [leave] all the ladies for Allen. I just appreciate it. They just see me as a guy’s guy. So that’s good. It’s the pretty boys that we don’t like. I don’t want nobody prettier than my wife. I ain’t goin’ to the movie, I don’t care.
Do you have an example of that?
MW: I have a few.
AH: They going to stay right there. (Points to MW’s head)
”Ted” was a huge hit last year.
(MW makes a gesture.)
You don’t want to talk about “Ted”?
MW: No, go, please. I’m just reminiscing about all that paper it made. Who gets all that money? My gosh!
How much, if at all, do you consider yourself a big teddy bear?
MW: You know what, it depends. Obviously I am with my kids. I’m a father of four. Especially with my two little girls. I try to be a little more stern with the boys. You know, I step up when I have to. But with the kids I’m pretty soft for the most part.
What’s a time when you’ve had to?
MW: When they’ve pushed the buttons, where they go too far? When they’re hitting each other, when they don’t listen.
What do you say to them?
MW: What do I say? I just beat ’em. I don’t say nothin’. No, I’m kidding. [Laughs.]
I hope so!
MW: Of course. But whatever I have to do. It’s the biggest challenge for me, the most important role that I’m playing now is father and husband. And if I don’t succeed at that, everything else doesn’t mean anything.
I’m not an actor, but I feel that when you memorize something so much it sticks in the back of your mind. When I was in college for my fraternity I had to memorize the Greek alphabet as fast as possible and can still do it easily. I was wondering if the white-trash names in “Ted” are still in the back of your mind and if you can still spout them out.
MW: Some of it. “Brittany Tammy Sabrina …” Uh … “Brittany, Tiffany, Candace … I’m going to rattle this [bleep] off, OK, and when I hit it you buzz it, all right. Brittany Tiffany Amber Sabrina Melody Dakota Sierra Bambi Crystal Samantha Ruby Terra Tammi Loreen Charlene Chantelle Kristy Mindy …” Ah, I can’t do it all. It’s 52 random names.
AH: That’s unheard of, though, that you can retain …
MW: But, what I can tell you … (doing lines from “Broken City”) “This is how this works, OK. I got a scanned copy of that [bleepin’] Outback contract in my outbox, all right. And I press one button, 100 different newsmen read your name alongside Sam Lancaster in black and white. OK?” I’ll give you the whole …
AH: I’m telling you [Laughs], I’ve never seen that before.
MW: I remember all my lines from “Boogie Nights.”
Great, keep it going.
MW: (doing “Boogie Nights”) “Who’s it going to be, huh? Who’s going to [bleep], huh? It’s my big dick, I’m ready to [bleep], so everybody get ready now!” Best line of all time. You’re going to beep that out, right? You can’t be showing that on the bus.
I thought it’d be fun to do a quick speed round for both of you. Just tell me the first thing that comes to mind. First album you guys bought.
AH: First album.
AH: Speed round. Men at Work?
MW: New Edition.
AH: Marilyn Manson.
MW: You’re the polar opposite.
Question you never want to hear again.
AH: I got one: “Why aren’t you and your brother working together?”
MW: [Laughs.] I get that too.
Would that be your answer too, Mark?
MW: No. “Was that your real dick in ‘Boogie Nights’?”
AH: You don’t want to hear that anymore?
MW: No. I’d like to carry the prosthetic around, so I could just slap people with it.
Just for Mark: I believe you said you’d rap again if Justin Bieber asked you to.
MW: I was kidding.
You don’t feel that way?
MW: No. If Kanye asked me to, I would.
Someone will ask you about that in six months and you’ll say you’re joking.
MW: No, I’ll do it. If Kanye or Jay-Z asks me I’ll do it.
Would that have to be paired or by yourself?
MW: No, with them. I want it to be a hit!
Would you rather do another album or a prequel to “The Happening”?
MW: A prequel to “The Happening.” Keep going, I like this. Keep going.
AH: These are pretty challenging questions! [Laughs.]
People just saw Russell in “Les Miz.” Would you ever do a part that required that singing on screen?
MW: A musical? Hell no.
MW: No, I don’t dig musicals. I can’t sing, man. I was a rapper. And I didn’t do that very good.
MW: So give me a break. I’ll do a hip-hop musical.
“8 Mile 2”?
MW: No, gotta be some original [bleep].
What would that be about?
MW: I don’t know. We’ll have to figure it out.
I know you don’t like getting into that too much—
MW: No, it’s cool. Keep going. I’m having fun right now.
I’m glad. You’re an Oscar-nominated actor. Huge movie star for a long time.
MW: Oscar-nominated producer.
MW: Thank you.
MW: You gotta do your homework next time.
You’re behind a burger chain too. You’re doing awesome. What do you feel like you have to do to get people to stop asking you about the Marky Mark days?
MW: Nothing. It’s all part of who I am and what I did to get here, so it’s fine.
I like that.
MW: It was just for a while I was really focused on being respected as an actor and taken seriously as an actor. A lot of musicians didn’t make that transformation successfully, and so it was one of those things where I just wanted to get away from that as far as possible, but now it’s fine.
It’s great that the new “Transformers” is being shot in Chicago. Michael Bay has talked about it being different from the other ones. How will it be different, and what can we expect?
MW: It’s completely different. New cast, new take. And I can’t tell you anything because I’ve sworn a vow of secrecy.
Will you also be taking over for Shia LaBeouf in the “Indiana Jones” series?
AH: [Laughs.] He’s got some interesting [questions].
MW: I will work with Spielberg, though. Get that big check.
I believe you’re pretty familiar with Rahm Emanuel. Do you have an impression of him, our badass mayor?
MW: Dude, he’s the best. Rahm for president. I’m going to see him today at the office.
AH: How do you say that, “Rahm”?
MW: He’s the best. I love him. He’s a force of nature. He’s a brilliant man. I think if Rahm was president we wouldn’t be dealing with this fiscal cliff and the economy. Rahm knows how to handle that paper.
On where in Chicago they’d go with unlimited time: “Doug’s Dogs, is that what it’s called?” [He means Hot Doug’s]. “I wanted to get the hot dog with the foie gras on it. Every time I’m here I’m trying to get there and it’s either closed on the day I get here or …” (AH) “Unfortunately, we’re only here until about 4 o’clock this afternoon. We’re off to the next city. I had to get up early and work out. I’ve gotten back on the straight and narrow. So after the screening I went to bed at like 8:30 … At least for me I’m coming back to shoot a movie here over the summer so I’ll be able to experience a lot of Chicago.” (MW)
What he’s shooting: The next “Transformers” movie. “We’re going to blow the whole [bleep] up! I’m excited.”
When he’s not rooting for his native Boston-area teams, Wahlberg roots for Chicago sports teams. So he doesn’t hold a grudge for the Bears’ 1986 Super Bowl blowout of the Patriots? “No. Not at all. We got three since then and we’re going to get another one this year. It’s weird that the Bears aren’t in the playoffs. I was saying last night, we got out of the car with the driver. The Bears and the Steelers not in the playoffs? It’s not right.”
Wahlberg on Russell Crowe: “What was great though, there’s that thing at that comfort level between both of us. I remember the first time I met Russell, he came up to me at the Toronto Film Festival. I was there for ‘Boogie Nights’ and he was there for ‘L.A. Confidential.’ He just came up and said hello. We have that mutual respect for each other. For a movie like [‘Broken City’] you really needed that formidable opponent. You needed to say, ‘Oh my God, these guys are going to go at it.’ That’s the movie, so getting a guy like Russell what was we were really focused on.”
What Wahlberg wants to happen in the “Entourage” movie, which he’ll produce: “Uh, less of the relationships with the girls. Even though we had some great female characters on there just get back to what it was, about the guys being the guys going crazy, and that’s what it’s going to be … Hopefully we’ll be shooting in April or May. Just got an email about the new script as we speak.”
Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U
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