Mark Wahlberg Interview – Transformers: Age Of Extinction
HONG KONG – Mark Wahlberg is a busy man these days. It’s not just that he’s been touring the world in support of his new film – TRANSFORMERS 4: AGE OF EXTINCTION – there’s also the matter of his moving from his old house in L.A. to a sprawling new 6-acre estate and French-style mansion in Beverly Hills.
“It’s a pretty big operation to move into a new house,” Wahlberg, 43, says. “I get a break from being involved in all that by promoting this film although my wife suspects that I kind of enjoy not being around to supervise things.”
Wahlberg is excited about his work in the new Transformers 4 film, however, as he replaces the erratic Shia LaBeouf as the official new (human) face of the franchise. In this instalment, once again directed by Michael Bay, Wahlberg plays Cade Yeager, a struggling inventor living with his daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz) on their Texas ranch when he comes across a beat-up semi truck and takes it back to his barn to pull it apart. It turns out that the wreck is actually Optimus Prime, the head of the transformer robots who are now being threatened with extinction by CIA boss Harold Attinger (Kelsey Grammer). The journey takes Cade, Tessa, and her hunkish boyfriend Shane all the way to Hong Kong as part of the ferocious battles that are key to the Transformers’ action-packed, crowd-pleasing formula.
Though many observers had written off the franchise as a dying relic, Transformers 4 has surpassed all expectations and earned $100 million at the North American box office in its opening weekend and took in an additional $201 million overseas for a spectacular $301 million worldwide tally. Those totals are likely to make this Transformers the most successful instalment ever, adding to the $2.7 billion amassed by the first three films. This also bodes well for the next two planned sequels that are part of a new, rebooted Transformers trilogy.
Much of that foreign total came from the $90 million the film grossed in China in its opening weekend, the highest 3-day total for any foreign film in that market’s history. The movie’s success was The movie’s success was undoubtedly bolstered by the decision to weave strong Chinese elements into the film including the casting of popular actress Li Bingbing and heartthrob Han Geng as well as several reality TV show performers.
Mark Wahlberg lives in Beverly Hills with his ex-model wife Rhea Durham. They have been together since 2001 and were married since 2009. They have four children, eldest daughter Ella, 10, sons Michael, 7, and Brendan, 5, and daughter Grace, 4.
For our chat in Hong Kong, Mark Wahlberg was wearing a light green T-shirt and jeans on a stiflingly hot day in the former British colony.
Q: Mark, how pleased are you to be part of one of the biggest franchises in film history?
WAHLBERG: This has been a great for me. I had such a great experience working with Michael (Bay) on Pain & Gain that he basically just told me his idea for this film and I said, “I’m in,” before I even read a script. He has an amazing ability to run a massive set and I also wanted to learn as much as I could watching him work. I have my own aspirations to direct a film one day and who better to learn from than a man who is one of the top directors in the business.
What I also love about watching him work is that he has the whole film in his head and he understands exactly what he needs from each scene and how to be able to piece together a huge project. He also brings incredible energy to the set and it kind of makes everyone want to follow him.
Q: Did you have any concerns about taking on a franchise role like this when many people had been predicting its demise?
WAHLBERG: I never doubted for a moment that this film would be huge. I’ve always believed that this movie has the potential to be the biggest of the franchise. I believed in Michael’s vision of the project and I was anxious to be a part of it and hopefully audiences are going to love it.
People are going to be surprised how good it is. Not only is this going to be very different, I think it’s going to be a cut above the other ones. You have an emotional anchor — and the script was very well thought out. It was obviously a conscious decision and effort to say: “OK, we’re going to change it up and make this fresh and different.”….The stakes are pretty high with a project like this.
Q: How hard was it working with all the green screen that’s required in a film like Transformers 4?
WAHLBERG: You have be very alert and maintain your intensity even though you’re looking at a pole or a stick which is your reference for where the Autobots are standing. I’m glad that I had done Ted (which involved Wahlberg imagining that he was talking to a talking bear) which gave me some idea of focusing your mind when something’s not actually there. It’s an interesting kind of discipline and training you need to make it look real and make yourself look like you’re being threatened by these things.
Q: Did you do any training to get in shape?
WAHLBERG: I had lost the weight I had gained from bulking up for Pain & Gain and since the guy I play is an inventor there was not need to train for the part. But after we had finished shooting, Michael needed to do some re-shoots but by that time I had lost nearly sixty pounds to do The Gambler (playing a drug-addicted university professor – ED). Michael was shocked when he saw me! (Laughs) I had starved myself for four months to lose all that weight. He asked me if I had become a crack addict or something! (Laughs)
But one thing I’ve learnt from having to drop all that weight and since gaining it back is that I’m never going to do another film where I have to go through the process of putting it on or taking it off to any great extent. I was on a liquid diet for a month and it was horrible. I’ve never been so miserable in my life as when I was losing that weight (for The Gambler). My wife wasn’t that thrilled either seeing me in a bad mood and looking pretty sick for a while. (Laughs)
Q: You’ve also completed the new Entourage movie?
WAHLBERG: I’m just the producer on Entourage and I only appear briefly in the film. I’m happy that we finally got it made even though Kevin Connolly (who plays “E,” Vincent Chase’s manager) broke his leg during production. It was great to see the guys again and we want to do another one.
I spoke to Doug (Ellin – the writer and director) and told him that I don’t even think we should wait until this first (Entourage) film comes out next year before we start thinking about the next one. I’m sure it’s going be a success.
Q: You’ve led a very varied career going from dramas like The Departed to a wild comedy like Ted and now a massive action picture like Transformers. Do you hate repeating yourself?
WAHLBERG: My rule is to that my next film should be something opposite from the previous film I’ve done. I like doing films that also fulfill some of my childhood phantasies. That’s why I loved playing the football player in Invincible and the boxer in The Fighter. I like to keep shaking things up and try to something different.
Q: You rarely play romantic kinds of films?
WAHLBERG: I don’t think they particularly suit me and I also hate doing love scenes. My wife really doesn’t enjoy watching me when I’m doing intimate scenes and I can totally get that because I’m a jealous guy and I would hate it if I watched her doing a scene where she’s naked in bed with some guy and simulating having sex. I’m really not comfortable doing those scenes myself.
When there have been times on a film where the script calls for a sex scene, I will ask the director if we can cut the amount of nudity or things like thrusting movements that you might read in the way the scene is described in the script. I would really rather not do those scenes at all.
Q: You’re father to four children. Is it getting tougher for you to spend as much time away from the family when you’re shooting a film?
WAHLBERG: It’s stressful sometimes when you want to be home with your wife and get to play with the kids. But in between projects I’m home all the time and I’m a very devoted father and husband. I want to give my kids the best life possible and I just live for their happiness.
I also feel that I have only a certain amount of years where I can be making these kinds of films and I have a lot left to accomplish in my mind. You want to be able to leave a body of work that you can look back on and be proud of. I struggled a lot to make a new life for myself and you never forget what it took to get you here and so all that keeps motivating me. I get anxious if I think I don’t have some serious work lined up and I never take my success for granted. Not for one day.
Q: You’ve mentioned your intention to direct one day. What can you tell us about that ambition?
WAHLBERG: I’ve spent a lot of years getting to understand the business as a producer as well as an actor so I think I know the elements you need to make a good film. I’m just waiting for the right project because I would like to spend more time at home looking after Rhea and the kids. I’ve been working pretty hard and I look forward to getting behind the camera at some stage. I also like the idea of being able to spend a lot of time playing golf and being the kind of family man who sits back in the sofa at night and his wife and kids around him. The thing that makes me most proud as a man is being able to make sure that my children will have every advantage in life.
Q: Have you reached a point in your life where you can look back and take pride in everything you’ve accomplished and how far you’ve come?
WAHLBERG: I don’t know if I will ever feel completely comfortable. I spent many years getting to the point where I was able to unburden myself of a lot of guilt over some of things I did when I was young. I had to dedicate myself to being a good man and working as hard as I could before I could begin to feel good about myself. I still worry that I could make a mistake and lose everything but my faith keeps me going. That’s why I go to Church every day and pray every day to be a better man and to be the best husband and father I can be.