Mark Wahlberg Interview: Contraband Star Talks Stealing The Show On Screen

Mark Wahlberg doesn’t mind playing bad guys in movies like the high stakes heist thriller, Contraband. Or rather, sort of bad guys, as he likes to say. In other words, as long as he’s not the worst one in the bunch, he’s fine with it. Mark also mulled tackling talents his character in Contraband displays as a smuggler. But just as intriguing during this conversation, was uncovering a little insight into his perfected knack for stealing attention on screen.

MARK WAHLBERG: Sorry I’m late. Or am I early?

You’re on time!

MW: Whew. All right!

What are those bands on your wrist?

Mark Wahlberg
Photo Credit: WikiMedia Commons

MW: These are just balance bands. I don’t know, they’re supposed to…make you be more balanced! Who knows if they work or not.

Mark, there’s a sceene in this movie where you say to somebody, ‘Don’t tell my wife.’ Is there anything in your own life that you wouldn’t want your wife to know?

MW: You know, I just stopped hanging out with my friends at night. And the night life. And I don’t really miss it. You think you miss it, and then you go back and it’s the same thing. You know?

Like there’s nothing better than now. Last night we went to dinner at six thirty. I was in bed by nine thirty. And that was a late night for me! Because when I’m home, I’m usually in bed by eight thirty!

But I wake up in the morning, and I have the whole day to do whatever I want. And I don’t have to wake up feeling like shit, or feeling guilty. So it’s a good thing, you know? But I still have golf as my only guilty pleasure!

But even then, I don’t focus as much on playing golf as I did. Because I’m not that good at it!

You’ve never been shy talking about your hoodlum past, and growing up in a tough neighborhood. So how has your past affected who you are today, because you seem to be so together?

MW: Oh, well thank you!

You seem to be!

MW: Wait till I get back to my hotel, and then…No! I’m just so appreciative of all the things that I’ve been able to do. The things I’ve been able to overcome. And given a second chance in this life, is not something that comes easy. So I don’t want to do anything to mess it up, you know?

People are always saying, well just go out for one night. And like, for what, you know? I’ve got everything that I want. I am so blessed, and so fortunate. And I start every day by getting on my hands and my knees, and being grateful. And working to do the right thing.

You know, if it all went away today, I’d be happy. Because of the things that I was able to experience, and the things that I learned along the way. And as far as my past, there’s nothing I can do to change that. You know, it is what it is.

But I’ve been fortunate enough, that I can apply a lot of those real life experiences to what I’m doing now. And to my work, both in front of the camera and with kids. Kids growing up in similar situations. And that’s the best that I can do. And I make sure that I’m the best at whatever I do.

So where do you stand related to Contraband, about the line between good and evil, and if crime pays?

MW: Uh…Well it does for a while! But everybody’s gonna get caught eventually. And in this movie yeah, my character is no angel, you know? He’s on the wrong side of the law as well. But he’s doing it for the right reasons, and he’s doing it to protect his family.

And the other guys in the movie thankfully, are worse than me! And they’re not as likable. Or as charismatic! So…But those are the kinda guys I like, and root for, you know? Those are the kinda guys I can identify with.

But when this movie was being edited by Balt on his farm in Iceland, I didn’t make my way to Iceland. You know, and tell my wife, ‘Baby, I gotta go to Iceland for a couple of days.’ No, I don’t think so! That’s not happening.

Especially because I was away so much last year. And like, if it has anything to do with me kissing somebody and my wife’s not gonna like it, then I’m gonna fight to get it cut out. Those are the more important issues. So I usually try to choose my battles wisely.

Like in the movie I’m shooting now, Broken City, there was a love scene that was pretty graphic. And I was like, I really don’t wanna do that, you know? I don’t think it’s necessary. Our characters have been together seven years, and the magic is probably gone in the relationship anyway!

But she plays an actress, and she’s having this really hard core sex scene that she shoots in the movie and doesn’t tell me about it. And then I see it in the theater. And I have a big problem with that.

I play an ex-cop who’s a private investigator, investigating the mayor of New York City. And so obviously, I lose it. But then my compromise was, after I was supposed to do this scene – they wanted me to be nude in that scene.

And I said, no. I’ll be nude in the scene by myself after she’s gone, and I’m upset and I get into a fight with this guy. And I destroy her whole night at an after party, and the premiere and everything.

So then I still had to be butt naked for six hours. But it wasn’t with somebody else! I don’t think I can try to pull off the squeaky clean thing. But I don’t know if that’s necessarily…my cup of tea!

What grabbed you about your Contraband character, Farraday?

MW: Well, there were a lot of things that I could identify with in this character, and relate to. And I remember seeing the original, and I just thought it was really cool. Because there have been so many heist films. And it was just the way he was able to do it.

You know, he’s a guy who’s pretty tough. But I think he’s smarter than he is tough. And he has to react to a lot of situations, and different circumstances ahead of him. And it’s a guy fighting to protect his family. So I can certainly relate to that.

Are you a do-it-yourself fixit kind of guy, like your character?

MW: Yeah, that’s definitely my attitude and approach to life in general. You know, if there’s a problem, I just gotta figure it out. I just gotta fix it. And as a producer, which is why the job comes easy to me, I just get on the phone if I have a problem with somebody.

Or if I have to lie to somebody, to convince somebody to do something that I need them to do, then that’s what I do, you know? That’s what the job entails, and that’s what we gotta do to get it done.

You said you’re not so good at golf. What do you think you are good at?

MW: Well the things that I – let me not blow my own! – I’ll just talk about the things I think I need to be good at. And that’s first and foremost, is to be a good servant to God and my faith. A good husband, a good father, a good son. A good friend, brother and uncle. A good neighbor.

Those are the important things that I focuse on, you know? If I succeed in business and fail at being a parent or a husband, then I’ve done it all for nothing. And I failed. But everything else, I just try to do the best that I can at everything that I do.

And I don’t like to lose. I like to win! So…

What about the stuff dealing with terrorism in Contraband, how do you feel about that?

MW: Yeah, I mean, well it’s terrifying. We’re trying to put together a show right now about the Port of LA. And all the different things that happen in the port’s reality show. Kind of like a docudrama. And we’ve been spending a lot of time down there.

And just knowing all the real dangers that are there. And like the smuggling and human trafficking. Everything across the board. There was an incident that happened that was never reported. But it shut down the LA harbor for a week.

And it was costing the nation 2.5 billion dollars a day. Because once that stops, nothing happens. Nothing comes in, and nothing comes out. And it’s pretty scary stuff. But it’s a fascinating world.

And obviously the whole smuggling thing, they can never really figure out how, you know, the way they go about checking containers and the guessing game. Really, it’s a cat and mouse game. And you never know.

But I just thought this movie was an interesting story. And I thought it would be entertaining. If we could do it the right way, and get the right cast. And that ship captain, what a prick he is!So…

What kind of community work do you do?

MW: We do a lot of inner city stuff. You know, working with at risk youth, and inner city kids. And we just partnered up for the second year with the Taco Bell Foundation, Graduate To Go. And we came up with this idea to build a studio – a recording studio and a film, television and animation studio – at every Boys Club across the country.

We’ve already opened the first one in California, and we just did the groundbreaking of the one in Boston at my home club. And it’s not only giving kids a place to go and learn about making film, and television and music. But there are also mentors there, that are getting involved in every other aspect of their lives.

And they’re learning stuff that can give them a real career. And in this business, because there’s not a lot of opportunity there. It’s called graduate To Go Studios. And it’s sponsored by the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation, and the Taco Bell Foundation.

When you make a movie like this, how does it influence how you look at the world? Like did playing this character make you see the world as a more dangerous place?

MW: Yeah, certain things are out of your control. All I can do, is make sure that I’m doing the right thing in my own personal life. And that I’m being as good a husband and father that I can. Those are the important things. But it definitely makes you wonder. You never look at things quite the same anymore.

What do you see in your future?

MW: There’s plenty of movies that you can go and get a paycheck for. And won’t be shit. So it’s like, try to find something new and interesting. And if it makes sense.

I did want to play J. Edgar Hoover, but now I can’t do that! Yeah. We’ll do the prequel! I also want to play Jimmy Hoffa, but that was done too. But we’ll find somebody. There’s plenty of guys out there!

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.