Arts Express: A Conversation With Mark Wahlberg About 2 Guns

Moving on from mixing it up with a tough guy toy in Ted, Mark Wahlberg has stepped up to the plate for a rocky bromance, no bull, with Denzel Washington in the border wars action thriller, 2 Guns. Well, actually there is a too close for comfort bull who gets between them in the movie, though in no way a love triangle. During this candid conversation with Wahlberg, he had lots to say about teaming up with Denzel, both as an avid fan to begin with and co-star in 2 Guns. Even if Denzel held a pretty fearsome gun to his head. Along with on screen spankings, an aversion to pratfalls, and the pros and cons of taking turns with Edward James Olmos, tying each other up in the movie.

Mark, what was the big thrill of teaming up with Denzel, and talk about all that macho interaction going on there in the movie, and between the two of you.

MARK WAHLBERG: Hey, hang up that phone.

Wahlberg at the premiere of Max Payne 2008.


MW: That’s okay. Take your time. That’s like a five-part question! Um, you know what? Well, we’ve known each other for a while.

But I think what surprised me, is how willing Denzel was to just try anything. You know, because we wanted to add some humor. And kinda shake it up a bit.

And you know, combine comedic elements with the dramatic aspect of the movie. And also, how giving he is as an actor.

You know, he was really kinda supportive of me. And I’ve been a big fan of his for a long time. And he let me kinda do my thing.

But really, it was how willing he was to just go out there. And really try things, and put himself out there.

So is there any deeper meaning, or social issue messages in 2 Guns?

MW: Nah, we were just trying to do something fun. I mean, we were trying to do something a little bit different.

But you know like, no hidden message or anything like that. Wait for the sequel!

Now about that scene where you get locked up with the bull, and the bad guy hangs you upside down…

MW: Ha! Well, I thought it was no big deal, being hung upside down. It’s all the blood rushing to your head.

And then it’s like, it was like not fun! And Denzel, he actually wanted to go up at the last second.

And I was like, let’s just go now. And then of course I started complaining, just a few minutes before he started complaining.

Because it’s not a fun position to be in. But I think it’s a really cool scene. It’s very…different! You haven’t seen this before. So…

And he kept saying, the bull doesn’t give a shit! He doesn’t know we’re making a movie here. You know? And that’s a big bull!

Did you feel in danger from the bull at all, at any time?

MW: Nah…

How did you first get involved in this project?

MW: The movie really, I mean I was attached to the movie first. And it was always about who is the other guy.

It’s about the two guys, no matter what they’re doing. You know, if you look at Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, they were running from something that you never really saw, right?

But with these guys, it was like usally they’ll take the comedy guy. Like the really out there kinda comedy guy.

And then the very straight guy, and put them together. And we didn’t want do that. We felt like you had to have two really formidable opponents.

And to earn that camaraderie. You know, to earn that trust in one another. And that was really the movie, you know?

So once I heard Denzel was interested I was like, great. We’ve got a movie. And it was the best possible version of that movie, in my eyes.

Do you ever get used to handling guns?

MW: Ha! I just, I remember him holding that giant 44 Magnum near my head, though! And I was like, oh yeah!

When was the first time you ever held a gun?

MW: The first time I did, was the first time I was ever in a movie. I mean, it just goes hand in hand for me.

So how punishing were all those fight scenes?

MW: I think that was the day Edward James Olmos was intentionally forgetting his lines. He really loved us being upside down in that position!

It was like, he had that big, shit eating grin on his face. Because the first scene we did together we had him tied up.

And you know, we were slapping him around! So then, we’re tied up. And we’re upside down. And he thoroughly enjoyed that!

And he was really relieving himself on his own hands?

MW: In multiple takes! Yeah.

Now about any hidden social messages…

MW: Well I did think about it. You know, because there was this whole thing with Edward James Olmos’ character saying, you’re gonna have to go over. Like my people have to go over.

You know, with the coyotes. When I’m like, I can’t do it. Give me a car, or something.

So yeah, that sequence was kind of set up for us to get an understanding of what it’s like for people to try to get over the border.

And you know, come into America. And have an opportunity at the American dream.

How much improv went into these scenes, because it felt like there’s definitely some improv being thrown around.

MW: Yeah, there was a lot. There was a lot. I worked with Baltasar before, so he was comfortable with me kind of doing my thing.

And improvisation can always make the scene better. As long as it pertains to the moment in the movie.

Because people have a tendency, if they don’t like know their lines for instance, then they’re just gonna say whatever comes out.

And it won’t anything to do with the movie, or anything else. But you know, as long as it kinda make sense with the story, and the scene.

But we played, and just played and played. Like, Denzel would look at me and say, did you really just say that!

What specifically, did you guys do to bond?

MW: I mean, look. I’ve always admired him. We’ve known each other socially, a little bit here and there.

And we’ve got a lot in common. We both have four kids. And I was able to constantly ask him for advice.

And you know, pick his brain about things. Both personally and professionally.

And we’re both professionals. So even if we didn’t spend time hanging out all the time, we’d just come and do our job.

And we both enjoy our job, and we’re both really serious about our job. And it just kinda either works, or it doesn’t.

Denzel says he’s fond of you because you’re a regular guy. What does that mean?

MW: Good church going family man! You know? And…having a job!

What are your thoughts about this story originally coming from a comic?

MW: I knew it was from a graphic novel. But I hadn’t looked at it beforehand.

I kinda had a copy of it, just sitting around in my office. And then as we were making the movie, I started flipping through it.

And as with any source material, once something is adapted, then you can’t fit everything into the movie. Especially with a story like this.

So I enjoyed it. And I look for material anywhere, to find and develop for myself. You know what I mean? And you know, to try to get the rights to things.

And I thought it was good, that we actually have a couple of other pieces of material from the publisher that we’re looking at. So…

What’s harder for you, being funny in a movie, or doing a serious role?

MW: I just approach everything the same. I try to make it as real as possible, whether you’re gonna make people laugh or make people cry.

So it’s always the same approach for me. But if I start doing pratfalls, somebody please pull the plug on me!

From all the movies that you’ve done, is there character who’s the closest to who you really are?

MW: I always try to bring a little bit of my own personality to the parts. Or some sort of personal connection.

And I think that makes it a little bit more of an organic portrayal. And the audience can kind of maybe believe it a little bit more.

But you know, I always look for something to kinda connect with, and identify with. Or bring something of myself to the table.

Mark, you’re working with Michael Bay again for Transformers 4, what’s it been like reteaming with him?

MW: Yeah it’s always great when you work with somebody that you’re comfortable with, and familiar with. It makes it easy.

Now about that very different kind of brawling you do in Ted, where you get beat up by that stuffed animal, and spanked too. What was all that all about?

MW: Ugh. It was…embarrassing!

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.