ON THE MARK
THE BETS ARE ON AS MARK WAHLBERG LAYS IT ALL ON THE LINE IN RUPERT WYATT'S THE GAMBLER
The original 1974 film The Gambler starred your friend, James Caan, who starred with you in The Yards. What did he make of your new remake? Well, he’s one of the greats of all time and he’s been a mentor for me since the day I met him. He pulls me aside and says, “You kind of remind me of my son.” Like me, he’s also a neighbourhood guy who never had any formal training and just had to figure it out as he went into the business. So when I decided that I was going to do the movie, the first thing I wanted to do was to make sure that he was OK with it, which of course, he was completely fine. He loved it, which was a relief.
Remakes can be a dodgy proposition. So often they end up being absolute duds. How did you approach it?
You approach it with white gloves (laughs). I have had some success with remakes and I have had some horrible disasters with remakes. My initial instinct is never to do a remake, but this was very different from anything I’d done before. I am used to playing the underdog as opposed to the cocky guy who has everything, and who is trying to strip himself of all of that. I have a lot of people in my life who suffer from various addictions; gambling was a big part of my upbringing, so those are things I can identify with.
Your character, Jim (a selfdestructing failed-author-turned-English-professor with a gambling addiction), really is a bit of a jerk. Was it difficult to let him go at the end of each day?
He is a bit of a dick, but I felt like the audience would really want to go with him. Having said that, explaining my behaviour to my wife was another matter. As much as this job tortured her, and everyone else that had to be around me, I couldn’t switch off from it. I couldn’t go home and talk to my wife and kids the way I talked to people in the film, even though it was in the back of my mind. There were a couple of doozies that I could have used at home, but I probably would have been in a lot of trouble. I probably would have been divorced (laughs).
You lost more than 25kg for the role. Was it your idea to lose all of that weight?
No, no, it’s never my idea to inflict pain on myself (laughs). The director Rupert (Wyatt) and the producers all felt that the character would never be focused on nutrition and exercise. I was just coming off Transformers, so I was pretty fit. I was thinking about going the other way, and getting as heavy as possible (laughs), but they weren’t interested in that. It’s as thin as I’ve ever been in a movie. On Boogie Nights I was 130 pounds (58kg) and I wanted to beat that by a pound. That’s not an easy thing to do at 43. I mean, I was 25 when I did Boogie Nights …
Now you know how the majority of actresses feel!
Oh, absolutely! I have empathy! I tried to lose weight the right way; I would jump rope and exercise and run and play basketball and not eat much. It’s difficult when – at this stage of my life – my favourite indulgence is food.
So did you go and stuff your face when shooting wrapped?
The first meal I had was a big breakfast. I had pancakes, eggs, home fries, bacon, sausages, English muffins, butter and syrup … I felt as sick as a dog.
If you came across someone who hadn’t seen any of your movies, which would you tell them to watch?
If I met a sweet, old lady at church and she said, “I heard you were in the movies,” I wouldn’t suggest that she watch Boogie Nights. I might suggest she watch The Departed, but block her ears from the swearing. For me, the great thing is, I have quite a few movies on my resume that I can be proud of and that I think are entertaining.
Your life, of course, was the basis of the excellent television series Entourage. You’re involved in the upcoming film. Are fans going to be happy?
The movie is amazing – it is spectacular. I’m like a proud father. I had high hopes, but I kept my expectations low. When I saw it, I was blown away. When I see a movie coming together in a way that encompasses everything that people have loved about the show, it broadens the scope so much. The studio already want us to start work on the second one.
Have you still got those old Entourage- type Boston mates hanging around?
Of course, I have. Well, those who are alive and not in prison. I have five or six of those guys working with me. You know, my friend Phil is here right now. We’ve been friends since we were 11 years old. This morning he burnt the chicken at 5am. We were supposed to get up at 4am and go to the gym, but he woke me up a halfhour late, and then he burnt the chicken. I need some new friends.
The Gambler opens today.
Mark Wahlberg plays a pontificating English professor with a gambling problem in The Gambler.