ON THE MARK

THE BETS ARE ON AS MARK WAHLBERG LAYS IT ALL ON THE LINE IN RU­PERT WY­ATT'S THE GAM­BLER

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - FRONT PAGE - TIF­FANY BAKKER

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.

Pic­ture: CLAIRE FOL­GER

Mark Wahlberg plays a pon­tif­i­cat­ing English pro­fes­sor with a gam­bling prob­lem in The Gam­bler.

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