Tuesday, December 07, 2010

My interview with Mark Wahlberg...


The 'Pacman Factor' in Wahlberg's The Fighter
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated December 07, 2010 12:00 AM Comments (3) View comments
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‘Manny (above) is the best to ever do it – eight championships in eight different classes!’ Mark added. ‘I spoke to him about two hours before he was to go into the ring with Antonio Margarito. I went in to say some prayers for him before I did my daily prayer ritual. I called him to tell him good luck and that I was praying for him.’| Zoom
MANILA, Philippines - Guess no more. The next president of the Philippines is going to be Manny Pacquiao. That is if Mark Wahlberg is proven right. At the recent junket for Mark’s latest movie, The Fighter, the hunky Hollywood actor casually made the prediction. “He is the future president, too,” he quipped after a brief chat with this writer before the start of our press roundtable. He knows that Manny is a dedicated congressman and a hero to the Filipino masses.

Mark is an avid boxing enthusiast and his admiration for the beloved son of the Philippines was evident when he described Manny, whom he calls his very good friend. “I’ve been a huge fight fan for a long time and when he first came in to the States, when he was fighting in his first weight class, you know, we knew each other… he was like a bee buzzing around in the ring. He had so much speed, he had so much power.”

Mark’s co-star, Christian Bale, shares the same observation. The actors visited with Manny during the filming of their movie, which tells the story of two brothers struggling to make it in the vicious world of boxing. “The guy is phenomenal. He is crazy — how good he is. He must have a heart of a bloody hippopotamus or something, you know. I saw him just have sparring partner after sparring partner come in the ring and the guy looked like he never got tired.” Christian, who admitted not being a particular fan of any sport, was so in awe of Manny that he even likened him to the Energizer bunny. “He just seemed to have this unbelievable stamina. He trains like crazy!”

“Manny is the best to ever do it — eight championships in eight different classes!” Mark added. “I spoke to him about two hours before he was to go into the ring with Antonio Margarito. I went in to say some prayers for him before I did my daily prayer ritual. I called him to tell him good luck and that I was praying for him.”

Like Manny, Mark is also at the peak of his career. The story of how he achieved this is, in equal measure, no different to how Manny got his. “I have done a lot of things, some I am more proud than others,” he said recalling the tough life he had. “I was a rapper, I was an underwear model, I was in jail but now I run a major corporation… and I only had an 8th-grade education!“

The actor indeed had his share of trouble in his youth. When he mentions he was in jail, he means serious jail time — he was in and out of jail before he was 21 — and not the overnight stays recently popularized by several starlets. “I have a relationship with God. I have asked for forgiveness and I can’t be forgiven unless I can forgive. I have paid my dues and done my penance many times over.”

His penance continues with the release of his current movie based on the true story of two brothers from a blue-collar town of Lowell in Massachusetts who are both boxers but followed different paths to achieve their dreams.

In The Fighter, Mark portrays the younger brother, Micky, while Christian, who remarkably shed several pounds of weight to portray his role, portrays the older brother, Dicky, who is addicted to crack.

This is not just another regular movie to Mark who invested heavily on the project. “I spent more in training for this movie than I will ever make from it,” he disclosed.

Mark Wahlberg in a scene from the movie released locally by Pioneer Films.
Mark first met the real-life Micky in the early ‘90s when he was 18, during the same time when he was still grappling with teenage angst common during that early part of the decade. “We used to run into each other — different events and stuff like that in Boston. I was always a huge fan of his.“

It wasn’t until he started acting that he realized that Micky’s story would make a powerful and fascinating movie. He approached the brothers but was told that the story has already been sold to someone else. It took him many years chasing the story until he was finally offered the project by Paramount. The original production team attached to the movie has gone on to do other stuff and Mark found himself in control of the one project he was determined to make.

But it still wasn’t easy sailing for him. The project still took many years to complete before the fighter in Mark finally prevailed. It has been “five years, two months, and seven days” to the day of our interview, according to him, after he started the project. “As an actor, as a producer, and as a friend to Micky and Dicky, and the town of Lowell, it was something that I needed to make happen. Giving up and moving on to other things was not an option.

“I made a mistake a long time ago by announcing that The Fighter was my next movie so every time I make a movie and did a press junket, people were like, ‘so, when’s The Fighter coming out?’ I am not the kind of person who likes to talk about things until they are real. I like to be about it than talk about it.”

Part of the story in The Fighter is the difficult relationship the two brothers had with their headstrong mother. There is also that brotherly dynamic that the actor found particularly appealing and quite familiar having a big brother, Donnie Wahlberg of NKOTB, who was very famous before he became famous himself. “There are so many parallels, so many similarities between Micky and Dicky and my brother and my life. People always say, ‘what are those similarities?’ and I am, like, ‘there’s too many to list,” he said. “I think the easiest thing to do is to list the differences and there are only a few! The biggest difference is the fact that Micky went on to become a boxer and I became an entertainer.”

Mark certainly became an entertainer. And, like his boxer friend, Micky, he not only became one, he became even bigger than what his brother attained at the height of his popularity. He would not only become a successful Hollywood star, he would also go on to produce wildly popular TV shows for HBO including the semi-autobiographical Entourage and Martin Scorsese’s Boardwalk Empire.

The wild days of his past are definitely over. Turning 40 next year, Mark shared that he is happy that he gets to have “eight hours of sleep everyday. My wife and I have date nights. I am home for dinner and I am home for breakfast.” Home is where his four kids wait for him everyday.

At some point during our interview, Mark mentioned that his life makes for a good story. To which we all agreed. But that story might become even more interesting when the Oscars are handed out next year.
The Fighter has received advance acclaim from critics. The cast has been universally praised with Christian Bale being named Best Supporting Actor of the year by the influential group, National Board of Review, for his disturbing and compelling performance.

Mark previously received an Oscar nomination for The Departed and all this Oscar talk is nothing new to him anymore. “If it was before The Departed, I would say all that stuff doesn’t matter because I never thought it would happen but it did happen. It was an amazing thing to be included and that is awesome. If that happens then good but what is important is we got the movie made and that was a challenge enough.”

Indeed.

The Fighter, released locally by Pioneer Films, opens on Dec. 15.

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