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Mark Wahlberg is not an actor known for making people laugh. From his kick start as the well endowed Dirk Diggler in Boogie Nights to Max Payne in the videogame adaptation, the actor has made a career playing tough-as-nails, dramatic characters. This all changes with his role in The Other Guys.
Playing Det. Terry Hoitz opposite Will Ferrell’s Det. Allen Gamble, the film is the first comedy that Wahlberg has headlined. So how does an actor make that kind of transition? Well, things are made easier when the film is specially designed around your skills. Check out the interview below where we discuss working with director Adam McKay, keeping up with his comedy veteran co-stars and similarities between this new character and Sgt. Dignam in The Departed.
How did you come to the project and were you a fan of McKay and Ferrell’s previous films?
I’ve been a huge fan of theirs, and they invited me to dinner and asked me if I’d be interested in working with them, and I said, “Are you kidding me?” And it was literally before they had even told me what it was about and what the part was, and I had already committed to doing it. And then they told me a little bit about it and then, of course, they went off to write the script. I just couldn’t believe it.
Considering your long list of action credits, were you consulted during the action scenes at all?
I wouldn’t say I was a consultant but I certainly was there to kind of help because they hadn’t really done it or much of it before. They were, I wouldn’t say uptight about it, but it was something new for them. Kind of like the same way doing a full-blown comedy was new for me. So to me it was no big deal, they would be like, “We want to talk you through stuff,” and I’d just say, “Strap me in and whatever, we’ll just do it. Don’t worry about it.”
From a veteran’s perspective how did they do?
They knew to surround themselves with the right people and Adam shot the shit out of it. I told them, I did an interview with the [Wall Street Journal], they were doing a specific piece on Adam, and I was like, “I don’t think there’s anything that he can’t do – the dramatic stuff, the action stuff.” And, also, being in front of the camera, the guy is just so fucking funny. But for them to just kind of call you and say, “We’d love to do something with you. We’d love to write something specifically for you,” it’s pretty damn flattering.
Did you ever feel the need to up your game and try and compete and their level comedy-wise?
I have my own way of doing things and I’ve always been extremely sarcastic, I had to be pretty quick considering where I came from, being the youngest of nine kids. The only thing I had was my mouth, and that also got me in to trouble, but it wasn’t like it was something I wasn’t comfortable with, you know? The world in which the story takes place and everything is definitely in my wheelhouse. Had I been out of my element and we were doing some English period piece then maybe I wouldn’t be too quick. But I certainly felt like I could hold my own in that situation.
You’ve solidified yourself in the world of drama and action, so why do a comedy?
I want to do it all. I want to try it all, and I want to do it all. If I’m wise in choosing the things that I do then I can do okay.
Will and Adam have been working together for years now, so from an outside perspective, what was that dynamic like on set?
Oh, it’s great because it’s not like it’s them huddled in a corner and then everybody else is kind of not privy to what’s going on like they seclude themselves. They’re open books. They invite everybody in and make everybody feel like they’re part of the team as well, which is nice.
While watching the film I couldn’t help but notice some similarities in character between your character in this, Terry, and Dignam in The Departed. Was that intentional or something that just kind of came out of the performance?
They definitely saw a lot of humor in The Departed and I Heart Huckabees and they really just wanted me to commit to this character in this situation no matter how absurd it was. And his passion and his intensity could end up being really funny. But yeah, once you’re playing a cop and you’re playing a cop who’s very intense and crazy, of course they’re going to be similar.
On set did you find that there was a lot of room to improvise and, if so, was it something that you took advantage of?
Everyday. We would shoot what was scripted for a couple hours in the morning and we’d usually get that down pretty quick and then we’d just go nuts for the rest of the day. Everyday was just a marathon of people going nuts and trying things and throwing ideas around.
Was it take after take after take or did they just let the camera keep rolling?
It depended but just keep going, and go again. Really it was both.
The film is a throwback to the buddy cop movies that became popular in the 1980s and started to peter out into the 90s. Do you have any particular favorites in that genre?
God. 48 Hours is pretty damn good; Lethal Weapons, the early ones; Midnight Run – there’s a lot of those kinds of movies that I loved.
Did you take anything away from any of those movies and put it in your performance?
Not intentionally. We deal with this piece of material and you want to become “that guy” and commit to doing that. So it’s not like I went back and watched stuff.
Is there a particular scene in the film that you loved and were there any memorable moments on set?
All of it was memorable, we had so much fun everyday. I kept waiting for somebody to say, “Hey, cut the shit. You gotta be serious for a minute, we’re actually making a movie here,” and they never did that. They encouraged me to get crazier and crazier and then when I got to my craziest it was like putting gasoline on a fire. They pushed me to the next level. Probably the most memorable scenes are with me and [Will’s character] Allen and Eva and with [Steve] Coogan, with Coogan in the car was a treat because it’s just us being in a car, on a stage pretending to me driving around and everybody’s kind of just throwing stuff out there.
Do you think that you were able to hold your own against all of the comedic actors on set and in the film?
Adam would probably best one to answer that question but I certainly felt very comfortable. There was never a time where I was like, “Oh my God, what am I doing here?” And, again, the subject matter, the world, they were all things I was very familiar with.