By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—Having worked on three films ripped from the headlines (“Patriots Day,” “Deepwater Horizon” and “Lone Survivor”), actor/producer Mark Wahlberg and Peter Berg venture into their first fictional film, the action drama “Mile 22” for their latest project.
Wahlberg (“Boogie Nights,” “I Heart Huckabees”) plays the leader of a paramilitary team who embarks on a dangerous mission to transport a foreign intelligence asset from an American Embassy in Southeast Asia to an airfield for extraction—a distance of 22 miles. The asset (played by Indonesian martial arts star Iko Uwais, the “Raid” films) has highly classified information, which could avert a widespread terrorist attack. The asset also has several enemies ranging from the local military to the police to a street gang, who all want him dead before he can reach freedom. While this is all going on, the American paramilitary team also is being monitored by Russians who have their own reasons for taking out the convoy. The film also stars Oscar nominee John Malkovich (“Places in the Heart”), “The Walking Dead’s” Lauren Cohan and former UFC fighter Ronda Rousey.
Dressed casually in a dark blue pullover and black pants, the laid-back Wahlberg spoke about working again with Berg, preparing for the action with lots of coffee and more.
Q: Though you’ve previously made three films together with Peter Berg, this is the first time you two have done a fiction film together. Was that the motivating force to do it? What about the politics of this movie? Is it a nod to the brave men of U.S. military? And what about the Russians as the villains here?
Wahlberg: I think for Pete and I, after making three films all based on real life tragedies, it was important for us to go and do something that falls under our idea of fun. This is our idea of a good time. It really is. That’s not bullshit.
As far as the politics of the film, do we both share a huge appreciation and affinity for our brave men and women who serve our country? I’ll just leave it at that anytime I get an opportunity to thank them. I love to do it. I jumped at the opportunity. In this unique situation, the circumstances you’re seeing, people that don’t get the welcome home parade and all those things, they go under the radar unacknowledged, so I thought it was awesome seeing a branch of our government that you hadn’t seen before and operating in and around the world that you’re not that familiar with. I’ll just leave it at that, although it is a nice coincidence that while all this Russian hacking stuff is going on, it’s very similar to what’s happening in our movie.
Also, because we are having our idea of fun, Pete would send me random Steve Bannon interviews and speeches and be like, “Look at how this guy is ranting and raving about these certain things. I’d like this idea for (your onscreen character) Silva.” That doesn’t mean he’s a huge Steve Bannon fan, but we’re being able to take creative liberty here and pull from different things that we think are interesting and fascinating, not necessarily how we may feel personally, but our idea of fun is different from most people.
Q: Can you talk about planning that with the stunt coordinators and your fellow actors in that because that was really super intense?
Wahlberg: They had so much trust in Iko (Uwais) that literally when we were shooting that big gun fight scene in Colombia, when Ronda’s jeep explodes and Iko was just again locked in the car, Pete was like, “Wait a second. We’ve got to have him doing something. Choreograph another fight. Have a couple of guys run up and attack him.” Next thing you know, he’s grinding this guy’s neck over the broken glass. He really is one of us. He’s a sick man.
Q: Were you completely aware of all the weapons already? Did you go through the Navy SEAL or Army Ranger?
Wahlberg: I didn’t. I was at home with my kids at that time, but I’ve done so many movies where I’ve had so much extensive training whether it’d be with “Shooter,” “Renaissance Man,” my first film, and “Lone Survivor.” We spent a lot of time really shooting live fire and all that stuff, so I’ve had plenty of weapons training.
I needed to figure out how I could stay as energetic and as lit as Jimmy Silva is all the time. I’m a pretty mellow guy until I really get upset in real life and then it’s a whole other story, but to be lit like that the entire time, I resorted to drinking coffee, which I don’t drink in my real life, so maybe that was a problem with the gas. It was double shots of cappuccino five times a day.
I think the last time I drank coffee like that was on “Lone Survivor.” That’s because when we went up to the mountain, there was no bathroom, so I had to be able to go before we went up or else it was going to be a very uncomfortable day for me. Then the only other time I drank coffee before that was when I had to be high on cocaine in Boogie Nights, so I just drank coffee instead.
Q: Any negative side effects from drinking all that coffee? What did your wife think of it?
Wahlberg: I would make sure I’d be clear before I came home, get all that out of my system before I could.
Q: How has your relationship with Peter Berg developed? Because you guys are becoming one of these Scorsese-De Niro type of combos.
Wahlberg: It really is. It’s a brotherhood. It’s a partnership. It’s bromance. It’s all those things, but it’s also a real profound respect for one another. We push each other. We don’t mince words. We talk all the time. He always Facetimes me at the most inopportune times. We’re doing our next film together starting in September. It was one of those things too where we share the same agent.
They were always trying to put us together and push us together and he was like, “Oh, you guys are going to love each other” and I think we both for whatever reason was just like, “I don’t know. I’m not really sure. Whatever.” Then once we got together on “Lone Survivor,” at least for me, it was like, wow! This is how I really like to work. I like to make it real. I like to get into it. He was an actor first, so he creates an environment that’s really conducive to being at your very best creatively. Go ahead.
Q: You’re shooting your next film back home in Boston. Do you like returning to Boston to film?
Wahlberg: You know what? For me, sometimes it’s tough going back to Boston because I have my family there, but then I also have my foes there from my childhood. Pete loves it. He can’t wait to get back. It’s nice. It’s a good time of year to go back. We’re doing something that we think is really, really cool and different for both of us, so I’m excited. I did move to California for a reason. We like the weather here a little bit. I love home. I love being home for short spurts, but, you know.
Q: Bringing arms into Colombia for this because you shot this in Bogota, talk a little bit about how did you do that. What was it like shooting there?
Wahlberg: It was an amazing experience down there. They couldn’t have been more accommodating. I don’t think we would’ve been able to do these kinds of scenes anywhere else in the US, amazing crews down there. I certainly encourage anybody if you’re thinking about going somewhere in South America to go to Colombia to shoot. It’s a beautiful, beautiful place and our experience was fantastic.