PLANET OF THE APES - MARK WAHLBERG
Things have changed for you. PLANET OF THE APES has done extraordinarily well. It's the first film in which you've been the out and out star, the name above the title. This is a move into a new phase of your career.
They're throwing tons of money at me now, with really bad scripts. It's not gonna change me or my decision making process, find a great filmmaker; commit to him and figure out what the part is second. But I never felt any sort of pressure going in, stepping in to the Heston role. I just wanted to work with Tim Burton. He's one of the most unique artists working in films today. I wasn't a huge fan of the original. I wasn't sure what role he was interested in me for.
You thought you might be an ape?
Yeah and I was hoping that wasn't the case because I hate the make-up chair. But it was just an opportunity to work with him (Burton). I hadn't even read a script. I just said, I'm in if you want.
You tend to work with people a little bit outside of the mainstream, Paul Thomas Anderson, David O'Russell, James Grey, Stephen Herek, Jonathan Demme. Quirky directors.
The filmmaker is first and foremost for me. You know people always say You've got to have a great script, but you can have the best script in the world and if you've got a shooter and not a filmmaker, then you're not going to get a good movie.
I spoke to (producer) Richard Zanuck the other day.
The coolest guy.
He was saying, 'Yeah yeah yeah, Mark Wahlberg's the new Steve McQueen'. I'm sure it's a great compliment, but Vanity Fair calls you 'the new Cary Grant' too. People try to pigeonhole you.
Of course, but it's up to me to avoid that and to prevent that from happening. And I do that by the projects I choose . . . It's not bad to be compared to Steve McQueen or Cary Grant or James Cagney. These are the kind of guys that I really loved, that I could even identify with in some small way. Today there's a lot of movie stars that are better looking than the women they're co-starring with. I'm just not interested in that . . .they're not real guys.
I know you weren't a fan of the original PLANET OF THE APES, but what about Heston? He's a great film icon.
Oh huge. Yeah I was a big Chuck Heston fan - BEN HUR, JOHN THE BAPTIST. The guy is an incredible actor. But talking Apes weren't my thing. I was watching CAGNEY, watching BEN HUR, all these fantastic movies with my dad. And of course, in preparing for the role, I went back to watch the original. It wasn't at Tim's request. He said, 'It won't help, it won't hurt. Check it out if you want.' And obviously I have a new-found appreciation and respect for it. They were able to say a lot of interesting things at that time. It dealt with a lot of political and social issues. When I was ten years old I didn't get that.
There's been so much speculation about the new PLANET OF THE APES, on the internet and so forth. It was assumed you'd be running around in a loincloth as Heston did, but you don't.
I was aware of the fact that Heston wore a loincloth and was barefoot. It was like, 'Oh God'. Six weeks after signing on there was still no script. They called me up for a wardrobe fitting. That screwed me up. It was the longest six weeks of my life. I went and it was just a spacesuit. And then I told Tim afterwards about it, I said, 'I was really worried that you were going to put me in a loincloth. Thank God.' He said, 'Had I seen you were so nervous I would have put you in nothing but 'a loincloth.'
Did you get any feedback from Heston?
We had already committed to a specific approach to the part and it was the opposite of what Mr. Heston had done. I had my day off when he shot his scene but I went down, I wanted to meet him and spend time with him. You want somebody's approval, but at the end of the day I'm making the movie with and for Tim. So despite what Mr. Heston wants me to do, I have to stick with my guy. He went to the premiere with me and liked what I did with the part.
Obviously he's head of the NRA, a vocal campaigner for the right to bear arms (in the States). I don't know what your politics are, but with your background, coming from a rough Boston neighborhood (Dorchester), you must recognize that guns can do a lot of damage.
Oh yeah. No, I never confronted him. Me and Tim Roth and Tim Burton we certainly discussed it, and we certainly don't agree with all of his beliefs, but the guy, you know, he does what he feels is right. And I, because of where I come from and I've seen what guns can do, I got issues with that. But I also think that certain people do need an arm to protect themselves and their family. Especially with my background. It's still my surroundings today because that's where I spend my time.
You still live in Boston? I thought you were in LA now? Sometimes New York.
Yes. I live there when I'm working but I still have a Massachusetts (driving) license. I still pay my mother room and board. I still consider it home.
You still live with your mom?
Yes. Actually we're going to sell the house now and make the move. I'm going to buy a house in LA. She's gonna move out with me.
Still see any of the old guys? Anyone you used to hang with?
Anybody that's not locked up, yeah. And I started a foundation, and we're there. We're trying to be very active in the community. These kids can identify with me on a very personal level....
This is with the local Boys' Club, right?
....through the Boys Club and my parish priest is involved. I'm on the board of directors of the Boys' Club, but I've also started my own foundation, and we're working with the Boys' Club and whoever else wants to get involved, just trying to create some opportunities for these kids. Because there isn't a lot. They don't see me as Mark Wahlberg movie star. They know that I'm one of them, and I'm right there, and I know had I had somebody like that in my life, that I could identify with, that was really there . . .
You did or didn't?
I didn't, that was why I ended up going to prison. Had I had that I think I would have taken a much different path. And if can inspire any of these kids, point them in the right direction, then I feel like I'm doing some good with the position I've been put in, and I feel like for that I've been put in this position for a reason . . . I feel like, 'Okay, I'm doing some interesting things and I've made ridiculous amounts of money, but there's still something missing,' and I feel like, you know, since I've been back there, I feel like, Wow, I'm really getting something out of giving back and being there with them.
But you've gone away and made tens of millions of dollars. Despite the best intentions, you've still got a price tag hanging over you. Doesn't it invoke a bit of jealousy, people trying to take a pop at you?
It does. I went through that early on. Apparently they've gotten over that. They know that I'm still the same guy and they've got to respect me, 'cause I'll come back. It' not the kids so much, it's more the older guys my age, and the guys I used to run with. You know, but now they've got to look in the mirror. I went through being a rapper and being kind of wild and enjoying the fact that I was money-ed and throwing it around and getting focused and really starting to do things. So now they're actually doing the same, which is nice . . .
That's just maturing. People learning to walk away from trouble.
Yeah. The most courageous thing I did was to be myself and to stand up and say, 'I'm not gonna follow you guys. I'm not gonna run with you guys'. I'm gonna do my own thing. That was very tough to do. Once I did that, once I was able to work up the courage to do that, everything seemed to fall in place.
Still live in the same apartment you grew up in, in Dorchester?
Well my brother (Donnie, ex-New Kid On The Block) bought my mom a house. Fifteen minutes outside.
People warned me off talking to you about all this stuff, but you seem quite happy to bring it all up.
I'm fine talking about it. People say, 'Well, it's inspiring.' But my whole thing is the people who are reading these articles, that are reading Vanity Fair, or the New York Times, are certainly not the people I am trying to touch. I'm okay talking about it, but when people are trying to make that the focus, it takes away from what I am doing now.
You returned 'home' to do 'The Perfect Storm'. Do you still see the Shatfords? (Wahlberg played Bobby Shatford, who died at sea.)
Yeah, I was there at Christmas Eve, hanging out in the Crow's Nest (bar). Grabbed some fish chowder, played some pool.
They still welcome you with open arms?
The film was very respectful to the community (Gloucester, Mass.), but there must be the odd local who doesn't like what was done?
Yeah, Captain Billy Tyne's family. (Laughs). I don't think they liked the way George (Clooney) played the part.
He was very sympathetic, wasn't he?
Yeah, but it still seems like, you know, he was the one who made the decision to talk these guys into going for it, trying to fight through the storm.
Has he been back since?
[Laughs]) George wouldn't go back . . . but it's my home town, I'm there. I became very, very close with the family. It meant so much to me to really do them justice. We became really close.
Do you still see Clooney much? I hear you're very pal-ly with him.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
You did three films together, THREE KINGS, THE PERFECT STORM, and he produced your next one, ROCK STAR. Is he in it too?
No. We wouldn't let him!
Weren't you staying at his place in LA or something?
[Laughs] No, no. There were so many ridiculous rumors, like we were living together, sharing a hotel suite, one thing after another . . . but no, we all hang out
Has he ever visited you in the 'hood?
[Laughs] No, he'd never come. He could get a one day ghetto pass. But that's it. It'd have to be a supervised visit. No, but he did spend a lot of time in Boston when we were shooting and he came back for the premiere and stuff.
You were living like a rocker in the Hollywood Hills getting in character for the part, weren't you? How was that?
It was fun. It was fun. There were a few incidents. But, you know, trying to live that life, it's not easy. I was hanging out with Jason Bonham (son of John, Led Zeppelin's drummer), Zak Wilde and these guys. It was just the real deal.
But you've lived the rock life before.
I thought I did until I started hanging out with those guys! But it was a great experience, it really was. That particular film is the favorite of all I've done. It just worked as a whole. I got to work with this amazing actor, Timothy Spall. He's just fantastic.
There's a line in Planet Of The Apes that gets a big laugh, when you say to Helena Bonham Carter, 'I can show you something that will change your world forever.' Of course, everyone thinks you mean your penis, legacy of Boogie Nights. Was that deliberate?
[Laughs] No, but I knew that people would have to be aware of that.
How much does Dirk Diggler live with you still? At the time, women would come up to you and openly touch your groin.
[Laughs] It's one of those movies. I say, It's not the one I want to be remembered for. I'm very proud of the film. It changed my life in a lot of ways, some of which I could do without. It's always weird when guys follow you in the bathroom and try and check you out (mimes leaning over and taking a furtive sideways glance at a urinal). It's like, 'Come on guys, give me a break!'.
It'll be on your gravestone.
Was there ever any question of inter-species love between you and Helena in earlier drafts of the script?
No. There was definitely a weird attraction. No graphic sex scene or anything. But I had always made jokes early on, I'm having sex with Helena's character. Doing all this weird stuff. So it just started this whole rumor that, actually, Tim started really getting sick of. But I found that the most challenging thing as an actor, was to make that (attraction) be believable. And then when he cast Helena, I thought, 'Well, my job's got a little bit easier.' One attractive monkey.
Oh my God. And what she brought to the character and Rick Baker's make-up, it was a done deal. Everybody was attracted to her.
You're an actor, so it's pretending, but you're acting amongst a bunch of monkeys, apes rather . . .
Don't say monkeys, man!
Did you ever find yourself cracking up laughing?
Well cracking up but most of the time it was panic attacks, thinking I almost had a career in this fucking business! But Tim Burton, just that grin and childish energy and enthusiasm was really just all the reassurance that I needed.
Tim Roth was pretty scary.
Especially after being in make-up for four hours. Not a happy guy. But just the nicest guy out of make-up.
Did you do any preparation for the role? You're a NASA astronaut.
I wanted to. I was like, Tim, what do I do? I got to figure out how to fly this ship. I don't want to be in there not knowing what I'm doing. He was like, 'Get in there and flick some fucking switches' . . . It was really just about being the best physical shape I could to take all the beatings and come back for more.
One assumes that a NASA astronaut is a smart kind of guy, yet I hear in real life you're studying to take your high school diploma. Why do that after all this time?
Well I just think it's important. I got nine nieces and nephews who look up to me and it's, If Uncle Mark didn't go to school, then why should we?
Aren't you putting them all through college?
Yeah. It's important. Since I started acting I've been really privileged and had access to so many things and learned so much about so many different things. It's still important. You know, I want to go back and fill that void and, you know, continue furthering their education.
I get a real sense that there's the notion of redemption behind all these things. Making sure others don't stumble into the same pitfalls.
That's just my personal choice. I don't choose to advertise it and convince anyone into, 'Hey I've changed,' because in this business, what I do, people have done a lot worse than me. I just chose to change my life and better my life and hopefully in the future be able to better others. I'm not trying to take credit for it. I feel like I've made up for my mistakes. I don't need anybody else's approval.
It is interesting though, because in show biz there are so many people born with a silver spoon in their mouth.
They need to take it out their mouth and shove it in their ass. Literally.
Is Hollywood a lot of bullshit?
You know, when I was growing up, the kind of films I watched with my dad as a kid, I thought it was like the coolest place in the world, Steve McQueen, Paul Newman hung out there, and it was glamorous. And the movie business that I'm in, it's very MTV-ish. It doesn't feel like . . . I felt disappointed. But when you hang around with a guy like Richard Zanuck (producer of Patton, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid, The Sting, Jaws). He's such a great guy. Everyday I'd pin him in a corner and I'd just get him to tell me stories.
You just turned 30. Was that of significance to you?
You know, something clicks in your body. You know there was a stage when I never thought I would grow up. There was a stage where I tried to fight the inevitable, and then I started to see all these things. People would try to explain: my parents, adults that were in my life. You just get it when you experience it. It all starts to happen. The realizations. It's amazing . I look forward to aging. Growing old and learning more.
Would you like a family?
That's the one thing that's missing in my life is the right woman. You know I'm the only one in my family who isn't married or has kids, so I'd like to. But I haven't really been in the position to meet the right one . . .
That's the lament of the actor isn't it? Transient profession. Always moving from location to location. No stability?
[Smirks] But, you know, I can bring them with me, if they're willing to travel.
You have the tattooed rosary round your neck. Have you rediscovered God?
He was always there. I just strayed away for a while. But it's very important to me to stay active and going to church and my faith is very important to me, I think. Once I started to refocus my faith, these things started to happen. You know, I think it's real. I'm a firm believer
Question & Answer Text Copyright Twentieth Century Fox