Interview: Mark Wahlberg on making 'Lone Survivor'

"Lone Survivor" star Mark Wahlberg talks about playing a real person, shooting on a low budget and whether or not he reads the books of films he's making.

Mark Wahlberg plays a soldier fighting for his life in "Lone Survivor." Credit: Getty Images Mark Wahlberg plays a soldier fighting for his life in "Lone Survivor."
Credit: Getty Images

 

Mark Wahlberg points out that he’s 42 years old. That didn’t stop him from not only playing a soldier in “Lone Survivor,” but a soldier who, along with his three fellow SEALs (Taylor Kitsch, Ben Foster and Emile Hirsch), is put through the ringer: shot at repeatedly by Taliban insurgents and falling relentlessly down hills. Wahlberg plays Marcus Luttrell, the only survivor of the mission, who wrote about the experience in the book of the same name.

 

On playing a real person: “For me, I was fortunate to meet the guy I was playing — spending time with him, having him throughout the entire process and helping me with anything I needed. He’s a very special individual. To see the kind of man he is — I’m certainly inspired to be a better man.”

 

On working with a relatively small budget: “Originally this was going to be a big budget movie. But we did this movie for a small price, which is why it feels so intimate and real and authentic.”

 

On the technical constraints of shooting quickly: “We had a short amount of time [to do it]. We had two units going at the same time. If you were with second unit, you’d be doing a lot of action stuff, with the falls or certain parts of the gun battle. Then I’d run back to the village set. We were always all over the place.”

On getting into the soldier mentality: “As a man, I don’t want to sit on the bench. I want to be in the game. I always want the ball. It’s not a question of physical ability. It really comes down to a mental toughness that sets those guys apart and gets them through the training.”

On how he approached his role: “When Pete first asked me to do it, I thought selfishly, as an actor, ‘Wow, what a great opportunity to play a showy part. And then when I read it and saw what it entailed, my perspective changed. Then it was never about me again. It was about the guy I was portraying. Even when watching the film, I don’t think about what we did. I think about what happened to those guys and what Marcus was able to endure.”

Read? Don’t read?: “I don’t read the books before I make the movies. I’ve been in situations many times where you’ve adapted a piece of material and you always feel like something’s been left out. I thought Pete [Berg, the writer/director] did a great job of writing the screenplay. I was completely immersed in the world and felt it. I didn’t want to then go back and read the book and start complaining about why this wasn’t in there or what that’s isn’t there. You could debate that for hours. I read the book after — and I did feel like, ‘Why isn’t this there? Why isn’t that there?’”

War! What is it good for?: “I don’t like war, but I love soldiers. And they’re not the guys who decide whether or not they’re going in. They don’t really care. They have a job to do and they go and they do it. They risk their lives — that’s what they do. That’s why we made this tribute to all of them.”

 
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