Mark Wahlberg wasn’t sure he wanted to be in “Patriots Day.” When he first heard about the film, about the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and the search for the Tsarnaev brothers, the actor had some concerns.
“There were some things that weren’t that positive in the local press,” Wahlberg tells us. For one, there was a lot of talk about it being too soon. Some were worried it wouldn’t be respectful enough.
“I didn’t know if the community shared those same sentiments,” Wahlberg recalls. “I was able to go home and talk to people and let them know what our intentions were. Once we were able to communicate that, they were extremely supportive. It was one of those things where people wanted to make sure we got it right and hold me accountable.”
“Patriots Day,” which reunites Wahlberg with his “Lone Survivor” and “Deepwater Horizon” director Peter Berg, follows Wahlberg’s Tommy Saunders — a police sergeant, who unlike everyone else is a composite character — as he helps in the aftermath of the terrorist attack, then in the pursuit for the perpetrators. It’s not the only film coming out about the tragedy; “Stronger,” a more somber affair in which Jake Gyllenhaal plays a survivor who lost his legs, arrives out later this year. That there were so many films about something that happened in his hometown — at one point a third was being discussed — was part of why he signed on.
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“I felt like if they were going to make them, I needed to be involved, because I know how to handle it and make sure it’s done in a respectful and sensitive way. The wrong person can come in there and it could be something they would want to exploit it,” Wahlberg explains. “Being from Boston, I saw how people responded, from all walks of life — how everyone came together and ran towards the problem.”
To him, the film is less about the tragedy than about the hope and unity that took over in the wake of the incident. Still, Wahlberg feels “Patriots Day” isn’t strictly a Boston story.
“This is something that’s happening all over the world,” he says, rattling off places like Nice and San Bernardino and Newtown that have suffered attacks or massacres. “We want to give a message of love and hope and strength and resiliency. Despite these cowardly acts of terrorism, we’re going to come together.”
“Patriots Day” also brings the Boston native back to his hometown, which has happened a lot, thanks to Boston-set movies like “The Departed” and the “Ted” movies.
“I was just there. I took my sons to a football game,” he says. “I try to get back as often as possible. But it’s hard, because I live in L.A., my kids go to school there. But I try to get there at least twice a year. It’s nice that work has brought me back quite often.”
As for that accent, Wahlberg says it’s not hard to bring it back when he’s in town.
“It comes back quick. You can turn that right on,” he explains. “But it’s hard to turn it off.”
Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge