Mark Wahlberg loves working with director Peter Berg. And Berg loves Wahlburgers (but more on that later). The duo have worked together on “Lone Survivor” and the new “Deep Horizon,” the true story of the BP oil rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, in 2010, which killed 11 people and caused the largest environmental disaster in U.S. history. Wahlberg plays chief engineer technician Mike Williams, the last survivor to make it off the Deepwater Horizon rig. The 45-year-old actor explains the appeal of true stories and how his relationship with Berg blossomed over burgers.
You’ve worked on three films with Peter Berg. You’re friends now, right?
Well, he is from New York and I’m from Boston, so that’s a big problem. [Laughs]
How did this collaboration come about?
It’s one of those stories where we have the same agent and he introduced us. In fact, he was trying to get us together for some time. But for one reason or another, we resisted. But when we finally got together for “Survivor,” I was like ‘I could make 20 movies with this man.’ We motivate each other. We support each other. He focuses on the story and has a mindset to see the whole picture, rather than deal with his own agenda, which is very rare.
While on the subject of your friendship with Peter Berg, tell us what a guy from Boston and a guy from New York have in common when it comes to food?
[Laughs] Look, I took him to all the great restaurants in Boston. But he keeps saying that Wahlburgers burgers were the best. He tried the turkey, classic and fish. He ate them all; he could not stop.
What is your favorite dish?
Oh God, you’re asking someone who craves everything all the time. I’ve been eating very healthy. For my birthday my wife hosted a dinner at home and brought the chef of my favorite Italian restaurant, but I could not eat everything that I wanted. The problem is that I gained a lot of weight for “Deep Horizon” and “Patriots Day.” Then I saw Michael Bay, the producer for “Transformers” and he said, “Friend, what’s going on here?” So I had to do the 10-week training program in three.
What was your meeting with real-life survivor Mike Williams like?
Mike and I met as soon as production started. He was a little skeptical so I was asked to spend some time with him. But I refused. I wanted him to work with me throughout the film. No one knew better than him the real story. Only he knew what was behind that platform. And he was the last to leave it. I thought he could be our eyes and ears to make sure that everything we were doing was authentic. And so I insisted on him being present throughout shooting, as well as other consultants – people who work in the same company as Mike.
“Survivor”, “Deep Horizon” and the upcoming “Patriots Day” are based on true stories. What attracts you to these projects?
To me they are the most attractive, most inspiring and emotional stories. These are the kind of films that strike me as a filmmaker and actor and even as an audience. I also do light and fun movies but without doubt, these are the ones I love making.
Is there a greater sense of responsibility when actual – and tragic – events are made into movies?
Look, if you do not do it right, you’ll find out. But that’s why I knew that Pete [Berg], was the perfect match for “Deep Horizon” as well as “Patriots Day.” Because he cares as much as I do and knows how important it is to do things right. The amazing thing is that once you define the tone, everyone knows what the standards are. It is telling the story in the best way possible and not meeting your expectations as an actor. All this mania to seek your own benefit as an actor goes out the window because for me it is about making a great movie.
And how do you find making movies like “Transformers?”
I always face them the same way. You know, I try to make it as real as possible. Perhaps with “Transformers” it’s a bit more challenging… [laughs]. But I work hard at everything I do.