Comic-Con 2008: Mark Wahlberg Puts On His Game Face for ‘Max Payne’

Mark Wahlberg’s about to go from Shooter to third-person shooter, playing the angst-ridden titular hero in the big-screen version of the mega-popular Max Payne video game.

After gaining major acting cred with an Academy Award nomination for Martin Scorsese’s The Departed, Wahlberg’s eagerly leaping into bullet time to remind audiences he can still anchor a major action franchise, turning up at Comic-Con to give joystick jockeys at taste of the film’s pulpy, John Woo-inspired mayhem. Just don’t expect Wahlberg, with his third child on the way, to be as addicted to gaming as the game’s junkies are to Valkyr.

3678187.jpg Did you play the Max Payne game before doing the movie?

Mark Wahlberg:

No. But my assistant is a gamer so I let him play the game every day from the start of production until the day of wrap, and then that was it. I didn’t want to play because I have an addictive personality. I got more responsibility now than I’ve ever had with the kids and everything else. I don’t want to be spending 14 hours on the videogame and then another eight hours on the set. It’s not going to work out.

HW: So how do you make a two-dimensional game character three-dimensional?


With the help of [director] John Moore. I’ve done characters and I’ve showed glimpses of what I hope to accomplish in this movie with Fear and The Departed and Four Brothers, but I wanted to take this a whole other place. And thankfully John was also in the headspace of doing something that really was layered, because I had already done the guy with a few words, you know? That’s one note and that’s it. I wanted to really kind of go off and push the envelope.

HW: Was it a tough character for you to play?


Yes and no. After doing The Lovely Bones, also dealing with loss and a horrific act of violence, but then being able to do something about it was so nice. I remember The Happening had just came out and I walked into the editing room with it, the looping stage, with John and he showed me some shit and I was just fucking screaming with excitement. I was so happy that my career was saved! [Laughs] My life, my credibility, my ability to walk down the street in a hood again, you know. I was just like “Yeah!” I really was. I was fucking screaming at the top of my lungs for like five fucking minutes. But this is the kind of thing that I want to go and see. I also don’t want to be told what I can and can’t do. I want to try something different. I want to be able to you know play a lawyer, play a doctor, but I feel most comfortable when I’m in a world like this.

HW: After all your experience with The Departed, getting nominated for an Oscar, is it harder to choose popcorn movies to do after that kind of acclaim?


No. Because I never expected to get the nomination anyway. You don’t do it for that. You start doing that and you’d see me doing some crazy fucking English period piece. With a limp and an ascot. And I would like to do that, too.

HW: Are you serious?


Yeah if somebody gives me a shot…That was the same shit I heard when I told people I’m not going to pull my pants down anymore. I’m only going to be a serious actor and they all chuckled and laughed…I always try to do something different, but this is really the thing that is most satisfying to me and people like myself. Guys want to see some fucking guys kick some ass.

HW: You joked about The Happening, but are you proud of the film?


I am. Amazing to work with Night [Shyamalan]. I thought it was great for me to get to do you know a different kind of character, but I felt so bad for him because every time you read a review, the first two paragraphs are the people chopping him up. And these are major publications, and if you’re lucky they actually end up reviewing the movie. I didn’t know the kind of baggage he had, but I know he’s a great talent. I know he’s learned from the mistakes that he’s made. He like a true champion: you take it on the chin and move on and maybe do things a little bit differently but you know I am proud of it. Any time I get to do something different, any time I’m not in a fucking jail cell, I’m very happy. And I’m very loyal to the people that I work with. But the one thing that I couldn’t understand is that he kept telling me, he was like “You know after this movie you never need to hold a gun again. Don’t do it. Don’t do it. Just do movies like this.” I said “Motherfucker, are you crazy? Man, this is what I do. This is why you want to work with me in the first place. Even though I’m glad you want me to do something different in your film, but I can’t NOT have a gun!”

HW: We heard that you’re not a big fan of your Planet of the Apes remake. Is that true?


I loved working with Tim Burton. If Tim Burton said “Hey, look, I figured out a way to do Planet of the Apes the right way this time, let’s do it again,” and he said “I want to do it with no dialogue and black and white,” I’d say “Fuck it, let’s do it,” because I love working with Tim. I think he’s one of the real unique visionaries out there. But it wasn’t like I had something that I could really identify with and connect to on a personal level. Like with Max Payne, even with the demons and all those things, I didn’t really have to focus on those things, you know…I have to believe. If I don’t feel like I can believe then how can I convince an audience, you know? It’s just that I can’t put my best foot forward. So with this, you know like my character I never buy into the whole demon thing. I think these people are just whacked out and they’re crazy and then obviously I have to take the drug in order to survive and then experience it myself…I have to have some sort of way to connect with them or I don’t really feel like I can do it with complete confidence.

HW: There’s the great Entourage episode where they went to Comic-Con – you’ve said you had no idea what it was like here then?


I didn’t until I saw Johnny Drama screaming “Victory!” I had no idea what it was about. And of course my agent [Ari Emmanuel], being the genius that he is, as soon as we did the Aquaman episode he tried to put the real Aquaman together with me and Jim Cameron. Me and Jim Cameron. I saw Jim Cameron when we were in New Zealand – we were at Peter Jackson‘s house – and we were both laughing about it hysterically. It would be the dumbest idea in the world. But for every ten dumb ideas, he has one good one.

HW: So you’re officially saying Aquaman is not happening?


Aquaman is NOT happening. Not with me. Maybe with Emile Hirsch or somebody…You have really credible actors going into this kind of movie, it really brings credibility to it. But for me to do Aquaman when I’m almost 40? You know I’m barely old enough to play a fighter who won the title at 33 [for The Fighter]. I’m 37. But playing Aquaman – I mean, Aquaman‘s 19 years old!

HW: But would you be up to play the right straight-up superhero? Robert Downey, Jr. certainly is of an age, and look what he did with Iron Man.


Yeah, if it was right. But again, it’s so hard for me to find something like that that I can really identify with and have the confidence to convey to an audience that I am this guy and have them believe it. You know it’s a leap of faith. No pun intended.