Mark Wahlberg has been a rapper. He appeared shirtless and grinning on a 40-foot billboard in Times Square. He launched his own burger chain. And he starred in some of the greatest movies ever made, including “Boogie Nights,” “Three Kings,” “The Departed,” and “Lone Survivor.”
Just do not expect him to opine on politics.
“A lot of celebrities did, do, and shouldn’t,” he told Task & Purpose last week, at a swanky luncheon in New York, held on behalf of his upcoming film “Patriots Day.” We were talking about the parade of actors and musicians who lined up to denounce Donald Trump in the months and weeks leading up to Election Day.
“A lot of Hollywood is living in a bubble. They’re pretty out of touch with the common person, the everyday guy out there providing for their family.”
“You know, it just goes to show you that people aren’t listening to that anyway,” he continued. “They might buy your CD or watch your movie, but you don’t put food on their table. You don’t pay their bills. A lot of Hollywood is living in a bubble. They’re pretty out of touch with the common person, the everyday guy out there providing for their family. Me, I’m very aware of the real world. I come from the real world and I exist in the real world. And although I can navigate Hollywood and I love the business and the opportunities it’s afforded me, I also understand what it’s like not to have all that.”
“Patriots Day” marks the third in what Wahlberg considers a trilogy of films he’s made with the man he calls his brother, director Peter Berg — the others being “Deepwater Horizon” (2016), and “Lone Survivor” (2013). All three depict actual events, and they demonstrate the extraordinary heroism of everyday guys when they find themselves in life-threatening situations. Then again, the notion of Marcus Luttrell as an “everyday guy” is probably debatable. Wahlberg says the two of them are working on another project together, though he wouldn’t offer up any details just yet. “There will be an announcement I’d say before the end of the year,” he promised.
A gripping inside look at the events surrounding the 2013 terrorist bombing of the Boston Marathon, which left three civilians and a campus police officer dead, “Patriots Day” stars Wahlberg as Sgt. Tommy Saunders, a Boston police officer with a bad knee and something to prove. Assigned to keep an eye on the marathon’s finish line, he finds himself at the scene of what was arguably the worst domestic terror attack since 9/11.
While Berg and the other filmmakers went to great lengths to make their depiction as true to life as possible, they did take a little creative license in one key respect: There was no Tommy Saunders. The character is a composite, made up of two Boston police officers, each of whom displayed uncommon fortitude during the bombing and its aftermath: Bobby Merner and Danny Keeler. “They were both scrappy, rambunctious, figure-it-out cops who did it their way,” director Berg told Task & Purpose. “We combined the two.”
The goal, Berg and Wahlberg said, was avoiding any hint of stolen valor — an issue both became attuned to while working on “Lone Survivor,” based on the memoir by former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell. Rather than risk giving undue credit to the wrong person, the filmmakers opted to create a single character who would embody the bravery shown by several extraordinary individuals. “Everyone was saying, ‘I did this,’ ‘I did this,’” Berg recalled, “so we said, ‘Fine, it’s going to be a composite,’ and everyone was okay with that.”
There was no shortage of heroism on display in Boston following the attacks, not only by Merner and Keeler but by hundreds of other law enforcement officers, first responders, and civilians. In one dramatic sequence, terrorist brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev find themselves cornered by the Watertown police on a sleepy suburban street. The ensuing firefight, which is depicted largely as it happened, includes hundreds of rounds of ammunition, a large pressure cooker bomb, and an arsenal of pipe bombs.
“They had more weapons and firepower on that night when they were traveling to New York than they did on the day of the marathon,” Wahlberg said. While the scene looks like something out of a war movie, the filmmakers were careful not to glamorize the killers. Instead, the focus of the film is on the people of Boston, and how they came together in the attack’s aftermath.
“The overall purpose of police and military is protect us. It’s an amazing thing, and every chance I get I want to thank them for their service.”
“One of the reasons I wanted to make this film was to present some kind of explanation for how we process these events,” Berg said. “How do you move forward? How does a community make sense of it? So many people — men, women, black, white, Asian, Hispanic — came together and they loved each other, and at the end of the day I believe that love is stronger than hate.”
“I definitely think the film is going to bring people together,” Wahlberg said. “It will give people an added boost and a reminder of what a great country we do have and how amazing people are. People really dedicated their lives to serving our country and our communities, and we need to honor that. The overall purpose of police and military is protect us. It’s an amazing thing, and every chance I get I want to thank them for their service.
“Look, when I was doing the wrong thing, I certainly didn’t like the police,” he added, seemingly a reference to a number of brutal, sometimes racially-motivated assaults he committed as a teenager. “But I like the relationship that I have with them now. I also know that I’m doing the right thing.”
Even with the best law enforcement available, “Patriots Day” makes the point that attacks like the marathon bombing can never be entirely eliminated. Asked what he thinks of the president-elect’s proposed ban on Muslims entering the country, given that the Tsarnaev brothers were both naturalized citizens, Wahlberg decided to talk a little politics after all. “I have a lot of Muslim friends who are really amazing people,” he said. “So anything like that is just completely absurd and unacceptable to me. I’m a devout Catholic. I have a lot of Jewish friends. I’ve got a lot of friends from all over the world. And I think a lot of good people have been mistreated for a long time and we need to fix that.”
Popping a few Cellfood dietary capsules (“It’s enzymes, amino acids…”), he added that we need to do a better job of educating people about the real threats out there. “There’s a big difference between a Muslim and a terrorist. Big, big difference.”
“Patriots Day” opens Dec. 21 in theaters nationwide.