Mark Wahlberg and Michael K. Williams discussed their new film “The Gambler.”
Read what they had to say about their latest project below:
Q: The three characters that Michael, Mark, and Brie play are all aspiring to think that they’re all after different things and they hustle their individual hustles to represent a different kind of approach, so before we open it up to the floor I thought we’d open it up with Michael, Mark, and Brie to talk about their approach to characters relative to that idea.
Brie Larson: I’m like, the least hustler of this movie.
Q: I’m not saying a hustler per se, but you clearly have an agenda.
Larson: I don’t think she does, I think that’s why I enjoyed playing her so much.
Wahlberg: I think that’s why Jim loved her so much.
Larson: I think that, in my mind when I read the script, I believed that these sort of seven days of soul initiation where he lets go of things over the course of seven days that Amy has gone through those seven days before the movie began so she represents to him this place to get to.
Wahlberg: He recognizes that in her and that’s exactly what he’s looking for.
Williams: Basically I think that Neville looks at Jim as his mirror in some aspects. Jim is a man that, from the outside looking in, appears to have everything. Status, money, an education and good looks. People look at Neville in a similar fashion — chicks, model, money, power, respect. They’re both searching. They want something else out of life. The trappings of their world starts to suffocate them and I think that’s what he finds attractive in Jim.
Q: Mark, I’d like to ask you if you do believe in addiction.
Wahlberg: I do, to a certain extent, yes. Yes I do.
Q: Clearly this film is a dark story of redemption. I’m wondering if Jim Bennett, towards the end, do you think he actually changes his ways.
Wahlberg: Well the great thing between Rupert and I is we would always have those discussions. How long did it actually take him to ring her doorbell or knock on her door? Was he more nervous starting over then getting through the danger that he faced with Neville, Michael’s character, John Goodman’s character, and the Korean gangster. That was a fun conversation to have.
Q: I just want to follow up a little bit on his question about if you believed in addiction. You’ve always been really open to the press about your demons so how did this film and this character resonate with you personally?
Wahlberg: Well for me it was very different from anything that I’ve ever done before. I am used to playing the underdogs as opposed to the guy who has everything who is trying strip himself of all that to become the underdog but it was very different. I have a lot of people in my life who suffer from various addictions. Gambling was a big part of my upbringing so those are things that I can identify with. But the big appeal to me was saying the words created by this gentleman again after working with him on The Departed and working with him on Mojave and him writing American Desperado for us. Anytime you get to speak the words of William Monahan you know…I’ll be the first one to sign on.
Q: I wanted to know Mark, most of the films I’ve seen you in you’re always the bravado one, you’re always the one that’s beating the other person up. So how was it to change that type of persona…
Wahlberg: Well my first thing was always to fight back.
Q: …And I wanted to know with Michael, was it working with Mark and being the one that’s actually beating him up or has to beat him up.
Williams: I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I got to the set and I saw that Mark had lost 60 pounds. I was freaking out man I was like, “I gotta get to the gym! I gotta get to the gym!” You know, Mark is brilliant. This man is amazing to watch, work. I learned a lot from him. We allowed ourselves to be vulnerable and give ourselves to the character. He got out of his way and allowed Jim to shine and it wasn’t just his physical appearance, it was in his demeanor and everything. Mark’s first instincts of course would be to fight back, Boston boy, but that’s not Jim’s reality. That’s what actors do.
Wahlberg: Yeah and I’ve known Michael for a very long time, before I’ve ever acted in a film Michael and I knew each other through mutual friends. It was great to finally get an opportunity to work with him. We worked together on Boardwalk but I never acted with him and he’s menacing in an effortless way but always very kind and gracious when we’re on set.
Q: There’s an ongoing theme about not being complacent, not being bored, not becoming a hack, and I’m wondering for each of you, what was a turning point in your life where you felt like this was more than a job, it was a calling?
Wahlberg: Just, you know, you think about all the various projects that I’ve done, all the different people I’ve worked with, everyday I just wake up and pinch myself since I feel so lucky to have found my true calling and what really drives me and pushes me and challenges me and allows me to learn and see the world. And this particular part was another opportunity for me to do something different even having missed out on my college experiences and going back to various universities and sitting with literature professors and going to lectures with Rupert and wandering around UCLA visiting the dorms and wondering what my life would have been like…I didn’t want anybody to think that was weird but I just remembered the first time being on set with Penny Marshall…just being in the same room as Penny Marshall and Danny DeVito. Everybody else that I had met in the film world were just really different from me and then I met them and they spoke the same language and they seemed to be from the same sort of place that I was from and I remember being on set and it just reminded me…Oh my God all I ever did was watch movies with my dad. I had seen this movie when I was kid and the first movie I had ever seen in a theater was Hard Times with Bronson. I knew who John Garfield was and Robert Ryan and before I knew who Robert Redford was or certainly Tom Cruise or the guys who were the stars of the day when I started making movies I didn’t know who those guys were. So I just felt like it was a miracle that I found acting in the process of making films.
Q: So you came to Martin Scorsese ready?
Wahlberg: Yes. But thanks again to Bill’s words. That was another thing that was on again, off again. I was like, I have to say these words to these particular people in this particular way.
Q: There are a lot of moments in the movie where they are no lines and those were just amazing. What was your approach then since for other times you had the lines to help you but for those moments you had to communicate the pain, the genius, the addiction, all those things your character was going through. What was your approach as an actor? What helped you to bring that in front of audiences?
Wahlberg: I think all the preparation…you know, the source material, all the preparation…Rupert and I had a clear understanding of who Jim was, where he was going, how he was gonna get there, the atmosphere that Rupert created around the set, all the other actors that really came with their A game. One thing that Bill really does in an amazing way was create all these really juicy characters so when it’s John Goodman’s moment and I’m still able to be there reacting to him, the same with Jessica Lange, with Michael, with George Kennedy or whoever else it was, even though Jim is in every scene of this movie we were able to attract all these wonderful actors because of the material. You’re in it. And with all the different demands that came with playing the part, I knew that there was still a light at the end of the tunnel and I’d get my life back. So as much as it tortured my wife and everybody else that had to be around me…I just stayed in the moment. There was so much to do and you just couldn’t get away from it anyway. I wouldn’t go home and talk to my wife and my kids or talk to the students in the class but it was certainly in the back of my mind. Came up with a couple of doozy’s that I could have used but I would have gotten into a lot of trouble.
Williams: Excuse me, if I may just say two words on the topic of addiction. I feel like it’d be fair if I say this. When we speak about addiction, I would assume that most of us are talking about drugs, alcohol, gambling, eating shopping, as someone who is in recovery, for me, I have found that those things are not the problem, just merely a symptom of the problem. You could put those things down like Bill said and after a couple of weeks your body will heal from doing drugs or alcohol. But that’s not the problem. The problem still remains that as addicts we have an inability to deal with life on life terms so we self medicate and that’s the problem. If you’ve never been addicted to anything that’s been life threatening I don’t really expect you to understand that. If jumping in front of oncoming traffic is detrimental for your life, why would you keep doing it? I don’t expect you to understand but it’s a self love process and an inability to deal with life on life’s terms and deal with our demons. Things that may seem nonchalant or trivial to you may drown an addict. So that’s what I’ve come to find out what addiction is about. It’s not about the actual thing you’re abusing, it’s about dealing with life and your demons.
“The Gambler” hits theaters on Christmas day.