AT LACMA Fri 11.15.2013

Mark Wahlberg Tells Film Independent Members Why He Loves Playing Real People

After two hours of heart-pounding action, Film Independent Members attending the free Film Independent at LACMA screening of Lone Survivor last night greeted writer/director Peter Berg, star Mark Wahlberg and the film’s real-life subject, Marcus Luttrell, with a roaring standing ovation. The film is based on Luttrell’s own accounts of 2005’s Operation Redwing, in which a Navy SEAL team mission to neutralize a Taliban leader goes horribly wrong.

Luttrell kicked off the Q&A by talking about his initial concerns about adapting his story into a film. “There’s only so much you can put into a movie,” he said. “Picking and choosing was, no doubt, a difficult process, but we scrapped it down to the knots and bolts, and it is what it is.” Berg was quick to point out that he and Luttrell spent more than five hours discussing the film before Luttrell agreed to let him make it. According to Berg, the conversation ended with Luttrell conceding, “Okay, we’re gonna do this, and you’re not gonna fuck it up.”

On his attraction to playing real-life characters, Wahlberg, whose roles in The Perfect Storm and The Fighter were based on real people, said, “I’ve always loved the idea, the challenge of playing real-life people, especially regular guys who have had to go through extraordinary things.” Berg too said he is drawn to the psychology of people who are put in these extraordinary situations.

Marcus Lutrell, Mark Wahlberg and director Peter Berg sit down with Elvis Mitchell

“One of the things that hooked me so much about Marcus’ book,” Wahlberg said, “was the idea that these young guys in their early to mid-twenties are asked to make such complicated decisions.” Wahlberg, whose performance is generating Oscar buzz, said it was very helpful to have real Navy SEALs at arm’s length throughout the entire shoot.  “With these guys,” he said, “they have free reign to call BS on anything that was wrong, even if it was in the middle of a huge action sequence”

“It started with Mark,” Berg said, “despite the slight size difference.”  Wahlberg is 5’8”. Luttrell is 6’5”. “This man is a monster,” Wahlberg added. “He’s an angel and a teddy bear but certainly a giant man.” Berg also noted the difference in regional dialect between Luttrell and Wahlberg’s accent in the film.  The packed audience laughed as Wahlberg tried to prove he could do a Texan accent.

Both Wahlberg and Berg had high praise for costar Ben Foster (who plays Navy SEAL Matt Axelson in the film.) Berg called him “one of the greatest actors working today.” In fact, Wahlberg was so determined to have Foster in the film that he contributed to the cause, literally.  At Thursday night’s world premiere of Lone Survivor at AFI Fest, Wahlberg revealed “I gave him half my salary, whatever I gave him, to do it because I knew how great he was and for us to be on that mountain together and in the end of it, I could just look at him and it would break my heart knowing that – God, that’s my brother and I may never see him again.”

At the LACMA screening, Wahlberg recalled a moment between takes when Foster was “just taking handfuls of dirt and stuffing them in his mouth.”

Luttrell added, “He was really into the part.”

By José Tamayo / Membership Assistant