• Golden Globe Awards

Mark Wahlberg on Playing a Soldier, 1994-1999

Mark Wahlberg has been very busy this year – he  starred in Uncharted with Tom Holland, Father Stu, and now, Me Time with Kevin Hart.
Wahlberg received two Golden Globe nominations for his acting performances in The Departed (2006) directed by Martin Scorsese and The Fighter (2010) by David O. Russell. When the journalists of the Hollywood Foreign Press interviewed him in 1994 and in 1999, he spoke about playing a soldier in his acting debut Renaissance Man (1994) directed by Penny Marshall with Danny DeVito, and later in Three Kings (1999) directed by David O. Russell with George Clooney
Known as Marky Mark in 1994, Wahlberg said that he was helped by boot camp training for playing a U.S. Army private in Renaissance Man: “I was playing a soldier who was going through boot camp, so I went to boot camp for eight grueling days; you wake up at 4 in the morning, run about 20 miles, do 3 hours of exercise, eat some food that makes you go diarrhea green, then you go out there and march for 12 hours or something. All that is good stuff, except that they don’t feed you good. Actually, it was cool, so I didn’t mind as much, because it really helped out in making the film, especially for us going from bumbling soldiers to good soldiers. I didn’t get it at first, but it made sense in the end. Training with the army is the best training you could ever do with your life.”
In Renaissance Man Danny DeVito had the job of teaching basic literacy classes to uneducated soldiers at the U.S. Army base and used quotes from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to do it. Wahlberg confessed in 1994 that he was not familiar with the play: “I couldn’t say that and if I did I would be lying. But it was a great way for these kids to learn, anything you do to get somebody interested, whether that be a good sports program at a school or whatever, anything creative to get kids interested in education is cool. And it’s going to hit different people different ways, but it definitely hit these kids in the movie in a good way.”
Wahlberg played a U.S. Army Sergeant in another movie, Three Kings, but revealed in 1999 that he was not fond of military discipline: “When I did my first film, Renaissance Man, we shot on an actual army base, Fort Jackson, in South Carolina, so I went and trained there for two weeks; but it wasn’t fun for me, because I’m not too good with taking orders, so I almost got thrown off the military base five times. I didn’t mind taking orders from Penny Marshall, but not if some guy comes screaming at me from behind and grabs me by my hair, because I didn’t have my jacket buttoned up the right way or something, and wants me to do push-ups at 4 in the morning. I can’t take that, it’s not too cool for me. Penny called me, ‘Mark, the general called me. I don’t know what the hell to do. Did you have a fight with the major?’ I said, ‘Yeah, but I didn’t know who it was, so I slugged at him, I hit him in the face by accident and knocked his hat off.’”
The actor was not that familiar with the 1991 Persian Gulf War, where the U.S. Army fought against Iraqi soldiers who had invaded Kuwait: “I kicked myself in the ass for not knowing as much as I should, for not paying attention to the Gulf War, I was actually embarrassed about how little I knew about what happened, but like most guys my age we saw it on TV, we read a little bit about it in the newspaper, and it never seemed very interesting, it looked more like a video game than an actual war; I would watch it on CNN for a little while, then I would go watch ESPN, because I was much more interested in sports. So I was very naïve, like my character, but, of course, once I got involved in the movie, and I had an opportunity to read the script, I found out a lot about it.”
This is the kind of research the actor did to play one of four American soldiers on a gold heist during the 1991 uprisings in Iraq against Saddam Hussein following the end of the Persian Gulf War in Three Kings: “We were always having discussions with soldiers from both sides, because there were a lot of advisers on the set who were former Iraqi soldiers, guys who had fought with Saddam and were able to escape, and the stories that they had to tell, the terrible experiences that they encountered, blew me away and were really shocking for me. Then, of course, we had military consultants from our side, so we were talking to them constantly, and I really learned a lot about what actually happened in Iraq, and what’s still going on there today. So now I’m paying attention, I’m obsessed with it, you can’t get me off the TV, to watch these United Nation guys, the weapon inspection and all this stuff. Our movie will definitely make people want to find out what’s really going on, but at the end of the day it’s designed to entertain people, as well as educate them.”
Wahlberg voiced his opinion about what the U.S., under George Bush senior as President, should have done in 1991: “I think that, like every big country, we mean well, and like our characters in the movie, we had good intentions, but in situations like this, it doesn’t always work out for the best. If the problem was to go in there and get rid of Saddam Hussein, then that’s what they should have done. They were right there and they shouldn’t have left until that happened. If they were bombing us to Baghdad, there’s no reason why we couldn’t have got Saddam Hussein.”
When asked about those young Americans who moved to Canada in order to avoid being drafted into the military during the Vietnam War, Wahlberg replied: “I wasn’t around at that time, but there was some pretty messed up shit going on, so I don’t want to go and fight a war for this country, I don’t want to be a part of it, unless it’s down to a situation where we’re doing something for the right reasons. On the set of Three Kings each character was talking about this, ‘with so much going on in the world, why are we all only trying to save Kuwait?’ It’s obvious, because oil is our bread and butter, but it would depend on the circumstances. Obviously, if Saddam was trying to invade our country, I would be the first one to stand up and defend it, but only for that reason.”
Among his movie idols, the young actor mentioned these legendary stars: “I loved anything that Jimmy Cagney did, I’d like to be able to do the same and still get away with dancing at the end of it. That’d be nice. I also look up to John Garfield and Steve McQueen. I don’t like guys that are prettier than their leading lady. That would make it too hard for me, and there’s a lot of that going on.”