(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
In the political thriller “Broken City,” Mark Wahlberg plays an underdog—not exactly something new for the Oscar-nominated actor (“The Departed”) when you recall “Boogie Nights,” “Invincible,” “The Fighter,” “Rock Star” and more.
“It’s a recurring theme. Beyond a recurring theme; it’s like all I’ve done,” he says, only sort of kidding. “I gotta change my [bleep] up. Excuse my language.”
What’s new about the film, opening Friday, is that it’s the first directorial effort from Allen Hughes (“Menace II Society,” “Dead Presidents”) without his co-director brother, Albert. In “Broken City,” ex-cop Billy Taggart (Wahlberg) discovers New York City Mayor Hostetler’s (Russell Crowe) hidden agenda after Hostetler asks Taggart to find out who’s sleeping with his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones).
At the Peninsula Hotel, Wahlberg, 41, and Hughes, 40, talked about feeling like an underdog, Wahlberg’s uncanny ability to remember dialogue and how the actor thinks the world would be different if Mayor Rahm Emanuel, brother of “Entourage” agent Ari Gold’s inspiration Ari Emanuel, were president.
If we were going to point out a typical underdog, we might say Michael Cera, not Mark Wahlberg. Mark, why do you think you‘ve played these roles so frequently?
Mark Wahlberg: [Laughs.] Michael Cera. I don’t know. I’ve always loved these kind of movies, whether you look at “Rocky” or I was talking [to] Allen—the first movie I ever saw in the theater with my dad was [Walter Hill’s 1975 street-fighting movie] “Hard Times.” I root for these guys; I want to see these guys win. Every time if I would watch “Rudy” I would get choked up. It’s just the kind of things I like to watch. I find them inspiring.
Recognizing that has been a theme in your career, do you feel similarities from one character to the next?
MW: No, but I always try to find parts that I can identify with on a personal level, so I think it makes for a more authentic portrayal.
Do you consider yourself an underdog?
MW: Yes. Because I’ve always had to overcome a lot of odds, and I still always like to have that drive and that desire to win more now than I’ve ever had it. I’m hungry, I’m thirsty, I’m broke. I gotta get paid, and I gotta win. I gotta succeed.
Allen Hughes: He’s an overachiever.
MW: Everything I do I just give it 110 percent. I want to be good at everything I do. I want to make--certainly the people that take a chance on me and spend their money to make a film, I want it to be successful. I want people to enjoy it. I want people that go to the theater and pay their $10 or $12 or whatever it is to go and enjoy themselves thoroughly and get away from whatever it is they’re going through for that couple of hours.
”Broken City” revolves around corruption and political deception. People get caught for this all the time. Why does it still happen so much?
MW: It’s stupid. Chicago, man.
I know, it happens here especially.
MW: How much time did they give [former Gov. Rod Blagojevich]? 14 years?
AH: Oh, wow. Politics are politics. [Laughs.] I’ve been trying to find the answer to that question for some time. Why does it draw so many people that have stark contradictions and scandal?
Allen, to what extent do you think the titles of “Menace II Society” and “Broken City” could switch and still be appropriate?
AH: That’s interesting because I do think this movie is the bookend to “Menace II Society.” There’s a lot of similar themes and similar even locations as far as what the characters are moving through and what they’re experiencing. I said last night, “If ‘Menace’ was Jack Daniels, this would be wine,” but it is the perfect bookend for me.
MW: So let’s call it the sequel!
“Menace II Society II.”
AH: “Menace II Society II II II.” I really believe that, yeah.
Do you think at all about how much hasn’t changed since you made that movie?
AH: When it comes to housing projects—which is interesting, we’re dealing with that in this movie—that hasn’t changed, where the housing projects and the schools down there literally look and smell like correctional facilities. That struck me again. I was like, “Whoa.” They’re priming people to be in correctional facilities. That was interesting.
Russell’s character says Mark's character has more balls than tact. Which is more important to have in real life?
Both: “More balls than tact.”
AH: You gotta have both in a way to be successful.
MW: It depends on the situation.
AH: What do you have, Mark?
MW: Uh, neither.